Mandalay, a name that Kipling used for a poem, and Robbie Williams for a song, was the royal capital of then Burma for a short while in the 19th century, before the English moved in. According to legend, the Buddha himself prophecied that after 2400 years, a great city and metropolis of Buddhism would arise on the plain at the foot of Mandalay Hill. And indeed, King Mindon Min constructed a new city here in the 1850s, making it the capital; a clear example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The city is therefore relatively new, and that means it is carefully planned and easy to navigate. The city seemed quite dynamic, with quiet, village like parts but also modern ones with flashy shopping malls and high buildings.
A great way to explore the city is by bicycle, joining the many Burmese who use the same. The first day in Mandalay, we cycled south, and worked our way up. We visited the Mahamuni Paya, a most worshipped Buddhist site. Centrepiece is a very old, some say dating from 554BCE, Buddha image, that is constantly being covered by gold. Only men are allowed up, I was invited up and could put some gold-leafed paper on the surface. Early morning, monks even brush his teeth. On three sides around the statue, worshippers were in prayer. We moved on to Shwe In Bin Kyaung, also called the teak monastery. A very quiet place, and beautifully constructed out of teak, the only downside is that the wood is awfully hot under your bare feet, forcing you to sprint over the sunny parts.
We cycled back to the north, and visited the royal palace. It occupies an enormous area surrounded by a moat, can be entered only from the eastern side, and has some impressive buildings right at its centre. From here, it was not far to the foot of Mandalay Hill, with pagodas everywhere. After visiting Sandamani Paya, we paid a visit to touristy Kuthodaw Paya, which houses the official Buddhist "Bible", written on over 700 marble slabs. A little further on, we walked up Mandalay Hill for a view over the city at sunset, and realized just how much this city has to offer.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Mandalay (Myanmar). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Mandalay. Read more about this site.