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Myanmar's second largest city of nowadays founded by King Mindon in 1857 was the capital city of the last reigning dynasty of Konbaung Kings. Mandalay city is the centre of Buddhist learning, Myanmar's arts and cultures with the life span of nearly one hundred and fifty years. Many interesting edifices of cultural and religious importance, Buddhist monasteries with beautiful woodcarvings and masterpieces of Myanmar masonry remain standing. Accordingly, it is the richest historical landmark next to Bagan. Mandalay is also noted for exquisite handicraft such as hand-woven embroidery, gold leaves making, wood and marble stone carving, silk weaving, bronze casting and etc..........
Mandalay City is situated 668 kilometres north of Yangon on the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River in central Myanmar. It is now Myanmar's second largest city with a population of over two millions.
Mandalay founded by King Mindon in 1857 in Myanmar traditional architectural style and completed in 1859 was the capital city of the last reigning dynasty of Konbaung Kings. Myanmar's monarchical government moved the capital from Amarapura to Mandalay in about 1861. The city is now almost 150 years old. The design of the city was a similar copy of that of Amarapura, a perfect square. This city was named after the 236 metres high Mandalay Hill, which is just 2.5 kilometres northeast of the original fortified Palace city. The Hill has for long been a holy mount and the legend says that Lord Buddha, on His visit to Mandalay hill had prophesied that a great city, metropolis of Buddhism, would be founded at its foot. It was King Mindon who fulfilled the prophecy and established a new kingdom during his reign. The city was completely damaged in the fierce fighting of World War ?, including the royal palace, which has been reconstructed.
Mandalay is the centre of Buddhist learning, Myanmar's arts and cultures with the life span of nearly one hundred and fifty years. Mandalay is a city, which abounds many interesting edifices of cultural and religious importance and Buddhist monasteries with beautiful woodcarvings and masterpieces of Myanmar masonry. Accordingly, it is the richest historical landmark next to Bagan. Mandalay is best known not only for its rich traditional, cultural and spiritual splendor but also exquisite handicraft such as hand-woven embroidery, the incredible process of making gold leaves, wood and marble stone carving, bronze casting, silk weaving, silversmith workshop and bamboo fan factory etc. Since Mandalay is the centre of Buddhist learning, it houses at least a third of the nation's 150,000 monks and nuns.
Mandalay is linked by air, rail, road and river with Yangon and other principal towns of Myanmar. One could choose any one of the four modes of transportation preferred. It takes only an hour to fly from Yangon to Mandalay and if one travels by train or cars, it takes 12 to 14 hours. Flying is the best way to travel. At the Mandalay international airport, all domestic flights and Phuket Air lands on Monday and Friday from Bangkok. Yunan Air flies from Kunming on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
Accommodation is as good as in Yangon. There, we can find variety of hotels and restaurants with good services. Mandalay has many places to be explored either in the city or at the vicinity. There are several ancient capitals around Mandalay such as Amarapura, Sagaing, Innwa, Mingun where Kongboung dynasty kings used to rule respectively. Mandalay, as the centre of Myanmar culture, was outstanding in the past and it will continue to be a place of pride in the future.
Royal Palace was proudly established in the form of square in 1857. It is protected with four sided immense walls measuring 8 metres high and 3 metres thick. Each side of the walls is 2 kilometres long and surrounded with 70 metres wide and 3 metres deep moats.
Inside that secured fort, the Royal Palace comprises of elegant buildings such as great Audience Hall, the Chamber of the Lion Throne and other chambers, Pavilions, Treasury, Glass Palace, Watch Tower, Armoury, and so on. All the Royal Buildings were built by massive teak wood and decorated with beautiful Myanmar traditional fine carvings and most of them are gilded.
During World War (II) on 20th March 1945, the whole magnificent Royal Palace complex was destroyed by fire. However, the finely built palace walls, the city gates with their crowning wooden pavilions and the surrounding moat still present an impressive scene of the Mandalay Palace. In 1996, Mya Nan San Kyaw, the Golden Palace, has been reconstructed to its former design by reinforced concrete and wood. Still today, the majestic palace walls, city gates superimposed by pavilions and the surrounding moat are standing evidences showing how grand was the former Palace.
The dominant natural feature of Mandalay is its 236 metres high Mandalay Hill situated just outside the north of downtown. Mandalay Hill towering above the surrounding plain is the natural watch-tower for the visitors to watch sunrise or sunset over the city plains. Visitors and pilgrims to Mandalay climb the 1729 steps of the covered southern stairway. Just half a decade ago this hill had to be climbed on foot up. At present, the construction of motor-car road to reach hill-top is completed so a drive-up access can be made easily.
