The northern city of Mandalay was once the Royal Capital of Myanmar. Now the second largest city in the country, it hosts large concrete buildings, busy dangerous roads, continuous horn honking, as well as dirt and red spit (I will explain in another post) lining the streets. I arrived in Mandalay in the early hours of the morning (as per usual with these long awkward bus rides). Once the city was alive, I hopped on a pedal bike and explored. My first sightseeing spot was the Mandalay Palace.
Being the last Palace of the Burmese monarchy, it is truly a spectacular landmark, however it is also rather bizarre. After accidentally cycling around the 8km citadel and stopping at two separate army entrances, (which were cordoned off to tourists) I finally arrived at the correct entrance. There I was greeted with a map that outlined the areas tourists were allowed. To be honest, there were more areas tourists weren’t allowed. I was strongly advised to walk down one path (not stepping a foot from this) to the Palace. Assuming it would be military camps along the way, it was instead housing. Even though kids were playing behind the strict no entry signs, armed check points and barb wire, it was still slightly off putting.
The next few hours I explored the Palace, which was originally completed in 1859. Due to majority of the compound being destroyed during World War II, sadly the structure today is a replica, being built in the 1990s. However despite that, it is still an impressive landmark. For some context, the Palace was once home to King Mindon and King Thibaw, the last two Kings of Myanmar. It was during the third British-Burmese war (in 1885) that the Royal Family were captured and the Palace was turned into a fort.
The only thing I was unsure of during my wander, was the museum. It’s only because they didn’t have any lights on, meaning I couldn’t see anything, which made me question what was the point of it! The afternoon I spent cycling around the various Pagodas, including…
Shwenandaw Kyaung Atumashi MonasteryKuthodaw PagodaMandalay HillAll were impressive, however the view up Mandalay Hill, for me, despite the many steps (and sore legs after three days of hiking), was the best.
I only spent one full day in Mandalay, however with a bicycle (despite the roads being worse than London), it was still plenty of time to see everything. It’s definitely worth going to see, however so far it hasn’t been my favourite place in Myanmar.
Jessica Storm ✌️