Our guide was fantastic, and the itinerary succeeded in getting us off the beaten path as we desired.
Captured by the British from the last of Burma's kings, Mandalay conjures images of Southeast Asia at its most elegant and genteel. Though today it is Myanmar's second largest city, home to 1 million people, it is still possible to glimpse the enchanting land that beckoned Rudyard Kipling: "For the temple-bells are callin', an' it's there that I would be - by the old Moulmein Pagoda, looking lazy at the sea." One of the cultural and spiritual centers of the nation, Mandalay can also be enjoyed as the start or end point of a cruise on board The Road to Mandalay.
Perhaps the best sights of Mandalay are the Shwei-in-bin Monastery, a regal teak structure that is a rare example of traditional Burmese design; the iconic Mandalay Palace, a reconstructed, restored complex that was once home to a line of Burmese kings; and the surreally elaborate Kuthodaw Pagoda, a white marble structure dating from the 1800s.
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Stroll across U Bein bridge, the world’s longest teak bridge, which is three-quarters of a mile long and one of Mandalay’s landmarks.
Visit the Mahamuni Paya and see the famed Buddha, covered in gold leaf daily by pilgrims. Join in and add a small amount of gold leaf to the Buddha.
Visit the Shwei-in-bin Monastery, a fine example of traditional Burmese wooden architecture, and one of the few which survived the test of time. Built from teak, a hard wood native to southeast Asia, Shwei-in-bin Monastery is full of elaborate woodcarvings and detailed Buddhist artwork.
Built by King Mindon in the 19th-century, Kuthodaw pagoda is home to the world’s largest book – a series of 729 white marble tablets on which the Buddhist scriptures are carved. The tablets are arranged in groups as four sides of a square, with each square crowned by a white stupa, making for a remarkable sight en masse.
Home to the last kings of Burma, Mandalay Palace fell to British forces in 1885; subsequently, the Palace became a symbol of Burmese identity and independence. While the palace was destroyed in World War II, it was rebuilt in the 1990s. Today, the reconstructed palace features traditional Burmese architecture, with a wide moat, defensive walls, carefully manicured gardens, and low structures under elaborate, tiled roofs.
Shwenandaw Kyaung Monastery
Visit the beautiful Shwenandaw Kyaung teak monastery, which was once part of Mandalay Palace before being disassembled and relocated to its present location in 1880. Built entirely out of teak wood and abounding in intricately carved depictions of the life of the Buddha, Shwenandaw was one of few buildings spared during World War II bombing.
Do as Burmese Buddhist pilgrims have done for hundreds of years and hike to the top of Mandalay Hill (790 feet in altitude), a merit-making endeavor in the mind of the faithful. There are four pathways up to the top of the hill, the most commonly used of which is marked by two famous "chinthes," or giant lion statues (rendered with artistic flair) guarding the path entrance.
Po Win Daung Caves
Embark on a full-day trip to the seldom visited Po Win Daung caves. Although little known to the outside world, the hundreds of caves here, carved out of sandstone rock, are considered by academics to contain one of the richest repositories of Buddhist statues and fresco paintings in all of Southeast Asia.
Contemporary Art Tour
Along with Yangon, Mandalay is one of Myanmar’s burgeoning centers of contemporary art, with new galleries opening and buzz beginning to build here. Get a firsthand look at awakening artistic and political expression in a country where it has long been discouraged.
Cruise on The Road to Mandalay
Take a cruse on The Road To Mandalay, a luxury cruise ship named after the Rudyard Kipling poem. Board the ship in Mandalay and sail down the Irrawaddy to Bagan (or vice versa), stopping along the way to experience the sights and sounds of sleepy, rural Myanmar. Your time on the ship will be spent enjoying talks by experts, cultural dance and song, even acrobatics, all with the luxuries and amenities of a luxury hotel.
Enjoy a 10-day luxury tour of one of Southeast Asia’s most mysterious countries: Myanmar. You’ll discover the charming nation’s most adored spots, flying in a hot-air balloon over Bagan’s temples, shopping at an Inle Lake floating market, dining with monks in Bagan, and staying in the country’s most luxury hotels.
Experience mysterious Myanmar from top to bottom on this thrilling 14-day journey through its hotspots. You’ll take in the temples of ancient Bagan, interact with locals at a local silk weaving factory, and cruise down the calm waters of Inle Lake, all the while spending your nights in some of Myanmar’s best hotels.
Explore Myanmar’s great outdoors on this exhilarating 14-day adventure. You’ll make friends with local villagers, check out Bagan’s 2,000 temples, cruise down the legendary Inle Lake, raft the exciting Malikha river, and stay in some of Myanmar’s most luxurious hotels, like the iconic Governor’s Residence.
Discover Myanmar’s beautiful and friendly Northwest region, meeting members of the mysterious Naga tribes in the Lashi villages, marveling at ancient artwork and temples in Mandalay, trek through the rugged, pristine forests and hills, and see if you can spot unique wildlife on this 10-day luxury tour.
Discover the history, industry, and beautiful nature of Central Myanmar (Burma) on this exciting six-day adventure. You’ll visit a colonial outpost in Pyin Oo Lwin, a local gem mining area, and spend a few days cruising down the Ayeyarwady river to enjoy encounters with its eponymous dolphins.
