Visit Mandalay and Surrounding
Mandalay was founded by King Mindon in 1859. It is the second most populated city with over two millions people, located inside Mandalay division. It is not only the administrative city of Mandalay district but also the trading center for the whole country. Built on the eastern bank of Ayeyarwaddy River, it also has access to land routes, railway services and international flights. It has the gathering of all traditional handycraft industries and also served as the largest Buddhist learning center. It is also the city of motorbikes, Ebikes and bicycles. Its surrounding areas were used as the seat of political power before the time of King Mindon.
Maha Myatmuni Buddha image
Myanmar second most famous religious shrine is located at the southwestern part of Mandalay. The image is 3.8m\13 ft tall, carved of bronze was originated from Rakhine and it was brought to Mandalay in 1785 after the crown prince of Amarapura conquered Rakhine state. The image was casted in Rakhine during the life time of Buddha and it was consecrated by Buddha himself by hugging it seven times.
Locals treat the image as living Buddha. So, it receives face washing every morning around at 4:00. It is treated with reverence and people have applied so many layers of gold on the body. It is estimated around eight tons of gold gather over the body that the image was named ‘Soft gold Buddha image‘.
Golden Palace Monastery
Golden palace monastery is a wooden building belongs to middle of nineteenth century. The building was used by King Mindon as his sleeping quarter. So, it is decorated with woodcarvings inside and outside of the wall, and thin layer of gold was applied on the wall, pillars and ceiling inside the building. King Thibaw, successor of King Mindon, donated the building after the death of his father, King Mindon. He paid carpenters to dissemble the building and refitted outside the Palace compound, thus prevented from being destroyed during the wars.
It is the only wooden building left standing from the Mandalay Palace .It had monks living inside the building until 1995. It is now under the supervision of Archaeological department which preserve the building with the help of UNESCO.
Kuthotaw Pagoda (The Great Merit Pagoda-the world largest book)
When Mandalay was founded by King Mindon, he ordered his ministers to undertake seven projects at the same time. Those were: Palace, City Walls, moat, rest houses, a monastery, an ordination hall and a stupa. The stupa was built as the same architecture as Shwezigon of Bagan. It became more famous as King Mindon prepared for the fifth Buddhist synod. He chose the Kuthodaw stupa’s compound to accommodate the stone slabs on which teachings of Buddha were inscribed.
The king had to employ over 2500 personnel. It project was started in 1860 and took seven years, six months and fourteen days to complete. There are 730 stone slabs and each stone slab is six inches thick. If all the slabs are stack together, the total height will be 365 ft tall. That is why it is called the world largest book and it received the memory of the world status by UNESCO in 2013.
Mandalay hill is situated at the Northern part of the Mandalay city, only a short distance from the Royal palace. The hill is about 230 m tall and locals use it as a place for daily exercise while visitors use its elevated position to look on the surrounding and watch sunset.
The hill top can be reached by car or by stairway with over 1700 steps. There is a stupa on top of the hill. King Mindon ordered two of his ministers to build it around 1860. The whole complex was destroyed during World War 2 and had been rebuilt again.
Mandalay Palace is shape like a square and one side of the wall is about 2 km long. The whole complex is surrounded by a water moat about 210 ft\68 m wide and 22 ft\7 m deep. The outer wall is 28.5 ft\9m tall and 10.5 ft\3m thick. It has total of twelve gates on the walls.
The Royal palace compound was built on the elevated base and surrounded by wooden palisade. Both walls and the Palace buildings were heavily damaged or destroyed during World War II. The Palace buildings were rebuilt in 1989 by military government, out of original 114 buildings, 89 buildings were rebuilt.
Amarapura and Surrounding
Amarapura served as the capital of Myanmar by three kings from 1783 to 1859. Amarapura means immortal city by Pali language. It is located at the southern part of Mandalay and simply call as southern town by locals. There is no trace left of the old palace for everything was destroyed or auction off during the colonial time. Nowadays, Amarapura is part of greater Mandalay city and famous for its weaving industry-specialised in manufacturing silk and cotton clothings. The best product of Amarapura and Mandalay region is traditional Acheik longyi.
U Bein bridge
The world longest wooden bridge is 1.2 km\3967 ft long and span across the Taungthaman lake. Taungthaman was an alluvial plain before it was turn into a permanent lake by the government. The bridge was built by U Bein, a palace clerk in 1849. The bridge is support by 984 teak pillars and bending a little bit to south while connecting the east and west banks of the lake.
The best time to visit U Bein bridge is in the morning or evening.
