Ancient name by Ratanapura, the royal capital of the last monarchy of Myanmar, enjoys the splendor of the golden age and still has great importance as a cultural centre. The city earned its name after the 236-metre high Mandalay hill. The palace was constructed in 1857 and completed in 1861, in Myanmar traditional architectural style. The majority of monuments including the palace, palace walls, pagodas and monasteries were built soon after. The city was completely damaged in the fierce fighting of World War II, including the royal palace, which has been reconstructed. Hence the pride and glory of Mandalay has been partially restored.
There are many interesting edifices of cultural and religious importance and Buddhist monasteries with beautiful woodcarvings and masterpieces of Myanmar Masonry. Mandalay is best known not only for it’s rich traditional, cultural and spiritual splendor but also exquisite handicraft such as hand-woven embroidery in A silk and cotton, the incredible process of making gold leaves, wood and stone carving and bronze casting etc. The river jetty at Mandalay is a beehive of activity with small boats going up and down the river, bamboo rafts and cargo boats with huge logs from the teak forests upriver. The water buffaloes are the beasts of burden hauling the logs from the river up to the lumber storage areas along the riverbank.
Mandalay is now Myanmar’s second largest city, with a population of over two million. There are several ancient capitals around Mandalay such as Amapura, Sagaing, Innwa, Mingun where Kongboung dynasty kings used to rule respectively. Located 650 km north of Yangon, the second largest city of Myanmar can be reached by air, rail, road or river; By car is the best way to travel. Travel by train or car takes about 15 hours. Rudyard Kipling’s “The Road to Mandalay,” made the name of the last capital of Myanmar kings familiar even to those who had never heard of Myanmar.
Situated about 11 km south of Mandalay, Amarapura is one of the capitals of the third Myanmar Empire. A 1.2 km long wooden bridge built totally with teak planks two centuries ago by U Pein, is the longest wooden bridge in Myanmar. It spans Taungthaman Lake, situated near Amarapura, with its farther end at Kyauktawgyi Pagoda. Amarapura is the best place to study Buddhism, as there is a monastery called Mahagandayon, very well-known for Buddha’s teacheing and silk-weaving industries are the places of interest to visit.
For a short trip out of Mandalay, Mingun promises a pleasant adventure. It is situated 11 kilometre boat ride up the famous Ayeyarwaddy River from Mandalay. It is known for its huge unfinished pagoda and 90 tons bell, the biggest ringing bell in the world. The boat ride on the river offers a view of the bustling life along the Ayeyawaddy.
Sagaing lies 21 km southwest of Mandalay on the opposite bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River. The Sagaing Hills are noted as a religious retreat. About 10 km from Sagaing is the Kaunghmudaw, an enormous domeshaped pagoda built by King Thalun in 1636, as the model of the Mahaceti Pagoda of Sri Lanka.
Innwa, the historical capital is impressive for Myanmar masonry art and architecture, especially the outstanding of Maha Aung Mye Bonzan Monastery. Other place of interest is Bagaya Monastery, one of the repositories of Myanmar arts and crafts.