Mandalay is the second-largest city and the last royal capital of Burma. Located 716 km north of Yangon on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River, the city has a population of 1,225,553 (2014 census). Mandalay is the economic centre of Upper Burma and considered the centre of Burmese culture. A continuing influx of Chinese immigrants, mostly from Yunnan, in the past twenty years, has reshaped the city's ethnic makeup and increased commerce with China. Despite Naypyidaw's recent rise, Mandalay remains Upper Burma's main commercial, educational and health center.
Mandalay Overview
Mandalay is the last capital of the royal dynasty in Myanmar and a city of sad memories in the history of Myanmar. It founded by King Mindon of the Konbaung Dynasty, who reigned from 1852 to 1878. The city established in 1857 and became the capital in 1861 when the king ordered the transfer of capital from Amarapura. Mindon is a very religious emperor, so he turned Mandalay into a Buddhist center of Myanmar with large temples and monasteries and sculptures decorated meticulously and thoughtfully. Today, Mandalay is a handicraft city. Mandalay is renowned for its silver carvings, silk weaving and marble. Here, visitors will be able to see the hands of the skillful level, the skill of skilled artisans to create extremely attractive models.
Located in the central Myanmar, 668 km north of Yangon, Mandalay is renowned for the City of Gems (Ratanabon – Napyidaw). Today, it is the second largest city with rich cultural heritage. Mandalay is also a commercial center with railways, roads, waterways and airways connecting the region of the country.
Mandalay is one of the most attractive destinations in Myanmar. This city attracts tourists with various temples and pagodas, markets, unique culinary world as well as other sites to admire the sunset and sunrise.
Mandalay History
King Mindon, making it the capital of an independent kingdom for less than 30 years, had founded the town only 29 years earlier in 1857. Contrary to other Burmese towns, especially Yangon, Mandalay has not grown from a smaller settlement to town proportions. In 1857 Mandalay was set up in an empty area, because, according to an ancient prophecy, in that exact place a town would come into existence on occasion of the 2,400th jubilee of Buddhism.
The city was named after the Mandalay Hill, which is situated at the northeast corner of the present city. The hill has for long been a holy mount and it is believed that Lord Buddha prophesied that a great city, metropolis of Buddhism, would be founded at its foot. It was King Mindon who fulfilled the prophecy.
King Mindon decided to fulfill the prophecy and during his reign in the Kingdom of Amarapura he issued a royal order on 13 January, A.D 1857 to establish a new kingdom. The Ceremony of Ascending the Throne was celebrated in July, 1858. The royal city and the kingdom were demarcated. The whole royal city was called Lay Kyun Aung Mye ("Victorious Land over the Four Islands") and the royal palace, the Mya Nan San Kyaw ("The Royal Emerald Palace"). The kingdom was called the Kingdom of Yadanabon, along with other name Ratanapura, means " The Bejeweled Site ". Later it was called Mandalay after the Mandalay Hill, 2.5km far to the north east of the royal palace, and today the name still exists. The name " Mandalay " is a derivative of the Pali word " Mandala ", which means" a plains land "and also that of the Pali word " Mandare ", which means "an auspicious land ". At that time a transfer of the capital not only meant leaving an old town and erecting a new town in a different place. As all secular buildings of that time, including the royal palaces, were built from wood, a transfer of the capital meant the complete dismantling of the houses of the old settlement, which then were loaded on carts and the backs of elephants to be reconstructed at the place chosen for the new town. This way of moving entire capitals is a tradition in Myanmar. The transfer of the capital from Amarapura to Mandalay had not been the first of its kind. The most important Burmese town of the northern Ayeyarwaddy valley had for a long time been the town of Ava, founded in 1364, about 20 kilometers southwest of Mandalay. In 1636 at that time, powerful royal family from Taungu about 280 kilometers north of Yangon and 320 kilometers south of Mandalay moved to Ava and made it the capital of a Burmese realm roughly equaling the extent of the present Burmese state.
But in 1782 the town was packed up and moved about 8 kilometers to the Northeast, to the aforementioned Amarapura. In 1823 the entire capital was dismantled again and rebuilt 8 kilometers Southwest in Ava. But in 1838 Ava was damaged by an earthquake, and was therefore in 1841 packed up again and once more transferred to Amarapura. But this was not of duration either, as only 16 years later the entire town was moved again this time 12 kilometers to the Northeast to the present Mandalay. Who, in the face of all this moving of the Burmese capital, might assume that it was more or less only a temporary camp of tents, is very wrong. At least the royal palaces, despite their being made from wood, were immensely large. Many, enormous teakwood tree trunks served as pillars to support the royal palaces, often several stories high.
The rhyming couplet easy to memorize the year of building the royal city is " Okkyit-Kyaw Aye / Mandalay " or " Aung Kyaw Chan Aye / Mandalay " ( i.e, M.E 1221 ). The city's layout of the construction is the same at that of the earlier Kingdom of Amarapura, and from the bird's eye-view, it has the structure of geographical squares and rectangular shapes, with streets and roads crossing one another at right angles. There are four parts dividing the city, namely, Ashe-pyin ( East Part ), Anok-pyin (west Part), Taung-pyin (southern part) and Myauk-pyin (Northern Part), with 54 plots. With the Ground-breaking ceremony, King Mindon laid the foundation of Mandalay on the 6th waning day of Kason, M.E 1221, (A.D 1857). The King simultaneously laid the foundations of seven edifices: the royal city with the battlemented walls, the moat surrounding it, the Maha Lawka Marazein Stupa, the higher ordination hall named the Pahtan-haw Shwe Thein, the Atumashi ( the Incomparable ) monastery, the Thudhama Zayats or public houses for preaching the Doctrine, and the library for the Buddhist scriptures.
