Mandalay

MANDALAY

Here’s a little song that used to be sung all over the country in the days of the last two Myanmar kings. “ If you want to live long , Take the shelter in the shade of Mandalay Hill , Surrounded by the dark waters of the emerald Nanda Lake. With bells peeling sweetly. And the royal golden drum booming , it’s so free from harm here.” It’s so tranquil and free from harm here. That little song epitomizes Mandalay , which truly represents quintessential Myanmar. Mandalay is the city of Myanmar characters , the city of last monarchs and the second largest city of Myanmar. It’s regarded as the center of Myanmar culture and Buddhist learning. It’s the home and guardian of the best traditions of Myanmar Music and Dance. The city was founded by king Mindon in 1857. At the same time King Mindaon built the city with seven major projects. They are the royal palace , the moat , the Atumashi monastery , Kuthodaw pagoda , the Sudhamma rest house , the ordination hall & the Pitaka library. Being a city newly built at the command of a powerful king , Mandalay is well-planned and laid out with straight roads and streets.

The official name of the city was “ Yadanarbon Naypyidaw “ which means treasure-heap capital. But, the people simply called it Mandalay as it lies near Mandalay Hill. The name may have derived from the Pali word “ Mandalar “ which means abroad , flat plain or the Sanskrit word meaning circle or representation of the universe. The construction of the city was completed in 1859. King Mindon shifted his palace from nearby Amarapura city in 1861. The palace formed a perfect square shape and rounded by the four side of the strong wall and the moat. The walls are 2 kilometer long. The city Mandalay was very short-lived. On November 29 , 1885 , the country and Upper Myanmar , Mandalay was annexed into British Empire , during the reign of King Thibaw , the last king of Myanmar. The southern and middle parts of the country has been occupied earlier after the first and second Anglo-Myanmar wars respectively. Having been the capital of the last two Myanmar Kings , Mandalay has remained to this day the center of Myanmar culture and traditional arts and crafts. It’s also the only place where the Buddhism shines brightest with a large number of pagodas and monasteries. About the 60% of the total monks population of Myanmar live in Mandalay area. One’s pursuit of Buddhist studies is considered incomplete until and unless one has studied in Mandalay. A lot of Myanmar arts and crafts such as sculpting images of the Buddha , making very thin gold leafs and the weaving of silk and cotton are still centered in Mandalay. Mandalay had also produced great dancers , song-writers , singers and writer and traditional musicians. The artist from Mandalay are the best in the country. Their craftsmanship is very nice and delicate. Mandalay is accessible and linked by air , rail , road and river with Yangon and other principle towns of Myanmar. Mandalay lies in the center of the country and surrounded by former capitals of Innwa , Sagaing , Amarapura , One can make a lot of short trips to historical and other interesting sites. It’s been transformed from a medium-sized , sleepy city into a booming city. But, it still maintains much of it’s Myanmarness. To visit Mandalay is to touch the heart of Myanmar and to experience its quintessence.


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HIGHLIGHTS

Ava ( Innwa )

