Every country has those ‘must do’ destinations. In Myanmar it’s generally 1.) Yangon, 2.) Bagan for temples and 3.) Inle Lake for the wow factor. For clients who like to spend more time in one destination for a ‘full immersion’, Mandalay is a fabulous option (usually one night) with many unique sights to fill a 2-day program. Here’s my top 5 ‘Must do Mandalay’!
Firstly bear in mind the new non-stops with Silk Air to Singapore opening up Mandalay as an intl. gateway to Myanmar. It means clients don’t have to fly back to Yangon (where most itineraries start) to go onward to the next country. Logistically this is a huge plus. Mandalay is also great onward to BKK and other SE Asia regional gateways.
Mandalay is the old royal capital of Burma and so here you can visit the last palace of the last Burmese monarchy. Wherever you drive in Mandalay you can’t ignore the Fortress walls which stretch an unreal 2km’s each way. The walls are totally in-tact despite the British having bombed the inner complex to defeat the Japanese occupation in WW2.
I was desperate to know what was inside. Nowadays its a center for the Myanmar military but tourists can still visit part of the inner complex of timber buildings from the royal era that survived the WW2 bombings . Suddenly you know Mandalay’s USP is a center of colonial history. Anyone who loves history, Mandalay is fascinating. Go to the palace with a guide.
Temples and Monasteries. Mandalay has many beautiful and diverse examples. When planning your client’s itineraries we need to think about ‘temple fatigue’. Yes, temple fatigue is a thing!
Myanmar as with the rest of South East Asia has ALOT of temples to see. They and their history are captivating. However if clients have already been to Yangon and Bangan, it’s a GREAT idea to ask them just how interested in temples they are and how we manage their time to diversify their touring days.
Mandalay is the center of Myanmar’s arts and crafts industry. Mandalay is equidistant to India and China. Alot of electronic goods are exported into Myanmar from China, and by return Mandalay is a point of export for food product to China. Our guide took us on a drive through Mandalay where we stopped briefly to see the Buddha images being crafted right on the streets.
You might recognize that iconic picture of the bridge in Mandalay. U Bein Bridge, made totally of teak. You only need an hour or so here to talk half way or so across the bridge, made of nearly 1,000 teak logs. Although for time factor we went in the day, this is best done at sunset when we can organize a cruise to catch the views of the sunset and the bridge.
Finally a big highlight of Mandalay is ‘Ava Island’. We combined a stop at the U Bein Bridge and then went onward to Ava Island. You take a quick boat across the river to the island. Arrive and most take a horse and cart to tour around the island’s temples and monasteries. Ava island boasts some amazing sights, and although I’d already seen a lot of temples and monasteries in Myanmar, the examples here on Ava Island were incredible. My only tip – anyone with a particularly fragile stomach or impatient disposition (one may be true of me!) the horse and cart ride across the uneven (but gorgeous) rural pathways was very bumpy on the horse and cart ride!