Mandalay was the last capital of Myanmar Kings and it still has great importance as a cultural center in Myanmar (Burma). Surrounding with ancient capitals like Inwa, Amarapura, picturesque Mingun and Sagaing Hill are waiting you in the land we called central Myanmar (Burma). The unique way of Gold Leaf making in Myanmar and local people apply these gold to Great Mahar Muni Pagoda in Mandalay will greets you How pious Myanmar people are?
importance as a cultural center. Historically, it is the most Myanmar of the country’s large cities, a place where you’ll come close to the ‘heart’ of Myanmar. Mandalay still has cultural and religious significance and its Buddhist monasteries are among the most important in the country- about 60% of all the monks in Myanmar reside in the Mandalay area.
The city of Mandalay took its name from the “Mandalay Hill” which is situated to the north-east of the town. The classical name of the city is Ratanapura, which is commonly shortened to Ratnapun (pronounced Yadanabon). It is a city that understandably hugs its past, even to a great extent, lives in the past, and reluctantly and certainly not very enthusiastically, accepts the irrevocably lost status of the first city of Myanmar. On the day King Thibaw was forced to surrender to the British Colonialist, old Mandalay wept and, more or less died. Even today, there are some octogenarians and nonagenarians, who knew King Mindon and Thibaw, who worked in the palace in some capacity or the other and where eyes were filled with tears when they think of the city that was.
Mandalay and anything’s of interest in it date from the middle of the 19th century, and unlike Bagan which is ten centuries old. If you want to hear the best Myanmar spoken, it is to Mandalay that you have to turn. In addition it is the home and guardian of the best traditions of Myanmar music and dance.
Mandalay might, and certainly does, think of its departed glories and its prestige lost in a heart-broken way, but it is proud of being the fountainhead of Myanmar’s spiritual life, Mandalay probably would not be so vibrant without its Buddhism, its thousands of Buddhist priests – – the yellow-clad members of the Buddhist clergy – its monasteries and its famous pagodas. Yangon may be many things, but Mandalay is Myanmar’s heart of traditional culture.
Mandalay, which is roughly 66 square kilometers in area, and with a population of 880,000 is second only to Yangon in size and importance and about 622 kilometers due north of Yangon.
The only surviving example of this type of architecture, with magnificent wood-carving embellishing the whole structure was destroyed and lost forever, creating a definite and painful void. Mandalay lost a little of its soul and certainly a good bit of its glory, a monument of historical value and, certainly, a star tourist attraction when the palace was bombed out.
The city which crowds round the famous Mandalay Palace grounds and forts caters for the entomologist and the student of manners in a way that, surprises even the most sophisticated travelers.
You will see Mandalay as a near-perfect geometrical pattern, and its streets cutting at right angles – physically, a well-laid-out city. The long and broad streets running east-west are, curiously enough alphabetically named and the roads running from north to south are named numerically as in the American system. Mandalay does not have the first tempo of Yangon, and life is more leisurely, but its quiet ways add a quality of peace to its enchantment. Towards the east, there are the blue Shan hills which give the city a physical dignity and to the west there is Myanmar’s life stream, the mighty Irrawaddy flowing by.
Interesting Places in Mandalay: Mandalay palace, Mandalay Hill, Shwe Nandaw Monastery, Atumashi Monastery, Kuthodaw pagoda, Mahamuni pagoda, Gold leaf making, wood carving, marble stone carving, bronze making and tapestry.
Amarapura is on the road to Sagaing about 7 miles south of Mandalay and is now usually called by the local people as Taungmyo, the southern city in contradiction to Mandalay which is to the north of it.
Unlike Mandalay, where the old walls of the royal city the moat are still in existence in addition to indications to show where the palace wall, the four-corner pagodas, the watch tower and the treasury had stood, Amarapura has now nothing to show except the tombs of two Myanmar Kings, Bodawpaya and Bagyidaw.The city was founded in 1783 by King Bodawpaya moving the capital from Ava to Amarapura. It lost its importance when the capital was shifted to Mandalay. The first British Embassy to Burma led by Captain Symes came to Amarapura in 1795.
