Bagan and Mandalay, Myanmar by AsiaRoom and Keys.me
What to do and see in Bagan and Mandalay. So, you've landed in Yangon and spent three days exploring, but where to next? It's time to head north to Bagan and Mandalay to continue your Myanmar adventure.
First stop, Bagan. An ancient city that is different to any place I have visited before. It is divided into new and old Bagan new is slightly busier but both are quaint, peaceful places with basic living styles. But what makes the city truly spectacular is the 2200 Buddhist pagodas that litter the plains. The pagodas were built hundreds of years ago before modern Myanmar was formed. At this time there were 10000 of these pagodas. The best way to see the area is by hiring an E-bike and riding around for a few days. Alternatively, you can hire a guide to drive you around, although many pagodas are not accessible by car. A second alternative for people with deeper pockets and those not scared of heights is a hot air balloon ride. This provides in my opinion one of the most beautiful sights on the planet. Dozens of colourful balloons draped across the sky above the plains of pagodas, it is truly breathtaking. If you can't afford the ride the next best thing is to get up nice and early before sunrise and head to the biggest pagoda to watch the balloons overhead. After visiting as many pagodas as you can why not head to the market or one of the restaurants to sample some local cuisine.
To get to Bagan you can either take a fairly expensive flight, a ten hour bus or a 17 hour train. I opted for my favourite mode of transport, the train. Having rode trains in many countries throughout the world I can safely say this one is the highlight. The train leaves from Yangon in the evening and bounces (literally) north. The ride is an adventure as the carriages bounce along the old tracks lifting you up off your bunk. Don't expect much sleep and you will be fine.
To reach Mandalay from Bagan you can fly, take a 9 hour train, a 9 hour ferry, or a 5 hour bus. Once reaching the former capital you will immediately notice the contrast to Bagan. It is a much busier city and has a more traditional city atmosphere than Bagan. Mandalay has a number of attractions dotted around the city. The ideal way to see things is to pay a taxi driver to take you around for the day for around 20 dollars. Alternatively for the more daring you can hire a moped and explore on your own.
To start I would head to Mandalay hill early before the midday heat gets too much. You will be dropped off at the bottom and begin the hike up hundreds of steps, although escalators and lifts are available. Along the way there are refreshments and then near the top, palm readers. When you get to the top you have an incredible 360 degree view out over the city as well as a temple to wander around. Alternatively you can go last thing to catch the sunset.
The Worlds Large Book, Mandalay Myanmar
After the hill you can head to the Kuthodaw Pagoda and to see the world's largest book. The site contains 730 marble slabs each inscribed with a page from the Buddhist holy book to make it the biggest book on the planet. The former King created the site so the pages and teachings would never be lost.
Continuing the tour there is a number of other religious sights to see. The main ones that you should definitely head to are, the Golden Palace Monastery which is different to many of the other religious sites in that it is carved out of wood creating an incredible piece of architecture. Whilst walking around you will see monks going about their lives and praying. Next the Mahamuni Pagoda is special as it is very busy with many worshippers praying each day. A tradition here is to place gold leaf on the bronze Buddha which is what many local people will be doing. This is so popular that the gold leaf is now six inches thick. Other places include Bargaya Monastery, Sanda Muni Paya and Mingun Temple.
To end the day I would head to the U Bein Bridge which is a 1.2 km teak bridge that stretches across the Taungthaman lake. The bridge is extremely picturesque and a nice relaxing way to end the day particularly when the sun is setting. You can watch the locals swimming and catching fish or enjoy a drink and some local cuisine in the restaurants located at either end.
Bagan and Mandalay, Myanmar can be very wallet-friendly if you use this guide. AsiaRoom and Keys.me prides itself on being the most affordable hotel, guesthouse, bed and breakfast, home, and resort online source for rooms.
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