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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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