The top of the hill offers a breathtaking view of Mandalay city, the Royal Palace, Fortress and the Ayeyarwaddy River to the West with the Sagaing and Mingun hill beyond and the distant Shan hills, blue in the mist to the East.
At the bottom of the hill of the southwest entrance where the two immense statue of Lions are guarding the holy hill. During when Buddha was alive, he and his disciple Ananda climbed Mandalay hill, on one of his visits to Myanmar and made a prophecy while pointing the place of that future city that a great city would be founded at the foot of this hill. Then, a huge standing Buddha image was built at the place where Buddha stood, with his hand pointing to the Royal Palace.
Mahamuni Buddha Image is located at the southwest of the town and it is highly venerated. The 4 metre high seated image is cast in bronze and weigh 6.5 tons. The crown of the image is decorated with diamonds, rubies, and sapphires. Mahamuni Buddha Image is said to have been cast in the life time of and in the very presence of Buddha so it can be said that this Image is the portrait of Buddha.
Originally, this holy Image belonged to Myohaung in Rakhine State, the western coastal region of Myanmar. The massive Buddha Image was cast in northern Rakhine during the reign of King Candrasuriya in approximately 150 AD. King Anawrahta of Bagan conquered Rakhine in the 11 Century but the attempt to carry the Image to Bagan failed. Finally, King Bodawpaya succeed to bring the Image to the royal capital of Amarapura together with the Rakhine King, arms, elephants and approximately 20,000 captured Rakhine soldiers as booty back to upper Myanmar.
The early morning ritual of washing the Face of the Buddha Image draws a large crowd of devotees everyday. Since Myanmar Buddhists are so pious and countless thousands of devotees apply gold leaf to gain merit, the Image has completely covered with 15cm thick gold and original shape is distorted. The Image is considered as the greatest next to Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar. Thus, a visit to Mandalay would be incomplete without visiting the Great Mahamuni Pagoda.
Shwenandaw (Golden Palace) Monastery is located close to the Atumashi (Incomparable) Monastery. This monastery is famous for its intricate wood carvings and is reminiscent of the old Mandalay Palace.
Actually, this building was first located within the precincts of Mandalay Palace and was part of the palace complex. It was used as an apartment of King Mindon and his chief queen. After King Mindon's death, King Thibaw had dismantled and reassembled the building on its present site in 1880 as a monastery to gain religious merit for his deceased father.
As a result, it is the only original teak structure representing the Myanmar wooden architecture remaining from the royal palace, which was destroyed by bombs at the end of the Second World War. Now, this monastery serves as a museum of mid nineteenth century Myanmar wood carvings. A spacious external wooden corridor circumambulates the main structure, on which one can walk around to see and appreciate the intricate wood carvings on the whole building, representing traditional floral designs, decorative motifs, and depicting scenes from Jataka stories.
This monastery has now been maintained and preserved in its original style. Today, the Golden Palace Monastery is one of tourist attractions in Mandalay. And it is a singular object of marvel and admiration for art lovers and architects.
Atumashi Kyaung is situated in the northeast of Mandalay and it is one of the worth-seeing places. This monastery was built by King Mindon in 1857. It was partially destroyed by fire in 1890 and only the monastery balustrade and staircases with elaborate stucco carvings were remained. The remains seen nowadays obviously show that the Atumashi Kyaung must have been indeed an inimitable one in former times. The reconstruction work on the monastery has been done by the government to its original form in 1996.
Kuthodaw Pagoda is situated near the foot of Mandalay Hill and was constructed by King Mindon, modeling on the Shwezigon Pagoda at Bagan. The pagoda is popularly known as "The World's Largest Book" which is the collection of 729 upright marble slabs on which are inscribed the entire Buddhist scriptures standing around the central stupa. Each of the slabs is housed in its own individual small stupas. After the Fifth Buddhist Synod held in 1871, the inscriptions were created by 2,400 monks and people who painstakingly carved these marble slabs is incredible.
Kyauktawgyi Pagoda is situated near the southern approach to Mandalay Hill and was completed in 1865 by King Mindon. Pagoda houses a huge image of the Buddha carved out of a single marble boulder. The marble block was so colossal that it was hauled by using 10,000 men labouring for 13 days from a canal to the current site. Around the shrine are figures of the Buddha's 80 disciples, arranged in groups of 20 on each of the four sides.
Amarapura, an ancient capital of the Konbaung Dynasty founded in 1783, lies on the road to Sagaing about 11 kilometers south of Mandalay. The modern town of Amarapura is often referred to as Taungmyo"the southern city" to distinguish It from Mandalay, the northern city. The old name Amarapura means "city of immortality".
