Dusty And Mysterious Mandalay

Roads in Mandalay are not bright with electric lights, so it is really a memorable experience when we pressed the alarm to find an accommodation in the dark. We pressed for many times, then a staff opened the door and informed us that room had not been available.

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Myanmar travel

Cabs in Mandalay are really old which look like the mean to carry cattle and even worse than the lambrettas or some kinds of rudimentary vehicles in Vietnam. There are only two desks on a cab. At the end of it, there is no desk but a mat for us to sit on. Our luggage was tied and hang on the top of the vehicle so we have more space to sit. As it had just stopped raining, the weather was fine but the street was terribly sticky with mud splashed out.

Fantastic panoramic view of Royal Palace

Roads in Mandalay are not bright with electric lights, so it is really a memorable experience when we pressed the alarm to find an accommodation in the dark. We pressed for many times, then a staff opened the door and informed us that room had not been available. We carried our luggage in and took a rest at the salon in the middle of the room. When we were waiting outside the house, I was wondering why our driver did not come back his home after driving us here and helping us to bring the luggage into the house. The reason is that, he waited until we had been safe at the house, then he drove away.

There are not anything outstanding in Mandalay but the attractive Ubein. As a result, any one coming to Myanmar try to spend 1 or 2 days visiting Ubein – the world longest wooden bridge despite the fact that they heard of Mandalay as disorganized.

Myanmar Ubein Bridge
Ubein Bridge in the morning

Mandalay is the second largest city in Myanmar, after Yagon. If Yagon is clean and orderly, Mandalay is in opposite – dirty and untidy. This remain a very poor city where the roads are not tidy but disorganized and diffusion. However, some places which serve as the surface of the city including the surrounding area of Royal Palace are very cool and clean.

We spent 1 morning in Mandalay climbing to Mandalay Hill – the “should not be ignored” destination there. We then visit the “must see places” of the city like Shwe Nam Daw monastery, Sanda Muni and the outskirt areas.

Mandalay hill offers a nice view of the whole city

In Mandalay, we hired a taxi with the price of 25k Kyat per day to visit the city. The streets there are crowded with vehicles carrying people. Some coaches’ tops are also full of people which are similar to the situation in the mountainous area in Vietnam. Mandalay is much dirtier and more crowded than Bagan. At first, we intended to visit around the city and would come to Mingu by boat the next day morning. The evening would be spent to visit Sagaing and Inwa village, and also see the sunset on Ubein Bridge. In fact, after climbing to Mandalay Hill and some white Stupas in Sanda Muni, we were bored with the view of temples and pagodas. We intended to visit the suburb area but the driver suggested us should go to Sagaing village and then enjoy the sunset at Ubein Bridge at the price of 50k Kyat. After a time of bargaining, the drive lowered the price to 45k Kyat and we all agreed. Passing a street restaurant, the driver stopped there so that we have a chance to enjoy a buffet of Myanmar. All the dishes were so good and plenty that we were filled when pay just less than 2k kyat/ person.

Ava Bridge Mandalay Myanmar
The modern Ava Bridge of Mandalay in the sunset

Myanmar is a developing country which has not opened its doors to the world, but their transportation is well organized and the people commute with a good consciousness. They are tolerant and comply with the regulations, so despite the crowded streets, no accident appeared during the time I was in Mandalay. Crossing the Ayeyarddy River is the modern Ava Bridge which has newly been established. The drivers on this bridge are all black due to sunburn. They smile friendly while chewing betel.

Myanmar Sagaing hill
Sagaing hill of Mandalay

Ayeyarwaddy River is located in between the two places we were visiting that evening. On one side, Sagaing Hill is amazing with very nice view of the temples on the hill. On the other side, there is a road leading to the ancient city of Inwa which is located on an islet in the middle of the river. If you want to get there, you need to take a boat. The road to Inwa is a small soil road but really pretty. It is not rugged but smooth, hiding under the 2 rows of green trees. It takes just few minutes to pass the river on boat and on the other side, a number of horse wagons are waiting for you. By several thousands kyat, the horse wagon will take you around Inwa, passing the deep green fields, the ancient gates which colors are faded and numerous old temples existing for thousands years. They are standing next to the high palm tree rows, reaching out to the sky full of white clouds.