It is the centre of silk-weaving industry, and practically every house has a loom. The Katha villages are famous for weaving of Acheit-Htameins, the intricately patterned open-skirt worn by the Burmese ladies on ceremonial and state occasions.
Behind the town is a chain of lakes bordered by exceptionally fine trees. Here you’ll see U Pein’s Bridge named after the town mayor of the time when the bridge was built. It is the oldest bridge in Burma and has stood the ravages of nature and the encroachment of men for about two and a half centuries. Credit is due to the imagination of the bridge builder and to the strength of World famous teak wood. It is really worthwhile experience to walk over it. Kyauktawgyi, Pathodawgyi, Shwekyet Yet and Shwekyet kya are some of the famous pagodas that can be seen in Amarapura.
Interesting places in Amarapura: Pahto-daw-gyi (or) Mahavizaya-ranthi Pagoda, Naga-yon Pagoda, Mahaganda-yon Monastery, Lake Taungthaman, U Bein Bridge, Kyauk-taw-gyi Pagoda
In the village on the right bank of the Irrawaddy and roughly about seven miles north of Mandalay, which can be reached by a ferry boat or Sampan (country boat) is the world’s largest bell. Previously, Moscow had a bigger bell but that had been melted down and ever since Mingun Bell has become the largest ringing bell in the world.
Cast in 1970 at the instance of Bodawpaya, it was meant to go with the uncompleted Mingun Pagoda. The bell is 12 feet high. One can crouch and crawl under and then stand erect in the hollow of the bell inside, the diameter of the outer lip is 16 feet 3 inches and the weight of this giant is 90 tons. It fell off in the earthquake of 1838 but has been remounted. The love for bells in Myanmar is somewhat remarkable. Every large pagoda has a number of them in all sizes hanging around the skirts of the pagoda. Most of them have long Pali inscriptions recording the praises of the Lord and the aspirations of the donor.
Interesting places in Mingun: Pon-daw-hpaya Pagoda, Set-taw-ya Pagoda, Mantara-gyi Pagoda, Mingun Pagoda, Mingun bell, Hsin-byu-me Pagoda
Maymyo named after Colonel May of the 5th Bengal Infantry Regiment in 1886 is also called Pyin-Oo-Lwin. It is delightfullyperched at the head of a valley. It is a wonderful hill station that serves as an escape from the unpleasant tropical summer sun. Previously, it was a summer resort for the British Rajas in Burma and although it has lost its prominence as a summer capital, it still retains its colors with its beautiful natural surrounding.
Maymyo, with about 20 square miles in area, is hedged by low hills. The eucalyptus, silver oak and pine lend magnificence to the scenic grandeur and on the slopes of the hills are the coffee, strawberry and pineapple plantations. Cabbage, cauliflower and all kinds of fruits are in abundant supply, while Maymyo flowers, especially chrysanthemum, are flown to places all over Burma for floral offering at the pagodas.
The journey from Mandalay to Maymyo along an excellent 42-mile road is a refreshing experience. The landscapes never fail to hold everyone in rapturous spell. It is one of the most enchanting sights seen anywhere in the world.
Maymyo’s Botanical Gardens, covering a rolling area of 350 acres (taking within their gambit the spur of a hill, which gives them a nature bestowed setting are a major attraction) is worth visiting. A visit to Anisakan and Pwe Kauk waterfalls is worthwhile.
A tourist visiting Mandalay can stay in Maymyo for a night stop, where he would find a cool night similar to that of the temperate European countries.
Interesting places in Maymyo: Kandawgyi, Anisa-kan Falls, Pwe Kauk Falls, Beit-shin-maung cave, silk warm farm.
MaymyoThe cave is near Wetwun village 12 miles east of the town and it is three miles south of the village, easily accessible by car. The cave is at the entrance to the Peik Chin Myaung ravine, with many beautiful springs. When the rocks in the cave began to form, the place was under seawater. As lime piled up, the hillock took formation. Geologists estimate that it could be between 230 million and 310 million years old. The cave is called Peik Chin Myaung (Peik Chin Plants Ravine) as plenty of Peik Chin plants used to grow there, letting no light inside. This Great Cave of rock was formed out of a fault. As water seeped and dropped from rocks and limestone, there appeared stalactites and others in the shape of chandeliers. On entering the cave you see springs flowing from different directions. The water at some places is as deep as five feet. Water seeps from the walls of the rock; and is clean and cool. It is said that this water cures eye ailments and itching. So, pilgrims take this spring water home in bottles. The Great Cave covers an area about 48 acres. Once inside the cave, you shiver with cold what with the springs and small waterfalls. The Buddha-to-be’s life story up to His Enlightenment is featured at appropriate places. There are also Buddha images and pagodas in corners and niches.