Amarapura was founded as new capital by King Bodawpaya soon after he ascended to the throne. In 1823, King Bagyidaw moved back to Innwa. In 1841, Amarapura became again the capital but in 1857 King Mindon decided to make Mandalay the capital and all the important buildings of Amarapura had been transferred to Mandalay. The changeover was completed in 1860.
There are several interesting places to be seen. Phahtodawgyi Pagoda, Kyauktawgyi Pagoda, Bagaya Monastery, Taungtha man Lake and U Pein Bridge are worth visiting. Amarapura was also the place for the first British embassy in Myanmar in 1795. Amarapura is also noted for silk weaving industries and bronze casting.
Amarapura, one of the capitals of the third Myanmar Empire, is about 11 kilometers south of Mandalay. Near Amarapura, there is a huge teak bridge spanning the Thaungthaman Lake, a shallow one. During the dry season, the bridge crosses the dry land. A 1.2 kilometers long wooden bridge built totally with teak planks by U Pein, is the longest wooden bridge in Myanmar. The bridge has 984 teak posts of two centuries ago. In 1784, U Pein was the mayor at that time of the shift from Innwa and he wisely salvaged material from the deserted Innwa Palace to build this long footbridge. Since the bridge was built across the Thaungthaman Lake, the cool breeze across the lake give refreshment to whom take leisure under the shade of the big trees grown around the lake and the bridge. This place is also a marvelous sunset viewpoint.
The Mahagandhayon Monastery is located near the U Pein Bridge. This is the largest Buddhist monastery in Myanmar accommodating more than a thousand young monks. It was founded around 1914 and is renowned as a center for monastic study and strict religious discipline. It is a typical place to witness the disciplined way of life of Buddhist monks. Distinguish character of this large monastery is the systematic manner of the monks during the lunchtime, having their meal in total silence and systematically in accordance with Buddha's teachings.
An ancient city of Sagaing is situated on the west bank of Ayeyarwaddy River and 21 kilometres southwest (50 minutes drive) from Mandalay. Sagaing Hills, a cluster of low-lying hills, are best known as a religious retreat and a center of Buddhist studies and meditation. The Sagaing Hills are dotted with pagodas. And for some 6000 monks and nuns, there are over 500 monasteries and nunneries on a green hillside overlooking the Ayeyarwady River.
About 10 kilometres from Sagaing is the Kaunghmudaw Pagoda, an enormous dome-shaped pagoda built by King Thalun in 1636. The enormous dome, whose name means "work of great merit", rises 46 meters in the shape of a perfect hemisphere and was modeled after the Mahaceti (Great Stupa) in Sri Lanka. Around the base of the pagoda are 812 stone pillars, each one is 1.5 meters high and with a small hollow for an oil lamp.
Sagaing Bridge built in 1934 links Mandalay and Sagaing across the Ayeyarwaddy River. During the Second World War in 1942, it was bombed by the British to stop the advancing Japanese Army. The bridge was not repaired and put back into operation until 1954. Nearby village of Ywataung offers one to observe silversmiths making various kinds of silverware by traditional methods.
The ancient city of Innwa is located about 20 kilometers southwest of Mandalay. The King Thado Minbya founded the city in 1364 and it flourished for nearly four hundred years bringing forth its culture and literature to the highest pitch. All the major buildings, which were not destroyed during the earthquake of 1838, had been transferred first to Amarapura and then to Mandalay. However, the 27 meters high watchtower known as the "leaning tower of Innwa" and Bagaya teak monastery is built by Bagyidaw in 1834. It was fully built by teak wood and has 267 teak wood posts. The biggest post is 60 feet in high and 9 feet in circumference. Innwa is also noted for Maha Aung Mye Bon Zan Monastery built by Nanmadaw Me Nu, King Bagyidaw’s Chief Queen, in 1822. It was damaged by earthquake of 1838. But it was restored by Hsin Byuma Shin, daughter of Nanmadaw Me Nu and Queen of Mindon in 1872. It is the fine example of Myanmar masonry, art and architecture.
Mingun is located about 11 kilometres upstream from Mandalay on the west bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River. The places worth seeing are a mammoth unfinished Mingun pagoda, 50 meters high, overlooking the river and the 90 tons Mingun Bell, the largest ringing bell in the world cast in 1808 by King Bodawpaya. A 45-minutes cruise from Mandalay to Mingun along the river is very pleasant and will be an unforgettable experience to view the social life of villages along the shore.
Pyin Oo Lwin(formerly known as Maymyo), a pretty hill resort over 1100 metres above the sea level, is situated about 67 km east of Mandalay. It is the foothills of the Shan Plateau and one and half hour drive from Mandalay. Pyin Oo Lwin(May Myo) has a pleasantly cool weather all the year round and is very rich in horticulture. Even at the peak of the hot season, Pyin Oo Lwin(May Myo) is pleasantly cool and it can get quite chilly at certain times of the year. Since it has grown perennial flower blossomed trees and seasonal beautiful flowers, it is also named as Floral City of Myanmar.