Maha Gandayon Monastery
Just about five minutes walking distance to Taungthaman and U Bein bridge, Maha Ganda Yon monastery is the learning center for over 1200 monks, novices and initiates. The monastery became famous since 1941. The whole complex is made up of over 100 buildings and about 50 acres in measure. It offers a glimpse of a typical and disciplines of a monastic lives. It will be crowded with visitors and tourist around 10:30 in the morning and the rest of the day is peaceful and quiet.
Ava @ Innwa and surrounding
Known to the international communities by the name Ava, it was mentioned many times in the history books of Myanmar. Innwa was used as the capital of Burmese monarchs for nearly 500 years. It was founded since 1365 and used, on and off ,as the royal city until 1841. Today, the whole place is left in ruin and the only things left standing are outer city wall and the leaning watch tower. Inside of the palace compound has turned into banana plantation and farming for other seasonal crops. The rest of the region was occupied by villages, farms and ruined temples and stupas.
The whole monastery building is supported by 267 teak posts and apart from the roofing the whole building is well preserved. It was built around 1834 by order of King Bagyidaw. It is one of the two monasteries still left standing from the Ava period. It was used for educating the members of royal family and court officials. It is still functioning as a monastery and as a school for local children.
Maha Aungmye Bonzan
It was the first of its kind in Myanmar. The main building material was wood during that time but this building was built with bricks, plasters and wood. The design still follow the tradition of wooden building but thick brick wall made the interior cooler under the afternoon sun. It was built and donated to the monks by Queen Mae Nu in 1822. She spent over 300,000 silver and pardoned 68 prisoners at the completing of the building.
Bagan and its surrounding region
Ancient capital of Myanmar, dating back over 800 years until it was destroyed by Mongol in 13th century. It still has over 2000 stupas and temples. Located in dry region of central Myanmar, near Ayeyarwaddy River(the longest river in Myanmar). Bagan is still an active religious place for the country. It is famous for its beautiful temples, lacquer wares industry and watching sunset or sunrise amongst the temples.
Visitors can go to nearby towns such as Sale or Pakokku or visit Mount Popa, the only extinct volcano in Myanmar which is also famous among the local spirits or wizards worshipers.
Shwezigon stupa is famous for four reasons in Myanmar,prototype of modern day stupas,one of three sandstone buildings in Bagan, nothern corner landmark of old Bagan kingdom and one of four stupas that housed Buddha’s tooth relice. This stupa is situated at a short distance from Nyaung Oo market. Its design is of a squat stupa built on three square-shaped terraces. The whole structure was thought to be made of sandstones untill the damages caused by an earthquake revealed the fully completed bricks structure inside.
Before that time, it was widely accepted that the stupa was first built by King Anawrahta and completed during the time of his successor King Kyansitthar. The compound of the stupa is like an open roof museum because of the wooden structure, carvings,bells,statues, evidence of the ancient building technique,all of which can be dated back to 11th to 19 th century.
Named after the one of the attributes of Buddha-omniscience,Thatbyinnyu is the tallest of all the temple in Bagan area. The temple is 201 ft\61m tall and built in 1144 A.D by King Alaungsithu. It is a four storied temple but upper floors are inaccessible. It is located inside the southeastern side of old Bagan area,very close to the ruined east wall. It is said to be a perfect example of classical middle period of Bagan temples by Archaeological department. The buddha images inside the temple are heavily repaired after 1975 earthquake and most of the mural paintings were covered with lime paint. It has a pair of pillars which was believed to use to hang a big bell and a stupa built with bricks used in tallying during the construction.
Ananda temple is Bagan most elegant temple and known as a temple with 10,000 stupas,1,000 niches and three passage ways. It was buit by King Kyansittha in 1091. It is a single storied temple of 168 ft in high and double rows of windows makes it look likes a two storied building. The ground plan is of a perfect greek cross with a distance of 289 ft\90m from one end to another. Its outside surfaces are decorated with 537 green glazed tiles depicting the story of Buddha. The niches inside the temple are filled with statues carved from sand stone. There is four standing buddha images at the center faceing the four entrances. They are 31ft\9.4m tall and made out of wood. There is also big wooden doors inside the temple which are over 900 years old.
When Bagan was founded in 849 A.D,it had a square shape wall with 12 gates and a moat surrounding the wall. But, there is only one gate left standing at the present day ,and that is Tharabar gate with literal translation of the gate that stop the arrows. The wall was reinforced by the king of Bagan during the Mongol invasion in 13th century. The king dismantled many religious buildings for bricks to strengthen the wall and the evidence can be still seen near Tharabar gate for bricks made up the wall was of various sizes.
