Mandalay is the second-largest city in Myanmar and situated in the hot and dry central region of the country. It is considered the cultural centre of Myanmar and was the last royal capital. Surrounded by other ancient royal capitals, including Sagaing, Ava (Inwa) and Amarapura, Mandalay also acts as a base for sightseeing trips to these places of significance. In Mandalay, visitors can watch traditional handicrafts being made, such as kalaga tapestries, marionettes, bronze items and stone and wood carvings. Mandalay also houses the most revered Buddha statue in the country, the Maha Myat Muni image. The Buddha himself is said to have breathed on to the just-finished image, giving it some of the Buddha's power. People believe that the image is somewhat “alive” and it is therefore treated with the utmost respect. Early each morning, monks and laypeople come to the pagoda to wash the image's face and to make offerings of water, food, flowers, candles and incense. Another interesting sightseeing point in the city is the 230-metre Mandalay Hill, from where one has a scenic view of Mandalay and the surrounding plains, the Shan Mountains and the Ayeyarwady River. The hill is famous as a place to view beautiful sunsets. Mandalay Palace was destroyed by fire in 1945 and has been reconstructed in recent years and its grounds can be visited. Another interesting attraction is Kuthodaw Pagoda (also called the largest book in the world), built by King Mindon after the Fifth Buddhist Council, where he decided to inscribe the entire Buddhist Canon on 729 marble slabs. Mandalay has excellent air, road and river connections to all parts of Myanmar and is the ideal base from which to explore the rest of upper Myanmar.
It is an ideal place or peace of mind, away from the fast pace of city life. It is sublime to wander in these hills beneath a canopy of green and lush trees, amidst the murmur of religious recitations by monks. Sagaing lies 21 kilometres southwest of Mandalay on the west bank of the Ayeyarwady river. Sagaing is a religious centre and in particular a place of meditation. A living centre of the Buddhist faith, Sagaing features some 600 Buddhist pagodas, temple and monasteries.Easily reached by car. Further back in the western hill chain lies the U Min Thonze Pagoda where 45 Buddha images, meditate in a semi circle. On the easterly point of the two ridges rising above Sagaing stands the U Min Kyaukse Pagoda which is a fine view over Mandalay and the Irrawaddy. Mural paintings hundreds of years old can be found in the Tilawkgu cave and the Myipaukgyi Pagoda.Kaung Hmudaw Pagoda 10 km beyond the Sagaing is the enormous 46 metre high eggshaped dome modelled after the Mahaceti (Great Stupa) in Sri Lanka. The pagoda was built in 1636. It is said to contain the Buddhas “Tooth of Kandy” and King Dhammapalas’s miracle -watering bowl.
Amarapura is a southern suburb of Mandalay and lies on the east bank of the Ayeyarwady Rive. It is also known as Taung-myo (Southern Town) or Myo-haung (Old City). Founded by King Bodawpaya in 1783 as his new capital, Amarapura means "city of immortality". Today most visitors come to walk on the world's longest teak bridge; although a bit rickety in some parts, its 1700 huge teak pillars have withstood the storms and floods of the past two centuries. The 1.2-kilometre bridge is named after its donor, U Bein, and work began in 1782. Amarapura is also famous for its silk-weaving industry, which produces the akyeik longyi (skirt worn by both men and women) that are used in formal ceremonies.
Also known as Ava, Inwa is located 20 kilometres southwest of Mandalay across the Myitnge River and was the capital of the Myanmar kingdom for nearly 400 years. All the major buildings that were not destroyed during the earthquake of 1838 were transferred first to Amarapura and then to Mandalay when the capital moved. Only the 27-metre-high (90 feet) masonry Nan Myint watchtower, also known as the “learning tower of Ava” remains of the palace built by King Bagyidaw. The Bargaya teak monastery, famous for its 267 wooden pillars, can also still be seen. The beautiful brick monastery which was erected in 1818 by Nanmadaw Me Nu, chief queen of King Bagyidaw (1819-1837) in Innwa, had an epitome of religious beliefs that were a part of Myanmar culture even today. This graceful and beautiful stucco-decorated building was also known as " Oak Kyaung ", because of the masonry construction. The visitors can study the great deal of Myanma traditional engineering technique and architecture.
Located across majestic Ayeyarwady River, about 12 kilometres north of Mandalay, Mingun is famous as the home of the world’s second-largest ringing bell, weighing 90 tonnes, as well as a giant unfinished pagoda. Mingun Payagyi was supposed to be the world’s largest monument, however what stands today could better be described as the world’s largest pile of bricks. A visit to Mingun invariably means a boat trip from Mandalay’s Gawwein jetty and takes about one hour upriver and 40 minutes downriver. With plenty of activity to see on the river, a boat trip to Mingun is a pleasant way to pass the morning or afternoon.
Monywa lies on the banks of the Chindwin River, about 140 kilometres northwest of Mandalay. It is the gateway for excursions to the cave temples of Pho Win Taung, situated across the river and usually reached by ferry. The caves are famous for their Buddha statues, mural paintings and wood carvings. There are quite a few legends surrounding the caves, mostly related to famous nat spirits. There are supposed to have been more than 400,000 Buddha image carved into the caves. Another highly regarded attraction is Thanbhodday (or Sambuddha Kat Kyaw) Pagoda, completed in 1951 after 12 years. There are about 800 small stupas on and around the pagoda, as well as 582,357 Buddha statues in and on the ceiling, walls, archways and niches of the building.
At more than 1000 metres above sea level, Pyin Oo Lwin is a popular hill station about 70 kilometres from Mandalay on the fringe of the Shan plateau. It is well known for its colonial-style houses with large compound and pine trees, eucalyptus and silver-oak abound in town. Delightfully cool and pleasant the whole year round, in sharp contrast to the rest of upper Myanmar.The famous of the another name is “Maymyo”,, which delightfully cool and pleasant the whole year round. Pyin Oo Lwin's botanical garden is 49 acres wide and there you will find natural forest with walking trails, a rose garden, an orchid house and a number of ponds. It is quite famous for its British lodges and country homes that still remain in good condition like Purcell Tower; the clock tower in which the clock was made in 1934 and Church of the Immaculate that is 100 year old. The cave is near Wetwun village 12 miles east of the town and it is three miles south of the village, easily accessible by car. The cave is at the entrance to the Peik Chin Myaung ravine, with many beautiful springs. Water seeps from the walls of the rock; and is clean and cool. It is said that this water cures eye ailments and itching. So, pilgrims take this spring water home in bottles. The Great Cave covers an area about 48 acres. Once inside the cave, you shiver with cold what with the springs and small waterfalls. The Buddha-to-be's life story up to His Enlightenment is featured at appropriate places. There are also Buddha images and pagodas in corners and niches.