Summary of our 2 day in Mandalay
Mandalay was the last of our four cities trip. We had two days for Mandalay which was pretty sufficient. In Mandalay our most memorable attraction was U-Bein Bridge and watching sunset over the bridge from a boat was definitely a must. Our second favourite was the white Hsinphyume Pagoda in Mingun and the boat ride that took us there was most enjoyable.
Route trip from Bagan to Mandalay
Transit between Bagan and Mandalay was done by a road trip. A direct land journey would take about 3.5 hours which was not much longer compared to the total time (flight hour + checkin time) needed to fly from Bagan to Mandalay. If we were to go by air, after we touched down at Mandalay airport we still needed a 40 minutes land journey to U-Bein Bridge, our must see attraction in Mandalay.
Our road trip started from Golden View Hotel (Bagan) in the morning and near sunset time we reached U-Bein Bridge in Mandalay. In between we made three stops, at a Toddy stall/plantation, Mount Popa viewpoint and a teabreak.
Our road trip from Bagan to Mandalay was provided by our Mandalay guide and driver. Our guide and driver started their journey from Mandalay early in the wee morning and arrived at Bagan – Golden View Hotel at about 7 am.
At about 9am after a lovely breakfast we set out with our guide and driver and began our “road trip” to Mandalay. This road trip arrangement was certainly much better than an air trip to as the day flight started too early in the morning which would mean waking up at “ungodly” hour and missing out on breakfast!
Toddy Palm climber
Our first stop was to see “Toddy Palm climber” at work. The climber climbed a tall tree via a filmsy leather attached to its trunk to bring down pots that would have filled with toddy palm sap over night. He would also replaced them with empty pots. This was a traditional job as villagers harvested toddy palm sap to make and sell toddy palm wine as a living.
We reached the “place” at about 9.45 am. The place was not a plantation but a group of thatched buildings, selling stuffs.
Our guide went on to explain the making of toddy palm wine which was basically fermented palm flower sap. Fermentation started soon after the sap was collected and within two hours it became high in alcohol (less than 4%).It however had a short shelf life of only 24 hours.
Each of us got to sample the wine, which tasted a bit like beer.
I thought we would get to see some toddy climbers at work, unfortunately our guide said none was available. Apparently there was some miscommunication between me, the agency and the guide and “toddy climbing demonstration” was not put into our schedule!
There was no “climbing demonstration” but we could still view some “actions” on the processing of “palm sugar”.
We liked the taste of the palm sugar and bought a number of packs to bring home for friends and our personal consumption. There were several favours some had sesames some had nuts. We liked all the different favors so we bought a couple of packs of each favour and the “plain original taste” ones too.
Mount Popa was an extinct volcano 1518 metres above sea level, it was located in central Myanmar in the region of Mandalay about 50 km southeast of Bagan. On a clear day, Mount Popa could be seen from Irrawaddy River some 60 km away. One of the most scenic sight at Mount Popa was the hill Taung Kalat and its golden temple.
We found a good viewing spot of Taung Kalat ( co-ordinates: 20.916047, 95.212899 ) and came down of our SUV for some nice photoshoots. The view was beautiful especially with a stunning golden temple sitting on the top of Taung Kalat.
Taung Kalat was a pedestal hill, a sheer-sided volcanic plug southwest of Mount Popa. The only way to visit the golden temple was to climb up a 777 step-stairs. The Taung Kalat pedestal hill was sometimes itself called Mount Popa which was confusing, given that Mount Popa was the name of the actual volcano that caused the creation of the volcanic plug.
We told our guide that we wanted lunch at a nice cosy place, it was just wishful thinking as the “places” we passed on the road to Mandalay all looked improverished so it was a beautiful surprise when we stopped at Shwe Pyi Bagan Cafe and Restaurant. It was cool and cosy!
We ordered pizza, chicken crepe, cafe latte and chocolate etc. Tea and popcorn were on the house. Lunch was great and relaxing and we were too comfortable to leave to carry on with our road trip. The lunch bill was inexpensive, we paid 17745 kyat (SGD$17.70, USD$13.30) for the meal.
