From monasteries to bright orange sunsets, from local vibrant markets to gold leaf workshops, a day in Mandalay is truly memorable.
Our guide highlights the best of Mandalay that you can do in one day.
(Editor Update 2020)
Where is Mandalay Myanmar
Mandalay, the former ancient capital city of Myanmar is hot, dusty and flat but well worth a visit for a few days.
Mandalay was the former capital of Northern Myanmar (once known as Burma). It is located on the Irrawaddy River. Mandalay is the 2nd largest city in Myanmar, Yangon, the capital 716 km away is the largest.
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One Day in Mandalay
Hire a Driver and a Car
We recommend you hire a car and a driver for MMK (Burmese Kyat) 75,000 = USD50 to travel outside the city centre and have an adventure for the day. Local drivers have a route planned out for you, and of course, included is a visit to some factories but it is entirely up to you what you would like to visit, discuss your itinerary with them first. We recommend that you work with a driver that is associated with your hotel or a driver that you have used in and around Mandalay.
King Galon Gold Leaf Workshop
Gold Leaf is a very important industry in Myanmar. Devotees use the gold leaf as an offering to Buddha as a means of gaining merit towards rebirth in favourable circumstances in future incarnations. It is hot and laborious work for these young men who work with small amounts of malleable gold which is encased in small leather packets. They beat the gold with heavy sledgehammers until the metal is as thin as paper – the timing of the pounding is calculated by a traditional clock that measures 15 minutes segments when a half coconut shell fills with water. The gold leaf is then cut in squares and packaged for sale by the womenfolk.
The visit to the Mahagandayon Monastery is timed around 10 am when the 1000+ young monks line up silently for lunch which is their last meal of the day. The visit is on every itinerary in Mandalay so expect to see quite a lot of tourists. The Monastery is located in Amarapura about 11 kilometres outside Mandalay.
It felt strange all these tourists watching them go in for lunch and taking hundreds of photos, but they are used to it. You can give cash donations to the monks as they walk past.
A visit to Sagaing Hill and its Temples and Stupas starts with a long haul up steep stairs to the top of the hill. Once at the top you have 360-degree breathtaking views of the Irrawaddy River. Sagaing was once the capital of Sagaing Kingdom and it is located 20 km to the South West of Mandalay on the opposite side of the Irrawaddy River.
We encountered a small snake on the steps leading up to the temples. We would recommend sensible walking shoes and take care when you place your feet down on the steps. As Mandalay is hot ensure you have plenty of water with you.
Local Market at Sagaing
Whilst at Sagaing spend some time wandering around the local market. The locals are so friendly and the display of fruit and vegetables intoxicating with their smells.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to U-Bein Bridge. It is one of the oldest teak bridges in the world spanning 1.2 km over the Taungthaman Lake. Back in 1860, the bridge was built by Mayor U Bein using teak planks from the former royal palace.
At sunset saffron-robed monks make the journey back to the monastery, their shadowy images in the orange light make it a photographers delight. Sunrise and sunset are the best times to visit for the best photo opportunities.
Unfortunately, we did not visit at sunset but we walked across the bridge, had a local coconut drink at one of the stalls located on the other side and hired a boat to take us back.
Our driver playing a local game with the locals whilst waiting for us.
More things to do and see in Mandalay
Where to Stay in Mandalay
We stayed at the Smart Hotel in Mandalay.
Address: 167, 28th Street Between 76&77, Chan Aye Thargan Town, Mandalay
The hotel had a rooftop bar where we enjoyed a cocktail or two whilst enjoying the sunset. The accommodation was comfortable but our bedroom had no window (ensure that you check the room that you are booking if you want a window). The Smart Hotel was centrally located in Myanmar. The staff were very helpful in organising a car and a driver for us for the day.
For the latest Tripadvisor Reviews on the Smart Hotel in Mandalay – click here
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Where to Eat in Mandalay
One of our favourite restaurants was Marie Min Vegetarian restaurant at 27th Street, Between 74th And 75th Street. For the latest reviews click here.
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For more Myanmar Travel Options you may enjoy reading our articles:
Frequently Asked Questions About Travel to Mandalay
Is it safe to travel to Mandalay?
Mandalay and Myanmar is safe to travel to. Most follow the Buddhist religion which means that crime and theft is very rare. As in all travels keep your important travel documents and technology close to you. When you travel on buses ensure your documents are on your body as a safe measurement.
What is the voltage in Myanmar?
The voltage in Myanmar is 230v and the frequency is 50 hz.
What injections will I need to visit Myanmar?
Most travel medical websites mentioning Myanmar recommend vaccines and disease preventions against Hepatitis A and B, Diphtheria, Polio, Tetanus, Japanese Encephalitis B, Rabies, Tuberculosis, Yellow Fever, Typhoid, and Malaria.
What else do I need to take to Myanmar?
We recommend to take a first-aid kit, sunscreen, hat and water bottle.
Can I drink the water in Myanmar?
No, we recommend that you buy bottled water.
Myanmar has opened up rapidly over the last few years. There are more flights in and out of Yangon and other major cities.
For the latest flight deals compare prices on Skyscanner here:
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If you want to continue your travels around Myanmar and heading to Bagan you can pre-book a private transfer here which we can recommend.
Bus Travel Around Myanmar
Do You Need a Visa?
We recommend taking out travel insurance as soon as you book your flights and pay deposits on any cruises, tours or hotels.
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