Myanmar Mandalay fort
Mandalay Fort of Myanmar

The evening at Inwa was so cool at the time I was there. Wind blowing from Ayearwaddy River made the trees to singing. Those sounds together with the noise of the horses create a great chorus. Inwa bears a peaceful beauty from the images of the gardens full of bananas; the rice fields in deep green and the groups of children going fishing on the road side. We left Inwa, came back to to the boat to arrive to the most expected destination: Ubein wooden bridge.

Ubein is considered the world longest wooden bridge which is made from steak wood. We visited the bridge in rainy season, so we could see the image of it reflected on the water. In dry season, there is no water under the bridge and the locals plant vegetables there. Although the 1.2 km- long bridge is made from wood, it is not wanderous but firm. As I can see, there is a bridge section made from cement. I don’t know the reason but I guess that because of the deep water, so the bridge must be concreted by cement.

Ubein bridge
Sunset on the famous Ubein Bridge of Mandalay

On the bridge, there are some stops for visitors to take a rest and enjoy the fresh air. In the afternoon, monks from the nearby temples often wander on the bridge, then stop to talk to each other. The day I was there, it’s dark with grey clouds, so I could not be able to see the sunset in a best way. Nevertheless, the picturesque sceneries of the locals coming back from work; the groups of visitors or monks travelling on the bridge really made me fascinated about this place. We hired a small boat with driver to travel on the river, enjoy the beauty of the bridge from different angles. Until the dark felt, we left Ubein to come back our motel in Mandalay.

The next day, after having breakfast at the motel, we caught a taxi to the wharf to buy ticket to visit Mingun village and the temple which remains almost intact after the terrible earthquake in 1975. Some large cracks from the earthquake are still recorded in the temple, but are partly covered with plants. Seen from the Mingun temple at height, the river, the temples and Mingun village appear in green which is really an attractive view.  The Burma are good at keeping their environment green. As a result, despite the hot weather, we can feel more comfortable wherever we come, thanks to the shades of trees.

Mandalay travel
This is Mingun Village

We had lunch in Mingun before coming back to Mandalay. The lunch here is served with only one dish of vermicelli which tastes not very good. We had an idea of ordering each person a plate of rice and ate together with fried fish or shrimps which are the kinds of snack here. Consequence, we were full of delicious foods at a cheap price.

The last night at Mandalay, after having dinner at Mann restaurant nearby our motel, we visited Nylon ice cream which is very famous in Mandalay to enjoy the desert and cool cream cup. More interesting, at this shop, desks are arranged to sit next to the road. There is a kind of compote served here which looks like Thai conpote in Vietnam and tastes quite good. If you come to Mandalay, try to visit this shop!

Mandalay street food
Local street food is various

We said goodbye to Mandalay, to Ubein bridge in that evening. The image of Ubein bridge with its wooden pillars under the sunshine of the day’s end and the friendly smiles of the people in Mandalay would be unforgettable memories in our hearts.

Some small tips after my trip to Mandalay:

  • It’s better to catch a bus from Bagan to Mandalay to save time and avoid 1 night at a motel.
  • The taxi fare to one day trip in Mandalay is 25k kyat. It is not necessary to visit too many temples as you may be bored. You should go to Mandalay Hill, monastety, palace… in the morning and Sagaing Hill, Inwa and Ubein bridge right in the afternoon. The transport fee for that schedule would be 45k kyat/ day, rather than 55k kyat if you visit for 2 days.
  • Two days of staying in Mandalay is enough. The next day, you should buy boat ticket to visit Mingun which costs 5k kyat per person. Visiting time is from 9am to 1.30pm.
  • For your lunch in Mingun, you should have it like the way I do: rice with fried fish and shrimp. (I posted photos in the album)
  • Try to enjoy Nylon cream in Mandalay
  • For your dinner, Mann and Golden Duck are good choices with good foods and appropriate price
  • Remember to walking around the palace at night where there is a small cool canal.
  • On Friday afternoon, there is a night market which is quite interesting to join
  • I stayed in Royal Guest House with the room rate of $18/ night with private bathroom and air-conditioning.


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