Mandalay derives from a Pali word means “central” or “center”. Founded by King Mindon, it was called “Yadanabon (pile of jewel)” in late 19th AD. Being the palace site of the last two kings during Konbaung Dynasty, Mandalay is significantly importance to savor imperial remnants. The palace-wall built of bricks protected by moat on four sides is still standing in its awesome origin.
Sunset from Mandalay Hill is breathtaking. Traveling beyond time, there are a couple of dissolved capitals to explore in its vicinity where previous kings lived.
Today’s nucleus of traditional arts and crafts, Mandalay is hosting many small industries such as gold-leaf beating, stone-carving, wood-carving, bronze-casting, tapestry, etc. Being a fountain of religious studies, Mandalay and around has many reputable Buddhist universities that attract monks from all over the country to pursue the sacred religion. Don’t skip this nostalgic city and the epicenter of Myanmar culture.
Amarapura: Founded in 1873 by King Bodawpaya, once a royal capital of Amarapura is now a township of Mandalay. Local people call it “taungmyo” (city in the south). Famous for its traditional silk and cotton weaving, Amarapura appeals to visitors with her nostalgic 1.2km long U Bein Bridge (longest teak bridge in the world) built over Taungtaman Lake in 1850. A glimpse onto nearby Mahagandhayon monastery is truly a moment of a spiritual encounter, where over 1000 monks live in quiet and in peace.
Mingun: A small village on the western shore of Ayeyarwaddy river, Mingun can be reached out in an hour boat-ride from Mandalay. Sitting on the breezy sun-deck, experiencing the mighty yet gentle Ayeyarwaddy is really phenomenal where lots of local boats carrying white sand, miscellaneous cargo and local products, fishermen shuttle along it. Highlights in Migun are Pathodawgyi (the gigantic unfinished pagoda built in 1790), Mingun Bell (casted in 1808 weighing 90tons) and Myatheinthan Pagoda modeled after mythical Mt. Meru (built by a king in 1816 dedicating to the princess died).
Sagaing: A royal seat during Sagaing Kingdom (1315-1364) after the fall of Bagan dynasty, Sagaing briefly became the royal capital again in 1760-1763. A small town today, Sagaing is the hub of Buddhism studies. Lie on the western bank of Ayeyarwaddy River, Sagaing Hill is dotted with hundreds of pagodas in white and in gold. Home to many monasteries, Buddhist institutions, nunneries, local people call it “sagaing ghaung” since it’s located in the quiet corner where people go to retreat and meditate. One can also see handmade silverware and study how they are made at a local house.
Ava (Inwa): Established in 1365 and identified as the seat of Myanmar power, called “Kingdom of Ava” or “Court of Ava” among European explorers down to the 19th century, Ava (Inwa) was the capital of Myanmar for about 360yrs on different occasions from 1365-1842. During those periods, Myanmar literature significantly grew through the efforts of monks. They modified into a more Myanmar influence in law, poetic genres and the perfection of old verses by choosing to write in the vernacular in addition to Pali. A bumpy horse-cart ride into the old place and around gives you an experience to intimate with local life.