Mandalay is a bustling city in the center of Myanmar. It is hot, it is fast, there are no stops signs, you may be hit by a truck carrying 20 people, it is changing, it is not Yangon, but it is glorious is ways that Yangon is not.
Mandalay is a former capitol that has an expansive palace estate, rivers, lakes, and museums chronicling the British Raj and past empires.
If you had a few days in Mandalay, here are my suggestions,
- I would wake up to the sunrise at U-Bein, which is a beautiful teak bridge slightly outside the city. Motorbike taxi should run 12,000 RT with wait time after some bargaining. The key to U-Bein, is to walk across the bridge to the other side so that you can walk through the village on the other side of the lake. In the mornings, you will see the locals and monks crossing the bridge to the mainland. Sunset here is also nice, but touristy.
- Go to the markets and bus stops. More than Yangon, Mandalay is the cultural center of Myanmar. Is the the trading core. Surrounding states all logistically consolidate their product here. Think people, trucks, markets, mornings, density.
- It is interesting to watch the monks line up and eat lunch at Maha Gandaryon Monastary. 1000 monks stay here and all eat two meals a day, the first at about 6 in the morning and the second slightly before noon. Its beautiful and interesting to see them line up and eat in silence (typically, silence in noble). All the food is donated by the community during alms (pindapata), which are performed daily. See: Staying at a Deep Meditation Monastary.
- Taking a walk to the riverfront in front of the Ayerwaddy Riverplace Hotel is a great activity. The little kids run around at sunset flying homemade kites and doing gymnastics, feel free to join. It’s also a great place to see the sunset, see the fishermen working the boats, and see a local community. Please be respectful of their homes and do not take photos unless permitted. The kids love gymnastics (it is a free activity and the families are in need).
- Check out the white. It is very big and detailed and worth a trip, unless you are sick of pagoda’s, which is completely valid when in Myanmar.
- Eat noodles. Mandalay has some of the best and freshest food in Myanmar, yes even at the street stalls.
- Mandalay has history. It was once a Burma capitol and center point of one of the worlds largest imperialist colonial empires.