Our very first destination/attraction in Mandalay was Ubein Bridge and came to Ubein Bridge for its famous sunset. We reached Ubein Bridge at about 3.30pm which was too early for sunset. Our driver parked our MPV on a dried river bank and our guide told us that we had plentiful of time ot explore the many local stores near the bridge. After the stores we could “walk” the 1.2 km wooden bridge.
The stores/stalls lined both sides of a busy walkway and they lead up to a temple. We were not interested in the temple so did not proceed beyond its gate.
We made our way to the start of U-Bein Bridge, it was a simple wood bridge but definitely a “long long” bridge. This 1.2 km bridge was built around 1850 and was believed to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world. The bridge was named after the mayor who built it during the Ava Kingdom period.
The sun was setting soon and we were in a delimma, should we watch the sunset by the river bank, on the water or on the bridge. On the water would require hiring a boat and the cost was 20000kyat (USD$14, SGD$19) per boat. Our guide was pretty “diplomatic” about all the options not favouring one over the other. She did suggested viewing sunset on a boat but was not “pushy” at all. She showed us some “U Bein Bridge sunset fotos” taken from a boat and that made up our minds that we should view the sunset from the water.
To get the “best spot”, our guide urged us to set out earlier and we did. The short boat ride was very lovely. Viewing the bridge from the water was a totally different experience. Soon many boats were rowed to the “viewing” spots”.
Interesting the boatmen had a system of aligning their boats that every boats had an unobstructed view of the U Bein Bridge.
We stayed on the boat till the sun set over the land. The cost of hiring a boat was totally worth it!
In Mandalay we requested our guide to bring us to a nice place specifically for local food. Our guide brought us to Shwe Pyi Moe cafe. The cafe was big and clean and popular with locals.
We ordered four noodle dishes which according to our guide were authentic local food. The meal came with free tea for all. The total cost came up to 6000kyat (USD$4.25, SGD$5.75).
Mingun was a small town located northwest of Mandalay. It could be reached by car but an alternative way to get there was by boat as Mingun was just by the side of the Irrawaddy river. We included a morning visit to Mingun which our “tour agency” charged US$10 per person. I had read on the internet of a pair of travel bloggers visiting Mingun on their own paying very little for public road and river transport. Though US$10 per person was definitely “so much more” we definitely thought it was well worth the fee!
On the 2nd day morning in Mandalay our guide brought us to a busy jetty, Gau Wein Jetty. At the jetty were all sort boats, big and small. We were led to a medium-size-two -evel boat.
We were surprised when we realised that the boat was privately chartered to take us to Mingun. We had the entire big boat to ourselves. We went up to the upper deck and had a great breezy trip to Min Kun.
At Mingun our guide chartered a “tuk tuk” to bring us around the several attractions. At the entrance our guide went down to purchase the entrance fee which was 5000kyat (US$3.60, SGD$4.80) per person.
Our first “attraction” was Mingun Pahtodawgyi, it was an incomplete monument stupa. The ruins were the remains of a massive construction project begun by King Bodawapaya in 1790 and was intentionally left unfinished. The “prophecy” then was on completion the dynasty would fall and the king would died. The construction was dragged on during the lifetime of the king and when the king finally died the construction of Pahtodawgi was abandoned!
In March 1839, huge cracks appeared on the face of the structure after a strong earth quake.
Another main attraction on Mingun was the Mingun Bell. It was the world heaviest functioning bell.The weight of the bell was 55,555 viss (90,718 kilograms or 199,999 pounds). King Bodawpaya had this gigantic bell casted to go with his huge stupa.
Our guide encouraged us to slip under the bell to take a good look of the underside of the bell. Wow the bell certainly looked big and impressive from the interior. While we were in the bell we could not help feeling apprehensive. If the bell dropped we would be trapped!!!
