Locations: Mandalay

Mandalay Mahamuni ImageMandalay, a bustling market town built in 1857 and Myanmar’s second largest city, lost its royal glory to British colonial rule when the country’s last kings was sent into exile in 1885. In spite of all the upheaval, Mandalay has remained the center of Myanmar culture and can only be described as a city of superlatives : it has the best curries, the purist form of the Myanmar language and the most exquisite workmanship on wood, marble, silk, fabric and bronze made in the grand tradition of the royal regalia of the last king. The major transport of 2 million Mandalay population is the bicycle, and at rush hour there are hundreds of bicycles in the city's geometric patterns of streets.  After sunset in the cool evening air, men sit on stools in open-air teashops, chatting (often presuming to have very important conversation on world affairs) and sipping hot green tea or rich Myanmar coffee. You hardly see any girls sitting in these shops. This is not because of a social differentiation between the sexes but because of our traditional culture. And we love to keep it.

Although Mandalay itself is a modern bustling town, it is surrounded by tranquil and religious places in every direction. In less than hour’s drive there is the old royal city of Amarapura – home to the Mahagandayon Monastery, and the famous 200 years old U Bein Bridge made of teak and spanning the waters of Taung Thaman lake. Just another half hour’s ride brings one to either the ancient city of Inwa (the seat of Kings directly prior to the last and final Mandalay era), and across The River is the deeply religious center of Sagaing who’s monastery covered hills ring with the sound of bells and Buddhist incantations. All are surrounded by farmland and deeply rural communities.


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