Look beyond Mandalay’s high-rises and busy streets to discover a town steeped in history and culture. Join locals at the city’s holiest shrine, wander the colorful morning market and slurp noodles at a popular teashop. Venture further afield to explore former royal capitals and villages along the Irrawaddy River.
Explore Mandalay like a local with visits to bustling markets, eating at tea shops and partaking in daily religious rituals.
Take a boat across the Irrawaddy to tranquil Mingun and Sagaing to learn about ancient kings and Buddhist beliefs.
Spend an afternoon in the former royal capital, exploring weaving workshops and crossing the world’s longest teak bridge.
Mandalay Explorer - 3 Days / 2 Nights
Today the sightseeing begins at 08:00.
Meet with the guide at the hotel in the morning.
The tour begins with a visit to the top of Mandalay Hill, which rises 240 metres above the city, for great views of the surrounding countryside, Irrawaddy River and city centre. At the base of the hill, stop to visit Shwe Nandaw Kyuang, also known as the Golden Palace Monastery, which is noted for its intricate wood carvings. Then visit Kayuk Taw Gyi Pagoda to view its huge marble Buddha. The marble is from Sagyin Quarry and took 10,000 men almost two weeks to transfer to its current location. Afterwards, visit Kuthodaw Pagoda, home to ‘the world’s largest book’, a collection of more than 700 marble slabs inscribed with Buddhist teachings.
Take a break midday for lunch at a local curry shop or tea house for a chance to experience one of the city’s famous noodle dishes.
In the afternoon, explore the craft shops of Mandalay. Mandalay has also long been known as a centre of skilled craftsmanship and, in former times, supplied the Royal courts with all their crafts. A tour of traditional workshops includes crafts such as marble masonry, kalaga tapestry and gold leaf making.
OPTIONAL TOURS: Make a marionette- Visit a local craftshop, select the style and dress of marionette and put together a personalised souvenir -a perfect memory of Mandalay.
Continue to 63rd street in the late afternoon. Located in the city centre, this street comes alive around 16:00 when the locals begin to gather outside the temple where a multitude of street stalls selling snacks, temple offerings and small toys can be found. The temple interior is bustling with local Buddhists preparing offerings or earning merit through tasks such as feeding fish, grinding thanaka on large stones to make scented water and praying at the many shrines.
After this glimpse of local life, return to the hotel in Mandalay and spend the rest of the evening at leisure.
Overnight in Mandalay.
This morning the tour starts at 08:00 after breakfast at the hotel.
After breakfast in the morning, dDrive to the jetty to board a local boat to Mingun. The visit begins at the famous Mingun Pahtodawqyi. This huge brick structure was left unfinished after an astrologer predicted the king would die should the temple be completed. In the 1800s, an earthquake left several large cracks in the structure which contribute to the temple’s iconic ‘fractured’ appearance. Continue on with a visit to the beautiful white Hsinbyume Pagoda, whose distinctive style is meant to resemble the mythical Mount Meru. Then, see the Mingun Bell which, weighing in at over 90 tons, is considered to be the world’s largest uncracked ringing bell.
Next, visit Sagaing. Covered with 600 white-painted pagodas and monasteries, Sagaing Hill is widely regarded as the religious center of Myanmar. It is home to more than 3,000 monks and 100 meditation centres. Visit pagodas such as Swan Oo Pon Nya Shin and U Min Thone Sae.
Afterwards, head to Sagaing’s local market, a typical Burmese market little-visited by tourists. Here, find a range of items for sale including locally made pottery, silver and other handicrafts. Then stop at a small pottery village to see the process of making the ubiquitous water pots found throughout Myanmar.
Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon, drive south to Amarapura, a former capital whose name means ‘City of Immortality’. First, visit a silk weaving workshop which produces exquisite handmade products.
Then, continue to U Bein Bridge, a 200-year old bridge constructed of 984 teak posts that were once part of the deserted Inwa Palace. At 1.2 kilometers in length, it’s the world’s longest teak wood construction. That’s not what makes it famous, though. U Bein Bridge is widely considered to be one of the most photogenic locations in Asia. With colourfully dressed locals crossing the bridge, invariably attractive light and a mixture of colours and textures, it is almost impossible to take bad photos of this surprisingly fascinating attraction.
Find a place to sit and, as the sun sets, watch as the entire area becomes bathed in a vivid golden light that will almost surely amount to one of the most impressive sunsets in memory.
Return to Mandalay in the early evening.
Overnight in Mandalay.
Starting early in the morning, before the sun rises, meet with the guide and driver at 4:00 and head to Mahamuni Pagoda -Mandalay’s most important religious site. The main Buddha image here is more than 3.5 metres tall and has been covered with so much gold leaf by locals that it now has an iconic ‘lumpy’ texture. Every morning at 04:30, monks and locals gather at Mahamuni to wash the statue’s face with scented water and clean his teeth with a soft brush. This bizarre yet beautiful ceremony is worth getting out of bed for, and makes for an amazing photo opportunity.
Next, continue to a local neighborhood to witness the daily alms collection of monks. Clothed in red robes and carrying alms bowls, a solemn line of barefoot monks walk along the streets to collect offerings from locals. The morning alms collection is an important part of daily life for Burmese people and symbolizes the ‘making of merit’, which reminds Buddhists of mutual inter-dependence -a principal that his highly valued in Burmese society.
After these beautiful ceremonies, head to the morning market in central Mandalay. Covering several city blocks, the market is a hive of activity in the early morning hours, with vendors selling mounds of fresh produce, meats, flowers and other items and shoppers arriving by trishaw or motorbike. The setting is incredibly colourful and, while walking through the market, it’s likely to see things unusual sights such as exotic fruits and spices, dried meats and prepared sweets.
Finally it’s time for breakfast! Visit a local tea shop- a busy meeting place throughout the day and an integral part of Burmese life. Sip a hot cup of coffee or try the local tea, a strong brew mixed with sweetened condensed milk. Then sample a bowl of local noodles- Mandalay is famous for its mee shay (noodles with pork or chicken, bean sprouts, toasted chickpea flour, rice flour gel, soy sauce and various herbs) and nan gyi toke or mont di (rice noodles with a chicken curry- the difference is the size of the noodles). Also have a taste of mohinga or Shan noodles if appetite allows. Other dishes such as curries, rice and chappati are also available.
After filling up, transfer back to the hotel to freshen up before the day’s other sightseeing or continue to the airport (airport transfer not included).
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