Make no mistake Mandalay is a metropolis: the air is thick with dust and the ringing of car horns. The roads are filled with bikes that seemingly have no regard for safety. Despite this, there are beautiful spots to be visited and authentic foods to be eaten – making Mandalay a must-visit when in Myanmar. 2/3 days is sufficient to take in the essence of this stimulating city.
The Palace is the centrepiece of Mandalay. It was the home to the last Burmese royal family and has long been seen as a symbol of sovereignty, even through British occupation. It is steeped in Burmese history so it is definitely worth a visit. It is also stunning. The palace is surrounded by spires which give majestic views of the surrounding complex. When combined with the immaculately kept gardens this creates a real impression of elegance.
Atop this hill is a temple with breathtaking views of Myanmar going in all directions. It takes about 30 minutes to get to the top and at times you will need to go barefoot, however it is worth the climb. You can see for miles in all directions: temples protrude from the city and fields extend into the horizon. If possible, end the day here so you can watch the sunset for the best view in all of Mandalay. Those who wish to go up in a more relaxed fashion, you can get a taxi/motorbike to a spot just below the summit – perhaps a good idea if you wish to get transport back after the sunset.
Pan Cherry Noodle House & Café:
This cosy family-run café is very unassuming from the outside but don’t let this put you off, their food is incredible. It originated in 1978 with a man who sold noodle soup on the street, but over time it has grown into a great little restaurant where the same delicious recipes still persevere. The traditional noodle soup is impeccable – it was undoubtedly the nicest I tried in Myanmar and Thailand – and at only 1500 kyat (less than £1) it can’t be turned down.
Bistro @ 82nd:
For those seeking a more western, gourmet dining experience Bistro @ 82nd is the perfect place. Whilst it is quite pricey for Asia – you’re looking at around 12000 Kyat (£6) – it is not unaffordable and it is high-quality food. With excellent service and a well-kept interior it is definitely worth a visit if you fancy treating yourself.
This functional hotel is perfect for those wishing to organise trips and further travel in-house. The receptionists all speak good English, allowing us to book a tour of Mandalay and travel onwards to Bagan. The included breakfast was plentiful with a varied selection. The room was clean, spacious and had good aircon; although if you’re scared of Gecko’s perhaps this isn’t the place for you.
Ostello Bello is a great chain of hostels throughout Myanmar and if you’re looking for a more traditional hostel experience to meet other travellers it is perfect. A great location, friendly staff and breakfast included make it a great place to stay.
To Avoid – Mahagandyon Monastery:
I advise that you avoid coming to this monastery to see the feeding of the 1300 monks every day. Whilst it is something to marvel at, the whole practice is a violation of the monastery. It is dehumanising to the monks: tourists gawk at them as they queue for lunch, taking photos as if their daily lives were a circus show.