The Shan State is yours to discover: from a historic rail ride to Hsipaw to the traditional Palaung villages, this six-day adventure will allow you to experience life in the rural hills of the Shan State, where traditional villages are full of life, culture and colour. Get your trekking shoes ready!
Trace Myanmar’s ancient trade route, making your way from Mandalay to Hsipaw, on this 4-day luxury journey. You’ll tour a charming town by antique horsedrawn cart, take a train over the colossal Gokteik Viaduct, shop in the early morning at a unique market, and watch the sunset from Nine Buddha Hill.
Belmond cruisers offer the opportunity to explore Myanmar aboard gorgeous luxury, floating accommodation. Guests may choose from seven or eleven nights on the Orcaella and cruise along the Ayeyarwady and Chindwin Rivers from which all the wonders of this beautiful country can be discovered. There is a range of cabin configurations to perfectly suit the needs of all travelers and delicious meals and colorful cocktails can be enjoyed in the restaurant and bar on the boat’s top deck. What’s more, lectures and excursions led by experienced guides will enhance the travel experience, while spectacular nightly shows by resident and guest performers will add excitement and drama to the adventure. Guests have a world of options at their fingertips, including unwinding with a drink on the observation deck, cooling off in the pool, staying in shape in the well-equipped gym, indulging in a range of treatments in the well-being area or picking up beautiful, unique souvenirs in the on-board boutique.
Road to Mandalay
Belmond cruisers offer the opportunity to explore Myanmar in style, aboard beautiful, sumptuous, floating accommodation. Spend three to 11 nights aboard the Road To Mandalay and experience the treasures of the Ayeyarwady River. This boat offers spacious, airy en-suite cabins, tastefully designed with guests’ comfort in mind. Breakfast is available in the room, while full buffet lunches and exquisite international dinners are served each day in the restaurant with delicious wine pairing options, to add a splash of indulgence. What’s more, there are talks from well-heeled guides and the chance to explore the stunning landscape of Myanmar, not to mention daily entertainment from resident and guest musicians and dancers. There is a well-equipped gym and fitness area while less active guests can relax with a drink on the observation deck or take a dip in the pool to unwind as the world sails by. This is one of the best ways to travel Myanmar.
The Sanctuary Ananda seeks to truly cater to guests’ every need whilst delivering gorgeous, uninterrupted views of the stunning Burmese scenery, in tastefully decorated, elegant surroundings. A choice of 20 cabins, all of which face outwards with a balcony, are all equipped with air conditioning and WiFi, with en-suite bathrooms featuring top quality toiletries. Guests can enjoy local and international cuisine, buffet and a la carte, al fresco or in the Talifoo restaurant; drinks can be enjoyed in the lounge or out on the deck at sunset. There are activities to suit all tastes, from sunrise yoga and swimming on the deck, body maintenance in the gym and lectures and demonstrations about local culture and history in the lounge, to complement the daily excursions into Myanmar. What’s more, Thambyadine spa offers all manner of pampering and treatments. Travelers will be mesmerized by the temples and pagodas of Myanmar aboard this floating palace.
Mandalay Hill Resort
With 206 guest rooms and suites featuring beautiful views of the Irrawaddy River and the Royal Palace, the Mandalay Hill Resort Hotel is a comfortable retreat located at the foot of Mandalay Hill. Amenities include a fitness center, two tennis courts, a swimming pool, massage services as well as a number of dining options to choose from. Enjoy an international barbecue buffet and culture show at Kinsana Garden Theater or traditional Chinese cuisine at Mingâ€™s Chinese Restaurant. Kiplingâ€™s Lounge offers a tapas menu and performances by a live band while Yadanabon Cafe provides guests with local Myanmar cuisine. The Mandalay Hill Resort Hotel is approximately 15 minutes from the Mandalay airport.
Being a boutique property this hotel prides itself on its high standards of Myanmar grace and hospitality. The hotel is a celebration of all things Myanmar, featuring teak furniture, fixtures and fittings made from rattan, mother-of-pearl and Myanmar marble. Each room bears the name of a Myanmar ethnic group, the design and decoration of each room reflects their respective cultural heritage. Chin and Shan suites feature a terrace overlooking the pool and gardens. The Rakhine suites are spacious and ideal for the business traveler. An outdoor shower with a slate wall of cascading water is the highlight of the honeymooner Kachin suites. Onsite dining includes the Spice Garden an elegant restaurant serving Myanmar, Northern and Southern Indian cuisines. Step into the stylish spa for beauty and health treatments. The spa’s interior is inspired by traditional construction methods of rural villages in Myanmar. The building remains at a comfortable temperature, even in summer with walls plastered with natural mud mixed with rice husks and straw. Running water features, rattan fixtures and terracotta tiles combine to give this retreat a rustic and earthy feel.
The Rupar Mandalar is a recently opened boutique resort just outside of Mandalay, with 10 rooms and six suites. Set amidst tropical grounds, the resort fuses the traditional and the contemporary, with teak wood construction and Burmese fabrics. There is a business center for Internet access and a state-of-the-art fitness center equipped with weight lifting machines as well as cardiovascular machines. The hotel is equipped with saunas, a Jacuzzi, pool, tennis courts and a spa. The hotel is approximately a 30-minute drive from Mandalay Airport (MDL).