When King Mindon passed away, his son King Thibaw ascended the throne, and in M.E 1247, Myanmar fell under the British colony. It was the old capital ruled by two successive kings the one where the last of Myanmar's monarchs reigned.
After the British had conquered Mandalay in 1886 they turned the royal palaces of Mandalay into their military headquarters and christened the complex Fort Dufferin.
During World War II the Japanese installed a military camp in the same place, which then was bombed by the allies, until nothing was left of the ancient palace buildings. Mandalay today is a striking phenomenon composed of modern and classic images with the ancient cultural beauty of the royal palace and the moat surrounding it, and the natural impressionistic beauty of the Mandalay Hill, harmoniously added with new architectural photography of modern houses and brick buildings. The former palace ground is known by the name of Fort Mandalay. Of the ancient palaces a few concrete replica have been built and further reconstructions are being conducted.
Mandalay climate and best time to visit
Mandalay is located in central Myanmar and features a tropical dry, hot, and wet climate under the Koppen climate classification.
The dry season is from November to February. It enjoys pleasant weather with little rainfall and cool temperatures. Therefore, the dry season has become the peak tourist season in Mandalay and is a wonderful time to visit.
Drinking lots of water to stay hydrated is necessary. Please also be aware that you should book your hotel ahead of time as the hotels are busy in this season.
The hot season is usually from March to April when the weather is dominated by searing heat and there is less rainfall.
Ultraviolet radiation is strong during the daytime. Remember to protect yourself well against the harmful sun's rays with sunglasses, a sun hat, long-sleeved shirts, and a high SPF sunscreen.
When the weather is incredibly hot, from midday to 4pm, you should probably arrange indoor activities at your hotel.
The rainy season is from May to October. The southwest monsoon erupts in May, bringing rain showers to the area. Heavy rainfall may have an impact on tourism, such as delaying flights, making roads difficult to travel on, and spoiling some views. So it’s recommended for you to arrange some indoor activities.
However,as it is the low season, costs will be cheaper than in the peak season.
During the months of the rainy season, there is a higher rate of dengue fever. To avoid mosquito bites, try not to expose your skin, especially in the grass. You should prepare a thin long-sleeved shirt for outdoor activities.
Mandalay Transportation
To get in Mandalay, you may have some options to choose, by airplane, train, bus, boat or by taxi. If you want to travel by plane, then you have to come to Mandalay International Airport. This international airport is about 45km from the city center. From Yangon, Lashio, Hsipaw, Pwin U Lwin and Myitkyina; there are daily train lines for you to catch. Furthermore, you can get on a bus from Yangon, Bagan, Inle Lake, Kalaw, and Mid-Eastern Towns. Specially, from Bagan to Mandalay, you can take a boat trip. The final option for you is to choose pick-up service or sharing taxi from Pyin U Lwin.
To get around the Mandalay, there are many vehicles for you to choose, such as taxis, motorcycle taxis, cycle hire and motorcycle hire.
Things to do and see in Mandalay
Mahamuni Pagoda
The Mahamuni Pagoda, one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Myanmar, attracts hordes of both pilgrims and tourists.
In the pagoda,gold leaf is sold at the entrance, which male devotees buy and then apply to the image. Only men are allowed to place the gold leaves or get up close to the Buddha.
Shwenandaw Monastery
Shwenandaw Monastery is famous for its teakwood building, exquisite carvings, and history.
It's worth taking the time to wander around this beautiful structure as there are so many types of intricate woodwork to look at both inside and out.The ceiling on the inside is gilded and the lighting is perfect for photography.The teakwood carvings are very impressive and beautiful. Just enjoy the art.
Kuthodaw Pagoda and the World's Largest Book
Built between 1860 and 1868, Kuthodaw Pagoda is not only a UNESCO Cultural Heritage site but also contains a marble book of Buddhist history.
The complex has 729 marble tablets inscribed with the three main categories of texts of the Buddhist canon. Within the temple grounds, you will see rows and rows of shrines housing marble slabs. Each slab represents a page of the world's largest book.
It’s said that it takes 450 days to read them all if you spend 8 hours reading them every day. You will be astonished to see these marble tablets when you walk around.
Watch a Sunrise and Sunset at Mandalay Hill
If you visit Mandalay in pleasant weather conditions, watching a sunrise and sunset at Mandalay Hill is highly recommended.
Mandalay Hill is known for its abundance of pagodas and monasteries, and for having the highest altitude in the city.It’s quite an experience to survey the foggy city dotted with pagodas in the early morning sunlight,or to see the beautiful pagodas and stunning colors as the sun is setting.
A special atmosphere is generated as you watch the sunset.
Take a Boat Trip to Watch a Sunset Over U Bein Bridge
U Bein Bridge,the longest teak bridge in the world, was constructed from 984 teak posts. When the sun is about to go down under the skyline, you can release the camera shutter to capture the best moment of U Bein Bridge: a red afterglow and the sparkling lake accompanied by dancing waves.

Mandalay Travel Tips
Mandalay is situated a good distance from Yangon, which is the only international airport in Myanmar. You can fly directly to Mandalay from Thailand (Bangkok and Chiang Mai), or there are also many domestic flights to Mandalay within Myanmar.
However, as many start their Myanmar journey in Yangon and come either from Bagan or Inle Lake, most travel over land to reach Mandalay. There are several buses running daily between Bagan and Mandalay. 
You can also travel this route between Bagan and Mandalay by boat. The ride along the Irrawaddy River should be quite an experience. All in all you would spend 9 hours on the water, but you can take in the passing scenery comfortably from the deck. 

Mandalay is a romantic place, suitable for honeymoon couple or pre-wedding. 
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