The name Ava , the most common Western transcription , comes from Awa of former Upper Burmese pronunciation. But, the modern standard Burmese pronunciation is “ Innwa “. The name Innwa literally means “ Mouth of the lake “. Another theory states that Innwa is derived from In-na-wa , meaning “ nine lakes “ in the area. The classical name of the city in Pali is “ Ratanapura “ , which means “ City of Gems “.
It is located about 21 Km south of Mandalay and on the way from the Mandalay to International Airport near Sagaing City. It is surrounded by Ayeyerwaddy River in the north and Myitnge River in the east. It is popular day-trip tourist destination from Mandalay.
It’s an ancient capital of successive Burmese Kingdoms from 14th century to 19th century. It was officially founded in 1364 by King Thadominbya on a man-made island created by connecting by Ayeyerwaddy and Myitnge Rivers. The construction of the artificial island involved filling in the swamp-lands and lakes. The kingdom with the capital founded by King Thadominbya at Innwa became known as Awa Kingdom.
It came under siege in 1404-1405 during the Forty Years’ Civil War ( Mon-Bamar War of 1384 to 1424 ). In 1527 , the city finally fell to the repeated attacks by the confederation of Shan State and Prome (Pyay) kingdom. It then became the capital of the unruly coalition until 1555 when it was captured by King Bayint Naung of Hanthawaddy. The city came to an end for 190 years. In 1599 , King Nyaungyan restored the kingdom which had temporarily been disintegrated and King Thalun also moved the capital back to Innwa from Bago ( Pegu ) in 1365 as Nyaungyan dynasty. The dynasty lasted for about 152 years from 1599 to 1751. But , the city was sacked again in 1752 , and subsequently burned down in 1753 by the forces of Restored Hanthawaddy kingdom. King Hsinbyshin began the reconstruction of the city in 1764 and moved the capital from Shwebo to a newly built Innwa as Konbaung dynasty , the last dynasty of Burma. King Bodawpaya , one of the Kings from Konbaung dynasty moved the capital of Amarapura in 1783 but his successor , king Bagyidaw moved it back to Innwa for the last time.
Finally , the capital was abandoned after it was completely destroyed by a series of major earthquakes in 1838. It lasted as the seat of powerful capital for over 400 years. It , therefore , has a lot of historical monuments and Pagodas , some of which are already in ruins. Currently , the most popular tourist attraction sites of the city include Bagaya monastery with splendid Myanmar architecture , The Maha Aung Myae Bon Zan or Me’ Nu Oak-Kyaung ( Brick Monastery ) and the Watch Tower which is about 30m high. The massive fort walls and moat of the splendor of the past can still be seen. Visiting with horse-drawn carts and countryside landscapes would be your fantastic and enjoyable sightseeing.

Amarapura

The name Amarapura comes from Pali , meaning “ City of Immortality “. Sometimes , the locals call it Taungmyo ( Southern City ) to distinguish it from Mandalay , the last capital of Burmese kingdom.
It is the former capital of Burma , and now a township of Mandalay. It’s 11 Km south of Mandalay and famous for its traditional silk and cotton weaving and bronze casting. It’s a popular tourist destination from Mandalay.
Amarapura was the capital of Burma twice during the Konbaung Dynasty. The city was founded by king Bodawpaya as his new capital in 1783. The new capital became a center of Buddhist reforms and learning. King Bodawpaya died in 1819 and his grandson , King Bagyidaw shifted the capital back to Innwa ( Ava ) in 1821. But the palace was moved back to Amarapura for the second time in 1842 during the reign of King Tharawaddy. In 1857 , King Mindon of Amarapura moved the capital from Amarapura to Mandalay , accepting the title of “ The founder of the new city and the builder of the new palace “. The palace buildings & city walls were dismantled and moved to the new location.
The old city of Amararpura have already ruined. Although there are little remains of the old palace , one can still see two masonry building- the treasure building , the old watch tower , the tombs in which the dead bodies of King Bodawpaya and King Bagyidaw were buried. Amarapura is a spread-out suburb of Mandalay and one of famous places around Mandalay. Its tourist attraction sites are : U Bein Wooden Bridge with a length of 1.2 Km , Mahagandayon Monastery where over 1000 monks are residing and studying Buddhism , and Pahtodawgyi pagoda ( White-washed stupa ) built by king Bagyidaw. For the enthusiasts in traditional silk and cotton weaving , there are many weaving cottage industries that produce the best of occasional attire and dress.

