I spent three days in Mandalay and wished I was there longer! All the blog posts I read before I went there talked about how there was nothing to do in Mandalay and don't spend that much time there. I loved Mandalay, and was overwhelmed with everything there was to see! Even after all I did, there were still a few things that I didn't get to see. Here are ten things I did while I was in Mandalay.
WATCH 1200 MONKS RECEIVE ALMSGIVING
Around 10:30 am every day 1200 monks line up to get almsgiving and have breakfast. It’s one of the largest Almsgiving that I’ve witnessed during my time in Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, this has become a favorite spot for tourists, and you will also see them lined up to photograph the monks. The monks could care less that you’re there, and I bet they wish you weren’t. I caught a few off guard when I smiled at them and said ‘Mingalaba’ which means hello. I even got a smile back. If you go, don’t treat them as a zoo, smile and say good morning, your pictures will turn out better that way too.
PLAY WITH CHILDREN AT AUNG MYAE OO MONASTERY
My favorite place in Mandalay was the Children's monastery. I’ve never met more happy kids! The girls are called nuns and wear pink robes, where the boys wear the traditional orange. They're over 2500 kids, and it was fun to watch them play. The girls kept coming up and put flowers in my hair. I had 4 or 5 flowers by the time I left.
VISIT WEDDING DRESS FABRIC MAKERS
These needle workers are no joke! There are two on one loom, and it takes one month to finish a sheet of fabric. The material is then used to make wedding outfits for the bride and groom. Not cheap, though. The silk fabric turned to wedding dress costs upwards of $1000, but gorgeous no the less.
WITNESS THE LARGEST BOOK IN THE WORLD
The largest book in the world in at Kuthodaw Pagoda. There are 729 pagodas, each housing one large tablet with the Buddhist scripture. The pagodas are all white and in rows with large trees intertwined in the area. You will see many locals sitting on the grounds reading or praying. If you wanted to try thanaka, local ladies will paint a leaf on your face for free, but then try to sell you their postcards.
SEE PUPPETS BEING CREATED
These intricate woodworkers not only create planks of doors into beautiful doors, but they also make puppets on strings. I didn’t have a chance to go, but there is a marionette show in Mandalay that I heard is worth checking out. The puppets themselves are beautiful.
WATCH BUDDAH SCULPTURED OUT OF MARBLE
One street in Mandalay is responsible for all the marble carvings in the country. These workers carve Buddha out of marble in all sizes then polish and hand paint detail on them, before placed in homes and temples.
SEE THE PAGODA MADE OF GOLD
There are two pagodas in Mandalay made of gold. Mahamuni Pagoda is a favorite with the locals. Don't miss walking down the side streets, there are a couple markets where you can buy local goods and souvenirs.
TALK TO MONKS AT THE TOP OF MANDALAY HILL
You can either walk or take a motorbike up the hill. Beware, though, my motorbike taxi’s bike was old and couldn’t make it up the hill, so I walked part of the way. Once to the top, there’s a 360-degree view of all of Mandalay. It’s perfect to go up for sunset. Also on top are many monks who come up right before the sun sets hoping to talk to foreigners to practice their English. I talked with a 13-year old who has been with his monastery for three years and had another two years to go. His English was impeccable.
WALK ALONG THE LONGEST TEAKWOOD BRIDGE IN THE WORLD
U Bein Bridge was built out of teakwood in the 1800's and is 1.2 Km long. If you come at sunset, don’t plan to get the bridge to yourself. Tourists and locals both come here to watch the sunset and are packed to the brim with people taking selfies. There are boats that you can hire for a ride around the lake and get a better view of the bridge, albeit full with people on it.
VISIT THE TEMPLES AT INWA BY HORSE BUGGY
To visit Inwa you need to take a passenger ferry then from there you can walk (which I don’t recommend) to the temples, but will take you about 2 hours to get there, or you can hire a horse buggy $10 per carriage for 90 minutes. The carriage ride is very bumpy, but the four temples are worth going to see.