The gate has one niche on each side dedicated to the guardian spirits. The spirits are of a brother and sister according to local legends. They are of the most senior spirits among the mordern days spirits worshippers.
The most massive temple in Bagan and built after the design of Ananda temple by King Narathu. King Narathu was the son of King Alaungsithu and grandson to King Kyansittha. There were three kings with the name Nara in the history of Bagan and Narathu was the most infamous of all. He was said to be cruel and greedy. He killed his father and his brother to become a king and built the temple to atone his sins.
The temple has no detail decorations but built with excellent bricks work. It was name after a monk ,who lived near the temple, Damayanthi-the rays of Dhamma. The inside of the temple was suppposed to be smiliar to Ananda temple but,for some unknown reason,the inner ambulatory path was sealed of with bricks.
Shwe San Daw stupa or golden hair relic stupa is located a short distance from Ananda temple in the middle of old Bagan area. The stupa was built by King Anawrahta(1044-1077). It was a stupa built on five square-shaped terraces with a ladder in the middle of each face. It has four small shrines facing the ladders and one big temple with giant reclining buddha image,inside the compound. Some of the shrines and buddha images were destroyed by earthquake but some of them still survive till today. Historians and archaeologists discovered the broken pieces of Hindu god Ganesh around the stupa. They believe that the stupa was originally a Hindu temple turned Buddhist stupa. There is also a hole on the second terrace of western stair which was done by the thieves to rob the underground relic chamber.
This temple is located about two kilometers southeast of old Bagan. Built around 1183 by King Narapatisithu. It was known with a different name,Zawtamani-ruby light,according to the 15th century wall writing. This temple is a two storied temple but only ground floor is opened for visitors. The temple belonged to middle period of Bagan Empire and the construction was done skillfully with bricks,motor and sandstones together. Bricks work of the temple is one of the best and the interior still has mural paintings and writings dating back from 13th to 19th century A.D. The temple was heavily damaged during 2016 earthquake. The top most section,sikara,toppled onto one side of the temple,leaving extensive damage to the temple.
Now,the temple was repaired and reopened to the public.
Great variegated temple is the literal translation for Gubyaukgyi temple. It is located at south of old Bagan,inside Myingabar village. The temple design belonged to the early period of Bagan temples. It is a single storied building with diamond-shaped perforated windows. Because of the windows,inside of the temple is dark. It has an antechamber and a main hall. All the surfaces except the floor inside the temple were covered with paintings-depicting the Biddhist stories .
The temple was built by Prince Yazakumar-son of King Kyansitthar, in 1113. He built the temple for the merit of his dying father. There is a stupa known as Mya Zedi-emerald stupa,beside Gubyaukgyi temple. There is a stone inscription known as Mya zedi inscription,inside the compound. This square shape stone pillar with inscriptions is also known as Rosetta stone of Myanmar for it was written in four different languages.
King Nadaungmya(1211-1230) copied the design of his father’s Sularmani temple to built this temple. It is situated on the side of Bagan -Nyaung Oo road. According to the legend – King Nadaungmya was chosen to become a king by the royal umbrella. The royal umbrella was a symbol of power and sovereignty in ancient Myanmar.
When King Narapatisithu couldn’t decide which son to transfer the power,he made all five sons to sit in circle with royal umbrella in the middle. The umbrella inclined to the direction of prince Nadaungmya after his father asked the umbrella to chose the future king. This temple is also one of the skillfully built temple with beautiful stucco carvings.
This temple was named after the captive Mon King of Thaton. King Manuha became a captive at Bagan after King Anawrahta conquered Thaton in 1060. He was allowed to have a certain degree of freedom as a captive King for he built a temple with four buddha images inside.
There are three sitting and one reclining buddha images put together inside the narrow confine of the temple. Some people translated this architecture as a expression of King Manuha’s feeling as a captive King. Three sitting buddha images are 33 ft\10m to 46 ft\14m tall and the reclining buddha image in Mahanivarna position is 90 ft\27 m long. All buddha images’ features indicative of the early Bagan period of 1067 but the temple building belonged to much later period;because of the renovations after the earthquakes.
There are only three religious buildings of old, built with extensive usage of sandstones. Nan Paya is one of them and it is exactly a few paces next to Manuha Temple. Nan Paya location was said to be the residential compound of King Manuha. Burmese history books said that the temple was built by King Manuha’s great grandson Nagathamen around tje late 11th or early 12th century.