Hsipaw used to be the administrative centre of the former state of Hsipaw, which bad for long played an important role in Myanmar history. One of the nine former Shan States, Hsipaw’s jurisdiction used to stretch all the way to Pyin oo Lwin. The nine former states have since been integrated into a single Shan State.
Power in the former Shan states was in the hands of the Sawbwas (Shan chieftains or princes) who resided in haws (palaces).
The haw in Hsipaw is one of the few remaining haws that are still well-preserved. It was originally built in 1924 by the then crown prince, Saw Onhkya, who had just returned from his studies at Oxford. He had a European style mansion built, including a pagoda for private worship that was in the style of a western pavilion. He also established for the first time in Hsipaw schools for girls, a bazaar and round-the-clock electricity.
The haw is now the home of the nephew of the last sawbwa of Hsipaw who, like the other Shan sawbwa had lived in an even older haw that had been built before the turn of the century in a neighboring compound, but this was destroyed by bombing during World War II. Today, four families still work on the agricultural land that the couple own, which stretches a few acres along the Namby River.
Hsipaw is also known for the annual Sha Festival that takes place every year in spring. The week-long festival begins on the sixth waxing day of the full moon in March. The religious festival is steeped in history. According to Sao Oo Kya, the nephew of the last sawbwa, the festival revolves around the worship of four sacred Buddha images that are centuries old.
The four Buddha images enshrined in the inner sanctum of the Bawgyo pagoda are locked up. Once a year, only during the Shan Festival, they are brought out for display to enable the faithful to worship and gild with gold leaves.
When the sawbwas reigned, the festival was also the only time of the year when gambling was allowed. Thus the event was a riotous affair. Apart from its religious significance, it was also a great social gathering as ethnic minorities from all over Myanmar would converge, bringing along their specialties to trade. The celebrations continue for nearly week.
8 km south west of the town, off Mandalay-Lashio road, is the Shan –style Bawgyo pagoda. On a hill to the left, just as you enter the city limits of Hsipaw from Bawgyo, is the overgrown and ruined mausoleum of the sawbwa of Hsipaw.
Hsipaw’s large central market is best in the morning, when Shan and other tribal people from nearby villages come to trade. The Dokhtawady river (also called the Myitnge river), just east of the market is cool and clear.
In Hsipaw, you can visit looms for weaving shoulder Shan bags, several small cheroot factories, popcorn factory and watch the sunset from Five Buddha Hill or Nine Buddha Hill.
Hsipaw is also known as a nice trekking town and you can explore to nearby villages, waterfall and half day boat trip along the river.
Magnificent Gokteik VIADUCT
Leaving Maymyo behind by train, you will pass cultivated patches of cabbage and strawberries which soon open out to broad valleys dotted with hamlets. Perched on isolated hills are with the occasional white-washed pagoda. Then hazy Shan mountains loom in the distance on the approach of Wetwun train station.
Excited passengers would scramble on and off the train, lugging with them mountains of cargo, such as vegetables, fruit or rice. Vendors, carrying baskets of snacks on their heads, rushed from window to window, tempting passengers with their wares.
The next part of the trip would see the train passing over the Gokteik Viaduct, one of the major highlights of the entire rail journey. The magnificent steel bridge was visible from afar, spanning a 300 meter-deep gorge. The train is slowly chugging up the mountains towards the bridge. You could see clearly the mountain and tunnel opening through which the train would pass immediately after the viaduct.
The huge steel viaduct was built by Maryland & Pennsylvania Steel Co Ltd from U.S.A in 1903. It is the oldest and longest modern railway bridge in Myanmar and get off at the station before the bridge to get the best view.
