Mandalay is the second largest city and the last royal capital of Burma. Only two Burmese kings ruled from here, King Mingdon and King Thibaw, before the British conquest in 1885. Even though a large part of the city and its splendid wooden structures were bombed during WWII, Mandalay still remains the religious center of Myanmar. Mandalay Hill is dotted with numerous temples and pagodas. It has long been a major pilgrimage site for the Burmese Buddhists. The Sutaungpyei Pagoda atop Mandalay Hill offers a panoramic view of the surrounding areas.
We flew to Mandalay from Yangon and stayed at the Mandalay Hill Resort. The city is relatively new compared to other parts of Myanmar because a lot of it was rebuilt after WWII. You will need to spend at least a few days in this area to see everything it has to offer. The following will be a compilation of the highlights of our few days here.
Mahagandayon Monastery in Amarapura is one of the largest teaching monasteries in Myanmar with over a thousand monks in residence. If you arrive around 10am, you will get to see the procession of monks into the dining hall for their main meal of the day. Many pilgrims come during this time and offer food and money to the monks as they filed past. I was told that there is a waiting list of over a year to be the family who donates and prepares the food for the monks. We made a small donation to the abbot of the monastery and was offered to sit with the donating family of the day and share some of the desserts they have prepared.
About an hour boat ride up the Ayeyarwady River from Mandalay is Mingun. The main attraction here is the uncompleted stupa of Mingun Temple. It was left unfinished after an astrologer predicted that the king would die should the temple be completed.
Our few days in Mandalay was fruitful, though we didn’t get to see everything we wanted to see. We had to hurry on to our next destination – Bagan.