Sagaing

Sagaing , the former capital of Burma , is one of the most interesting places around the vicinity of Mandalay. While Mandalay is known as a cultural city and Bagan is called an ancient city , Sagaing is said a religious city with a large number of pagodas , monasteries and nunneries.
Sagaing is the capital of Sagaing region in Myanmar. It’s located on the western bank of Ayeyarwaddy River and 20 Km southwest of Mandalay. It’s famous as an important religious and monastic center , possessing the breathtaking panorama of pagodas scattered on the numerous hills along the ridge running parallel to the river.
Sagaing was once the capital of small kingdom that ruled a part of central Burma from 1315 to 1364. It was founded by king Athinkhayar Saw Yun of Burmanized Shan king and one of the many petty kingdoms that emerged after the fall of the Bagan Empire in 1287. Altogether 9 kings ruled the kingdom for 49 years and the kingdom collapsed in 1364 after it was sacked by Shan raiders from Mogaung , northern part of Burma. After that , Sagaing briefly the royal capital again for the last time for 2 years during the reign of King Naung Daw Gyi ( 1760-1765 ). The most rewarding thing one can do in the city is to climb the hill on foot or by car. It will make one relaxed and feel peaceful and quiet because of the temperate climate of the effect of the hill. On the hill top , One can visit Soon U Pon Nya Shin pagoda that the Buddha’s hair relics are enshrined and U Min Thone Ze Pagoda , probably the most finest and beautiful one overtaking the river view. After climbing down the hill , one can continue to the city center to the Kaung Mu Daw Pagoda built by King Tharlon in 1636. And for those who like shopping , there are a lot of silverware industries at Ywahtaung Village. And other highlights , such as Yadanar Zedi , Sinmya-shin Pagoda , Tilawkaguru Cave monastery , pottery village , Asaykhan fort are also interesting places of the city.

Mingun

The name “ Mingun “ is supposed to have become after the king Bodawpaya resided in a small village. If it was not King’s residence , the village wouldn’t have became the grand place and would have remained an obscure hamlet nesting quietly. Mingun itself means “ Residence of the King “.
It is located on the western bank of the Ayeyarwaddy river and 11 Km up the river from Mandalay. One can get there by ferry boats across the river and it’ll take one hour for upstream. And there is a motor way that cross the river by the bridge. It will also take one hour from Mandalay via Sagaing.
According to historical records , in late 1790 , King Bodawpaya left his capital Amarapura , which he founded , and took up his temporary royal residence on the Nan Taw Kyun island in the river facing Mingun village. During the king’s stay on the island , he intend to set and counstruct prominent big four-a huge stupa , a big lake , a pair of big guardian lions and big bell- in Mingun. In 1791 , the king started the construction of huge stupa , also known as Pathodawgyi. But, nearly one-third of the stupa was finished with measurement of 50 m in height and the square bast of 135 m. If the king’s dream came true , the great stupa would have had a height of 160 m. The king has a thousand of prisoners of war working on the construction of the stupa , and the king personally supervised the building of the stupa for 15 years. But, While the stupa was being built , there appeared a prophecy ( Tabaung ) that predicted “ the fall of the kingdom under the completion of the great stupa “. Thus , construction was slowed down to prevent prophecy’s realization and when the king died , the project was completely stopped. The stupa have been partly damaged by the severe earthquake of 1838. Just a few minutes of walking , from the great stupa lies a gigantic Mingun bell cast to go with great stupa. It was cast on the Nan Taw Kyun island in 1808 and transported to the present site near the great stupa. It have a height of 3.9 m and the diameter of the mouth was 5 m , weighing about 90 tons.
Furthermore , there is an imposing pagoda , known as Hsinbyume , that will make all visitors wonder after seeing its distinctive architectural style. It was built by king Bagyidaw in 1816 as a memorial to his wife. And depending on visitor’s desire , the Mingun Home for the Elderly and visiting inside the village are also interesting.

