Mandalay was once the capital of Myanmar and remains way more beautiful than the current capital. This city is famous for being home to the Royal Palace and for it’s many beautiful pagodas and monastery’s. There is so much to see here that one day might not seem like enough, but if you do it right you can see a lot more than you’d expect.
When I got to Mandalay I only had one day there because I wanted to spend more time in places like Bagan and Inle Lake. Even though I just had one day there I was very pleased with how much I managed to see.
My friend and I each hired a motorbike and driver for the day and they took us all around Mandalay. It surprised me how big the city was. They didn’t just take us within city limits, they also took us out to surrounding ancient cities. If you are on a time crunch- and even if your not- I recommend doing this.
We did not have to do any research about where we wanted to go because they did it all for us. They had the day planned down to a science and we just jumped on the back and enjoyed the ride.
I knew that we could trust our drivers because they said that they would take us to all the attractions that were free- yet just as beautiful as the ones that you have to pay for. This assured me that they weren’t taking us anywhere to try to make commission.
We spent about eight hours driving around Mandalay. It would have been longer if we had an earlier start to our day- and at the same price. For the day tour it cost about $12 USD each. We booked our guides that morning through our Guesthouse, Yeo Yeo Lay.
At the end of the day I felt like I had seen enough of Mandalay to happily move onto my next destination. Our guides were kind and considerate. We could go at our own pace which was nice. I remember seeing tour buses of people and hearing them worry about being back at the bus on time. Not us, they even waited for us while we sat and enjoyed a beer at a restaurant as we watched the sunset.
We ended up seeing so many attractions that it was hard to keep track of. Since it is too hard to give you a play by-play of this action packed day I will give you a list of my favorite things that I saw:
This was the only one that we went to where you have to pay to enter Our guides however, let us know that it is just as interesting looking at it from the outside as it is from the inside so we didn’t go in. As well, the palace is not the original, it was reconstructed after being bombed in WWII. After looking on Trip Advisor it does have some mixed reviews.
At the base of Mandalay Hill lies this is a stunning pagoda. Even as you walk in the entrance is beautiful with its doorway shining with silver tiles. And while everyone was heading to the Buddha statues I was in awe of the beautiful white stupas, surrounding the pagoda.
This pagoda is also known as ‘The World’s Largest Book’ because is has 729 marble slabs inscribed with Buddhist teachings. They were originally written in gold and decorated with gems but unfortunately that is no longer the case. Wouldn’t that have been something!
Mandalay Hill & Pagoda
I was happy that we had some time to get comfortable on the motorbikes before heading up Mandalay Hill. You will want to hang on tight as your driver whizzes you up the steep and winding roads to the top of the hill. You will be glad that you arrived alive to see this pagoda.
Once again, even though the pagoda was beautiful something else caught my eye. It was the mesmerizing tiles that decorated the columns and walls.
We couldn’t help but stop here to take photographs and enjoy the view.This is where we spent the majority of our time.
Apparently, I am missing the memo on what the main attractions are. If you don’t lose track of time here you can continue up the steps until you reach the top and pay a small fee to view the top- the main attraction.
This monastery was very unique compared to the many golden pagodas in Myanmar. The monastery is made of a deep and rich wood. There are many intricate carvings and because it is no longer used as a monastery there is an eery, abandoned feeling to it. There weren’t even any other travelers around while we were there.
I was fascinated by this haunting monastery. There were cobwebs on the ceiling and even parts of the floor where I was afraid to put my foot down in fear that the floorboards would break beneath me. This place stood out to me because of its uniqueness.
Tapestry and Wood Carving
This is an interesting stop where you can view the traditional craftsmanship of the Burmese. The women were doing the tapestry and puppet making while the men were doing to woodwork. It was nice to not just see a shop selling things- but to actually see the work and talent that goes into making them. This would be a great stop to support these trades and to pick up some gifts for your loved ones at home.
This shop is where they make marble Buddha statues. Since everyone was working on the statues outside, I didn’t feel the need to get off and look- we just slowly drove past. Definitely worth a drive by though!
Amarapura- Ancient City
This was quite possibly my favorite pagoda. But you shouldn’t listen to me because apparently I am more amazed by the little things. Maybe I am just rooting for the underdog.
To me the simplicity of this pagoda was what was so beautiful. It was white and it was pure. Even though it was simple- it was not plane. There were still detailed carvings and beautiful long staircases.
What added to this pagoda were all the beautiful and friendly children that were around playing. They provided me with great entertainment.
Be careful here because each entrance is almost identical so you will be as lost as Alice in Wonderland when you try to get out.
U Bein Wooden Bridge
This bridge is one of the most famous attractions in Mandalay. It is apparently the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world. I’m no construction worker so I don’t know how many bridges are actually made from teakwood.
Never the less, this iconic sight for Myanmar was on my bucket list but I had lost hope when I saw how far it was from the city. SInce I only had one day in Mandalay I just figured that it wasn’t possible. I was very happy when our drivers offered this as an option for us to visit. They said that they would charge us about $3 USD more to go there but this was fine with us. The bridge itself was free to see.
We met is to the bridge for the perfect time- sunset. Because this is a popular time though the bridge was packed with people.
Another option is to hire one of the boats that are on the river and they take you out to enjoy a view of the bridge. This would be a good choice if you are into photography because there will be no people or tour buses in your way.
Because I had a broken toe at the time, my friend and I decided to skip walking across the busy bridge. Instead, we found the perfect spot at a restaurant overlooking the water and facing the bridge. Instead of bumping shoulders with people, we were relaxing and drinking a beer as we enjoyed the view of the bridge with the sun setting behind it. It was the perfect way to end our day in Mandalay.