Mandalay is best known not only for its rich traditional, cultural and spiritual splendor but also exquisite handicraft such as hand-woven embroidery in silk and cotton, the incredible process of making gold leaves, wood and stone carving and bronze casting, etc. It’s situated about 600 km north of Yangon on the Ayeyarwaddy River. The river jetties at Mandalay are beehive of activity with small boats going up and down the river, bamboo rafts and cargo boats with huge logs from teak forest upriver. Mandalay is now Myanmar’s second largest city, with a population of approximately one million. There are several ancient capitals around Mandalay such as Amarapura, Sagaing, Ava, Mingun where Kongboung dynasty kings established their capitals respectively.
Amarapura is one of the suburbs of Mandalay which lies on the left bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River and also known as Taung-Myo (Southern Town) or Myo-Haung (Old City). The old capital is founded by King Bodawpaya in 1783 as his new capital Amarapura means City of Immortality.
Ava, located across Myitnge River about 20 km southwest of Mandalay is the capital of Burmese Kingdom for nearly 400 years. All the major buildings, which were not destroyed during earthquake if 1838, had been transferred first to Amarapura and then to Mandalay.
Sagaing lies 21km southwest of Mandalay on the west bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River. Sagaing is known as a meditation center. A living center of Buddhist Faith, is an important religious center with some 600 Buddhist Pagodas, temple and monasteries.
It’s located across majestic Ayeyarwaddy River, 12 km north of Mandalay. Today, Mingun is famous for the world second largest ringing bell of 90 tons in weight and unfinished pagoda. It’s accessible by boat, via Gawwein Jetty across the river and takes an hour for up river and 40 minutes for down river. A boat trip to Mingun is pleasant with plenty of life on the river to see.
Pyin Oo Lwin was originally a Shan-Danu village but after 1885, it was occupied by the British occupying forces. Then, the village transformed and renamed as Maymyo (the city of May) named after British officer May who was stationed here to defeat the Burmese rebellions. In 1896, it became a hill station for the European civil servant stationed in Mandalay during the hottest months, from March through May. Today, a number of residents built in Edwardian style summer cottages are still standing. Although 70-km and only 1.5hr drive from Mandalay, Pyin Oo Lwin is a refreshing antidote to the hot, dusty and hectic streets of Myanmar’s last royal capital. It has noticeable temperature changes as the winding road through the pine & teak forests and mountain vistas as you elevated from 74 meters central plains to the Shan tablelands at 1050 meters above sea level. Pyin Oo Lwin can be approximately 10-degree Celsius cooler than nearby central plains.