Continuing our journey in Myanmar from east to west, we made the obligatory stop in the former capital city of Mandalay. Arriving by taxi from Pyin Oo Lwin, I noticed how the city is way less hectic than Yangon. Many streets here are wide with proper sidewalks, lined with many modern buildings.
We checked into our hotel room before heading out to Mandalay Hill to catch the sunset. On the enjoyable and adventurous mototaxi ride there, we passed by the massive complex of the Royal Palace, surrounded by moat and a wall. We were left at the base of Mandalay Hill and started our long walk up the countless stairs. For those not wanting to walk, you can tell the taxi to take you almost all the way to the top.
I found the 45-minute climb to the top to be very enjoyable. I think most tourist choose not to walk because we encountered very few people. The stairs go through many pagodas and temples on the way up, each with its unique flavor. It is a tiring climb though, and we had to stop a few times to catch our breath.
It was crowded at the top of Mandalay Hill, and the sunset wasn’t anything spectacular.
The following day (our last one in Mandalay), we hired a taxi to take us to the two ancient capitals of Inwa (also called Ava) and Amarapura. Both are fairly close to Mandalay. On the way there, we stopped at Mahamuni Paya, famous for containing a Buddha statue covered by a 15-centimeter layer of gold. The layer is the accumulation of tiny squares of gold leaf applied by visitors. Only males are allowed in the chamber, but there are TVs outside so that women can watch a live feed.
Next up was Inwa, which we reached by taking a boat across a river.
As soon as we landed on the other side of the river we were bombarded by offers for horse carriage rides, which can take you to far away Bagaya Monastery. We declined them since we only wanted to walk to nearby Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery, and the leaning Nanmyint Watch Tower.
Unfortunately, not much is left from the ancient capital. Instead, we found a few farms and houses populated by locals.
After lunch, we made our way to Amarapura. The first stop was Kyaw Aung San Dar Monastery, with its large Buddha statues.
The final stop was U Bein Bridge, the 1.2 km long wooden structure that comes up in so many travel pictures of Myanmar, along with Bagan and Shewdagon Pagoda. It gets very crowded during sunset, with locals mixed with tourists.
After a period of laziness in Hsipaw and Pyin Oo Lwin, we finally got off our butts and did a good amount of sightseeing in our two days in Mandalay. Up next was a boat ride to one of my favorite destinations thus far in my almost 2 year long trip: Bagan.