The temple outer surface is built with sandstones and decorated with ogre heads and Hamsa birds-symbol of Mon people-mythical bird of buddhist stories but the interior wall of the temple was built with bricks. It has four pillars in the middle of the temple to support the roof with a pedestal at the center. The pillars are decorated with sandstones carvings of three headed Brahma figures. It caused a stir amomg the academics whether the temple was a Hindu or Buddhist temple.
It is one of the late Bagan era temple,built by King Kyaswa around 1252. It is a big single storied temple with a spacious flat roof,which was used as a place to watch sunset. It has four entrances but the main entrance is at the east side,which was partially collapsed due to an earthquake,displaying hollowed out arch of the roof. It is one of the place which offered an example of Bagan temple building techniques to the visitors. History evidences proved that the King couldn’t pay the workers and the temple was left unfinished. If it was completed,it would be one of the greatest temple of late Bagan period. The name Pyathada came from Pali word-prasada which means multi-tiered pavilion.
There are four stupas built by King Anawrahta which marked as the boundary of Bagan Kingdom. They are-Shwezigon stypa at the north,Tuyin hill stupa at the east,Lawkananda as the south and Tankyi hill stupa at the west;across the Ayeyarwaddy river. All of them ensuring a replica of Buddha tooth relic from Sri Lanka. Lawkananda or the beauty of the world stupa was buit on the eastern bank of Ayeyarwaddy and designed after early type of stupa;a little bulbous or conical shape. It was also destoryed during 1975 earthquake and had to rebuilt again.
There is a buddha image made out of sandstone ,about six feet tall,inside a shrine,at the east side of the stupa. The buddha image was of King Anawrahta’s merit for it was of the design favoured by the King;stout body,short neck and swastika symbols on the palm and sole of the buddha feet.
Small temple of late period design,Payathonzul or three temples is a single building built like three small temples connected to each other. It was estimated to be built around the time of Mongol invasion into Bagan for the wall paintings inside the temple was incomplete. Only the left-hand side building has complete wall painting while the middle building has partially complete paintings on the wall and the right-hand side building got nothing except a few sketches and astrology squares. It is located at the east of old Bagan ,nearer to the Nyaun Oo-New Bagan road. It has a functioning monastery nearby,which was built as an underground building around that time.
Shwegugyi or golden cave temple was built by King Alaungsithu in 1141. It belonged to the early middle period of Bagan temple buildings. It is a single storied temple built on a raised platform.
There is an hidden stair to reach to the roof. It is situated inside the old Bagan wall,very closed to the Palace excavation site. It had lost most of the decorations due to the renovation done by unskilled workers. It has stone inscriptions left by two kings. One from the King Bayintnaung(16 th century) and two from the King Alaungsithu. The stone inscriptions left by King Alaungsithu was done in Pali language but the last two lines were in Sanskrit. The temple was built in seven months time according the inscription. King Bayintnaung renovated and installed wooden doors which can still be seen today.
Myanmar has a number of mud volcanoes and hot spring inside the country. But it has only one big volcano which had gone extinct about two millions years ago. That single volcano exists in the center of Myanmar,about 30 miles\48 km southeast of Bagan.
The mountain is nearly 5000 ft in height(4981 ft\1.5 km) but the part that makes the mountain famous is Popa plateau -conical shape granite stone formation ,about half the height of main mountain. Geologists believe that the plateau was form during the last volcanic eruption.
Mount Popa or flowers mountain is like an oasis in the dry region of Myanmar. It is famous as an abode of spirits and wizards from the folklores and legends of Myanmar. A pilgrim will have to face 777 steps of stairs and monkeys to reach to the top of plateau. The main moumtain can offer trecking routes,horse riding and a nice place to take picture of plateau.
Salay yoksone kyaung
Salay town is a small sleepy town inside Mague division,about 34 miles\52.4 km south of Bagan. Its name is well known through out Myanmar for three things, nearly seedless plum that only grow in that region,19 th century playwright U Pon Nya and a wooden monastery with delicate wood carvings. There are five famous monastery scattered in the middle of Myanmar and Salay monastery’s one of them.The monastery was donation of U Bo Kyi-a merchant from Salay,and it took ten years,from 1882-1892, to finish. The monastery is 152 by 76 ft (46 by 23 m) and supported with 154 teak posts. The building is richly decorated with woodcarvings depicting the folklores of Myanmar and stories from buddhist texts. It also has buddha images and ancient manuscripts with their containers are also diplayed inside.