Our final destination in Mingun was Hsinphyume Pagoda (Mya Thein Tan Pagoda). The pagoda was stunning! It was so unlike all the other pagodas we had seen. This pagoda was painted white and was modelled on the physical description of the Buddhist sacred mountain, Mount Meru. It was based on descriptions of the mythical Sulamani pagoda on Mount Meru. The lower parts of the pagoda represent the mountain. Seven concentric terraces represent the seven mountain ranges going up to the Mount Meru according to Buddhist mythology.
After about 2 hours were were done with the attractions on Min Kun and headed back to our boat. It was a lovely and relaxing ride (45 minutes). On the boat we helped ourselves with the cool can drinks, nuts and fruits as we enjoyed our slow boat ride back to Gau Wein Jetty
Shwenandaw MonasterY (Golden palace)
The Golden Palace (Shwenandaw Monastery) was not in our list of attractions where we wanted to visit in Mandalay. It was already our seventh day in Myanmar and we were limiting our pagoda/stupa/temple visit to the minima. Our guide insisted that Golden Palace was a “must visit” attraction so we went along.
The Golden Palace was a wooden creation and was once fully golden. Though there was not much “gold” left on the teak wood we were still very impressed with the massive intricate carvings on the wood.
The building was originally part of the royal palace at Amarapura, before it was moved to Mandalay. It consisted the bed chamber of an old king (King Mindon Min) who died in the bed chamber. The new king (King Thibaw Min) used the relocated building as his retreat and after his death it was used as a monastery.
The interior of the Monastery was more golden than the outside. I would love to go closer into the chamber to have a better look unfortunately the most impressive section were off limit to female!
Sunset at Su Taung Pyae Pagoda
We specifically requested our guide to bring us to Su Taung Pyae Pagoda on Mandalay hill at sunset. Our MPV drove up the hill and stopped near a tall lift housed in a tower. We took the lift up to the Pagoda.
Wow! Su Taung Pyae Pagoda was impressive! It was truly golden and the countless pieces of small mirrors that lined the pillars, beams, ceiling, roof and walls of the Pagoda intensified the “golden” ambience surrounding the compound.
The place was crowded with locals and tourists. We quickly made our rounds. One of the most beautiful features in the pagoda was a wall mosaic made up of multitude of small colored mirrors forming concentric circles, the formation reminded me of a peacock’s tail opened 360 degree.
We stationed ourselves at a nice spot on the terrace of the pagoda and waited for the sunset. It was certainly a wonderful and lovely sunset experience.
Sunset as viewed on Mandalay Hill
Our stay in Mandalay
Our stay in Mandalay was Ayarwaddy River View Hotel. We chose this particular hotel because it was beside the Ayarwaddy River and from the reviews on the internet the view of the river was stunning. We booked one of our rooms to face the river and had to pay a higher price for it. Unfortunately the river view was disappointing, our room was probably not high enough or the water level was too low.
The rooms were not too bad, they were spacious. The furnishing looked a bit old. The toilets were big and clean.
We booked our rooms on Booking.com. The double room that faced the city side was 175700kyat (USD$125, SGD$175) for two nights and the double room that faced the river side was 218000kyat ( USD155,SGD$211) for two nights. The rooms came with breakfast in the morning.
The hotel had a lovely small swimming pool at it side. Unfortunately we were two busy to use it!
Breakfast at the Ayarwaddy River View Hotel was lovely, it had a huge spread and food was plentiful.
We had two dinners at the hotel roof top restaurant. It was an out door restaurant and definitely a nice place to rest and relax after a tiring day. On the roof we had a great view of the “lighted” city.
Our first dinner costed 61500kyat (USD$41, SGD$57). It was a great meal and we enjoyed it very much so we decided to come back for another dinner the next evening.
Our second dinner at the roof top hotel was on valentine’s day and ordered two sets of couple meal. The meal came with welcome drinks and cakes. Because we ordered two sets of couple meal we were given two large chocolate cakes! The meal came up to 70000kyat (USD$56, SGD$78)
Other Accommodations in Mandalay