Mandalay, the forgotten city. When people speak about Myanmar they often rave about Bagan, Inle Lake and Yangon. However, Mandalay does not seem to fit in with the other three. I thought exactly that, until I revisited Mandalay in 2017 and gave it another shot, and oh… I was so wrong. Mandalay is a hidden treasure, and a city that definitely should not be forgotten on your Myanmar itinerary. Read below about my 5 favorite things to do in and around Mandalay.
5 things to do in and around Mandalay
1. Anisakan Falls
This is the most beautiful natural sight I have seen in Myanmar. The Anisakan waterfall are not exactly walking distance, and are situated in the next town over: Pyin Oo Lwin. However, if you have no interest in visiting Pyin Oo Lwin, the Anisakan falls can still be visited on a daytrip. One thing to know, the hike to the waterfall is downhill… a very steep downhill, and is definitely not the easiest hike; especially if you think about the fact that you have to walk back up again. The cooling and refreshing waterfalls were nonetheless worth it, when you finally get there you will be rewarded with a very refreshing dive!
2. Watch the Sun Set at Mandalay Hill
Watching the sun set at Mandalay Hill might be one of the most magical sunsets I have seen in South East Asia. I have been lucky enough to have seen it twice, in 2015 and 2017, and I would go see it again in every following year if I could. Mostly, it is the view that creates the magic of the sunset, however, this time it is the location, the temple, that makes it so incredibly beautiful. The temple on top of Mandalay Hill is covered with a mosaic of broken colored mirrors, reflecting the golden sun rays of the sunset. The whole temple illuminates in a golden glow, creating that unique sunset you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Don’t forget, you are visiting a temple, be sure to take your shoes off and dress modestly. While entry fee is not mandatory, a small donation of storing your shoes is appreciated. On some days there will be someone selling tickets for the use of cameras, which will be roughly 2000 Kyat.
3. Hsinbyume Pagoda
While not exactly located in the city of Mandalay, the Hsinbyume Pagoda is located only a short (and beautiful drive) away from Mandalay, and trust me, it is worth it. The white pagoda is different from any other pagoda I had ever seen, standing bright in a field of brown soil. Climb up the steps, walk around, go all the way to the top, and enjoy the amazing view from the Pagoda. Even though the pagoda is white, the floor can still be hot, so be sure to head to the stepping stones located in the middle of the temple so you don’t burn your feet!
Again, don’t forget that you are visiting a pagoda, so please leave your shoes at the entrance of the temple and be sure to cover your knees and shoulders. There is no entry fee to the pagoda, however, the area it is located in (home to many more sights) has an entrance fee of 5000 Kyat.
4. Mahamuni Buddha Temple
The Mahamuni Buddha Temple is located Southwest of Mandalay and is known to be a major pilgrimage site for Buddhists. Buddhists come to the temple, where men buy a small golden leaf to stick to the buddha, with tons of people watching and worshipping at the same time. Stick around long enough and you will hear a beautiful performance as song by and played by a group of men. The place is packed with locals; we didn’t even encounter one other tourist there.
Again, you are visiting a temple, please leave your shoes outside. If you want to use your camera inside the temple you will have to pay a small fee (1000 Kyat).
5. U Bein Bridge
The U Bein Bridge is the longest teak wooden bridge in the world, and supposedly best to be seen during sunrise or sunset. Sadly enough, I had already used up my sunsets for other locations (and was too lazy to get up for sunrise), so I visited the U Bein bridge in the middle of the day. It is still a beautiful sight, perhaps a bit more impressive after rain season… The reflections are stunning, and the bridge is well visited by locals and tourists!
Things to do in and Around Mandalay:
All these activities are hard to plan in on a one day adventure, hence I would recommend staying at least three nights in Mandalay, or two nights in Mandalay and a night in Pyin Oo Lwin to visit the Anisakan Waterfall. I stayed at Ostello Bello, where staff was very helpful in planning trips.
The last four sights were all visitied with the help of Mr Zaw (in May 2017 his e-mail address was firstname.lastname@example.org), who is waiting every morning in front of Ostello Bello for new customers. Him and his friend took us on the back of the motorbikes, 15$ for a whole day, and showed us the most beautiful things in the area. He did not only showed us the sights we requested, but also showed us some of his favorites, like the Mahamuni Buddha Temple, which made the day even better. In my personal opinion I would definitely recommend doing a tour with him, just be clear on what you want to see in advance so you don’t miss out on anything. Do note that entry fees are not included.
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