Inwa, located only a few miles the south of Amarapura, was for centuries the most important royal capital in Myanmar. Inwa was founded at the confluence of the Myitnge and Ayeyarwady rivers, and surrounded on all sides by water due to the many canals. To enter the ancient royal city, you still have to take a ferry across the Myitnge River; waiting on the other side are horses and carriages to bear visitors around the widely scattered ruins. Some sections of the former city wall still survive.
Interesting places in Inwa (AVA): Nanmyin, Maha Aung Mye Bonzan Monastery, Bagaya Monastery, Lawka Tharapu Pagoda
Once you cross the Inwa Bridge, you see the hilltops, each crested with a pagoda, the banners proclaiming the Buddha’s teaching, the refuge from all ills and tribulations where over 600 monasteries for monks and nuns are located for Buddhistic studies and meditation. The Padamyazedi dates from 1300 while the U min Thonze or thirty caves pagoda has many Buddha images in a crescent shaped colonnade. Mural paintings can be seen in the Tilawkaguru cave temple, which was built around 1672. At the nearby village of Ywahtaung you can see silver workers producing bowls and other silver items by traditional methods. The most impressive Soon Oo Pon Nya Shin Pagoda nearby was constructed in 1312. The view of Sagaing from Soon Oo Pon Nya Shin and its approach is marvelous.
This huge pagoda is 10 km beyond the town of Sagaing. The enormous dome rises 46 m (151 feet) in the shape of a perfect hemisphere and was modelled after the Mahaceti Pagoda in Ceylon. Also known as Rajamanisula, the pagoda was built to commemorate Inwa’s establishment as the royal capital of Myanmar. Around the base of the pagoda are stone pillars, each of which is 1.5 m high. The details of the pagoda’s construction are recorded on them.
The name Monywa comes from “Mon” meaning “cake or snack food” and “Ywa” which is the Myanmar word for village. There is a legend which says that in the old days a Myanmar king fell in love with a seller of cakes from this town and made her his queen. The original name some say, is Mon- thema- ywa or ” Village of the woman cake seller”. There has been a big village at Monywa from the Bagan Period. The classical name for Monywa is Thalawadi. The chronicles mention that Monywa was one of the places where King Alaungphayar encamped for the night on his campaign to Manipur in 1758. During the Myanmar kings’ time Monywa remained just a big village as the administrative centre for the region was at Ahlon. It was only a year after the Annexation of 1886 that Monywa became the Headquarters of the Lower Chindwin District. In the last few years with the legalizing of the border trade with India, Monywa has grown into a bustling trading centre, second only to Mandalay in the Upper Myanmar region.
This most unusual Buddhist temple complex on 37 acres of land which is part of the Mohnyin Forest Monastery retreat. The pagoda was started on 20th June 1939 and completed on 2nd March 1952. It was the brain-child of the famous Mohnyin Sayadaw whose life-like effigy can be seen nearby. There are many different Buddha images, row upon row in ascending tiers in niches along the walls: the total number is 582, 257, an amazing figure. Unlike most of the pagodas in Myanmar, the entrance is not guarded by Chinthes, the mythical lions, but by statues of a pair of magnificant white elephants which are sacred and auspicious in Buddhist symbolism. Thanboddhay is the only pagoda with this unique shape in the whole country. The square temple base (each side about 166 feet) which worshippers can enter is topped by receding terraces, with myriads of small stupas (864 in number) surrounding the central golden chedi, 132 feet in height.
PHO WIN HILL
The hills have probably been occupied since the dawn of human habitation in Myanmar; to the south – west lies the Pon Daung Pon Nya mountain range, where the fossilized remains of Pontaung Mon’s may have lived 30 million years ago – were found. The caves themselves contain Buddhist statues and murals dating to the 17th and 18th centuries. Most exhibit the Inwa style, though some may date as for back as the 14th to16th centuries. A covered stairway climbs a hill to the main cave shrine, but there are dozens of large and small caves in the area filled with old Buddha images. There are over 400,000 images in these and other nearby caves. Shwe Ba Hill, just beyond Pho Win Hill, features unique pavilions cut from the surrounding sandstone and filled with plain Buddha images.