The picturesque summer retreat of Pyin Oo Lwin(May Myo) was founded by Myanmar official Maung Dwe in 1851. In 1887, during the British annexation of Myanmar, Pyin Oo Lwin(May Myo) was named Maymyo ( May town ) after Colonel May of the 5th Bengal Infantry who was stationed at this hill station.
Pyin Oo Lwin(May Myo) is surrounded by low hills and the whole area is dotted with pine trees and eucalyptus. Coffee, vegetables and strawberries are grown on the slopes of the hills. The uphill narrow winding road from Mandalay to Pyin Oo Lwin(May Myo) is noted for its glimpses of breathtaking scenic beauty.
While in Pyin Oo Lwin(May Myo), some places worth visiting are Botanical Garden covering an area over 142 hectare, Pwekauk and Dattaw Waterfalls, Peikchinmyaung Cave, Chinese temple and historic huge Maha Ant-htu-kan-tha Buddha image. Riding on the old style horse drawn coach and local Shan food would add the city tour much more fascinating. Thus, Pyin Oo Lwin(May Myo) is a place of "must see" for any visitor who wishes to have a complete tour of Myanmar.
Monywa, a major trading center of the Chindwin Valley, is situated on the east bank of Chindwin River about 136 kilometres to the west of Mandalay. Places worth visiting around Monywa are Thanboddhay Pagoda; Boddhi-tataung (one thousand Bo trees), each with a Buddha statue at its foot; Kyaukka Village known for its own distinctive style of lacquer ware.
Thanboddhay Pagoda was built between 1939 and 1952 by Moehnyin Sayadaw. The solid section of the monument is said to enclose 7350 relics and other holy materials. Inside the temple, every wall and archway were decorated with numerous small Buddha images and there are also larger sitting and standing Buddhas in niches. These images reportedly number over 500,000 altogether.
Mogok, a town situated 1170 metres above sea level, is located 200 kilometres northeast from Mandalay. The mountain ranges of Mogok are a part of the great Shan plateau. Mogok is in the centre of four mountains. Hence, geography of Mogok looks like an oven. The visitor will be rewarded by fantastic views of forested mountains, the distant Ayeyarwaddy River and plains. Green and lush forests, mountains and streams are the topographical features of the Mogok region forming a scene of natural splendor.
According to legend, three Shan hunters lost their way in the jungle and as they made camp under a large fig tree, they found many fine rough rubies dislodged by a landslide from a nearby hill. Then, they gathered many of the stones and took them back to their Sawbwa (Chief) of Momeik, 45 kilometres from Mogok. The delighted Sawbwa ordered to build a village called Thaphanbin or fig tree where the rubies were found. Since that time, valuable gems, mainly rubies, have been mined in the area where Mogok now stands.
Mogok as a town came into being around 1207 AD during the Bagan Era. In Shan Language, it is known as "Mongkat" which means "A cool and pleasant town". When time changes, it came to be known as Mogok. It is alternatively known as "Ruby Land" because it produces the highly quality rubies in the world. Mogok where beautiful rubies and sapphires lay scattered, has been famous for its precious rubies and gems since the days of ancient Myanmar monarchs. Especially, Mogok rubies became renowned for their quality and beauty. Mogok also produces the highly valued star sapphires and a whole variety of semi-precious gems like garnets, topaz and many others.
Mogok mines have yielded many gems of enormous value. There are now over 1000 mines, with an area of approximately 4,864 square kilometres. Today gems are extracted through traditional methods of digging by hand and mining by machinery equipment in respective gem tracts. There are two main types - tunnel mines and open-cut. Small-scale traditional mines such as lay-bin-gyin (four-sided-pits) are also used in some places.
The most recent finds of world fame is the Na-Wa-Ta State Ruby weighing 496.5 carats and another stone, the largest rare ruby weighing 21450 carats, found in 1996. There is also the largest star sapphire weighing 63,000 carats.
Residents are mostly Lisus, Shans and Kachins who make their living by mining, cutting, polishing and marketing gemstones while some other local people work on farms. Visitors can observe the mining techniques by which these precious stones are taken from alluvial limestone gravel.
The motorway is safe although there are nearly one thousand bends and curves along the route. There is pleasant viewing of mountain plantations as well as farms on the plain. As the region being the home of national races of Shan, Palaung and Lisu, visitors will also have the chance to see their villages along the route and study their traditional customs and daily work.
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