Pyin Oo Lwin

Pyin Oo Lwin ( former name , May Myo that named after the English Colonel May ) is situated 42 miles ( 69 Km ) at the east of Mandalay & it’s 1070 m ( 3510 ft ) high above sea-level. It’s been the summer resort of the Governor during Colonial Period.
The town has various names ; the tower of terrace city , the city of flowers , the city of the hill station , May Myo and Pyin Oo Lwin. Today it is famous for damson , coffee , pine trees , orchid , cherry , aster , strawberry , sunflowers and colorful flowers.
Main Highlights are National Kandawgyi Gardens , Pyi Chit Pagoda ( Maha Ant Htoo Kan Thar Pagoda ) , Maha Nanda Wun Cave ( former Peik Chin Myaung ) , B.E Waterfall , Dattawgyaik Waterfall & old colonial buildings.

Monywa

Monywa is a worthwhile trip for temple enthusiasts or some other tourists who would like to go where there are few travelers. It lies 136 Km north-west of Mandalay & it’s situated at the eastern bank of Chindwin River. Monywa is the second biggest city in upper Myanmar and it’s main regional commercial city with 372,095 population in 2014.
As Monywa is a major trade center for agricultural produce from surrounding Chindwin valley , it produces especially beans , pulses and palm sugar , cotton. Monywa is one of the hottest places in Myanmar in April and May , when it gets 40 Degree are not uncommon.
Some highlights around Monywa are Hpo Win Hill & Caves and Shwe Ba Hill that is situated in the western bank of Chindwin River , Thanbuddhay Pagoda , Bawditataung , Shwe Tha Lyaung ( Reclining Buddha ) & Lay Kyun Set Kyar Standing Buddha.

Mogok

Mogok is famous for its surrounding natural beauty , and for its brilliant rubies and sapphires. At 1170 meters above sea level , the mountain basin surrounding “ Rubyland “ enjoys a fairly temperate climate. Tourist needs permit to enter and explore at Mogok and its area.
It’s 207 Km ( 129 miles ) far from Mandalay & it takes more than 6 hours by mountainous road along Pyin Oo Lwin that is famous hill station. The mountain ranges of Mogok are a part of the great Shan plateau but the town itself is in Mandalay Division. The residents are mostly Lisus and Shans who make their living by mining and cutting , polishing and marketing gemstones.
The most famous gems markets are running in the morning and evening about 3 hrs each. The famous Bernard’s gems market is running once in a 5 every day. When you visit to Bernard’s gems market, you can continue to see the 120 years old British mausoleum and old cache which line at YWA THAYA village. Local people called gem market “ Htar Pwe “.
Trip to Mogok is not only just for discovering World famous Ruby but also natural environ of region.

Shwebo

Shwebo is 64 miles north of Mandalay and railroad to Myitkyina. It is 17 miles west of Kyauk Myaung , a river-side town on the Ayeyarwady, which is famous for glazed pottery works from toys , cups , bowls , pots to huge water jars that are tied in hundreds and floated down the river as rafts. These are widely used throughout the country. Shwebo was the native town of U Aung Zeya , the founder of the Kone Baung Dynasty against the rule of the Mon Monarchy in 1752 and lasted over two centuries. He subdued all the war-lords and racial chieftains and unified the whole country under one kingdom.
As Shwebo was the first capital of the last dynasty of Myanmar kings, there is a belief that the land in this place is a land of victory. Even after the capital was shifted to other places , the Kings , their royal officials and high ranking army commanders used to come back to tread the "earth of victory land" at Shwebo in a ceremonial way. During colonial times this belief was discouraged , but still the people continued to believe that before any important undertaking the victory land at Shwebo should be trod. After Independence , the people of Shwebo under the guidance of Webu Sayadaw built a Victory Land Pagoda and established a Victory Land Enclosure and also a monastery called Aung Mye Kyaung Daik or Victory Land Monastery. Visitors nowadays usually take back a handful of Victory earth to keep in their houses.
Shwebo can be reached by car or rail from Mandalay under four hours. The Pyu culture dating back to the second century A.D. flourished at Hanlin , the ruins of which can still be seen a few miles south of Shwebo. It is the rice bowl of Upper Myanmar with vast stretches of paddy land.

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