Two Sunsets in Mandalay

My time in Mandalay was limited. I had little more than a day there before I had to go back to Yangon for my flight to Bangkok.

Nonetheless, I was determined to make the most of my time there. As soon as I arrived at my hotel (Rich Queen Guesthouse, which was the nicest place I stayed in Myanmar and had by the far the best wifi), I negotiated with one of their employees to take me to U Bein Bridge for sunset. It was the one recommendation that stood out above all the others from people I had spoken with who had visited Mandalay.

The bridge is located outside the city in Amarapura, Myanmar’s old capital. On the way, I stopped at Mahawizayaranthi Pagoda after I spotted it from a distance. As I have found on many occasions on this trip, sometimes the coolest places are those you have never heard about before, which was definitely true in the case of this pagoda. Not too mention the cool pic of me on top of it.



But U Bein Bridge was definitely the highlight for me in Mandalay. Sure at sunset it is packed with tourists. But its also packed with locals too. Who can blame them given how beautifully this teakwood bridge meshes with its surroundings, spanning the Taungthaman Lake. It is such a serene place to catch the sunset, watching out over the lake as long tail boats pass by and clusters of monks walk together, occasionally stopping to take a picture or two.


Another epic sunset

I lingered there for close to two hours, taking pictures and making sure to walk the length of the bridge both ways. This was my favorite sunset in Myanmar (which is saying something as I managed to have a cool sunset experience almost every day I was there).


For the full day that I had in Mandalay, I chose to explore the city by bicycle. Unlike Inle Lake or Bagan though, Mandalay is a sizable city. While you see a good number of people on bicycles, the streets are crowded with cars and especially motorbikes.
Sharing the street with them, dodging and weaving my way through the traffic (sans helmet), felt sort of like arriving at a gun fight with a water pistol. I just hoped the other guy wouldn’t hit me (at night I just hoped they would see me). But it was a lot of fun and a great way to cover the city more quickly.
It also led to my encounter with Joe, a monastery student, who approached me on his bike so he could practice his English. We chatted for awhile then he showed me around the monastery. While he isn’t a monk, most if the students there are and they were all very friendly as I walked around.
A few other notes from my time in Mandalay:
  • The royal palace is lackluster – a massive compound smack int he center of the city, the former royal palace is almost like a small village unto itself. And with people actually living inside and a giant military base there it kind of is. Unfortunately, the palace itself, while impressive in design, is dilapidated and not well maintained. I also experienced some issues getting inside as there is only one entrance and exit for tourists (which required me to bike 15 minutes around both when I entered and when I left).

the palace at least looks pretty cool

  • Watching people rub the Buddha at Mahamuni Pagoda was a unique experience – I wasn’t quite certain what men were doing applying gold leaf to the face of the Buddha but I couldn’t help but be moved by the devotion of the men and women at the temple. It is a sacred place for them and i could definitely feel how moved they were to be there. I hear that the daily face washing of the monks at 4 am is a must see although I’m nit sure that I could wake up that early to see it. however, the other thing that stood out to me at this temple was the number of beggars there. This was unique in my experience in Myanmar. Seemingly everywhere I went, I was trailed by multiple people asking me for money and not taking no for an answer. I’m not sure why this destination has so much of that relative to other famous tourist spots.

an up close view of the Mahamuni Buddha

  • The climb and sunset from Mandalay Hill were disappointing…but I did make a friend along the way – Mandalay Hill is one of the city’s top tourist stops as well as reputedly being one if the best places to catch the sunset. I found the climb to the top though to be lacking in solid views of the city and apart from a few impressive Buddha statues, was not that interesting a climb. The view from the top didn’t afford a great view of the city and the sunset I saw was quite hazy. However, about halfway through the climb I started chatting with Mike, a video game designer from San Francisco who is the veteran of several round the world trips and is at the start of a three month jaunt through Southeast Asia. Spending a few hours hearing about some of his previous trips (southern Africa, Cuba, Tibet, Cambodia/Laos in 2000) was interesting and of course fueled my interest in continued travel. Too many places to visit and not enough time/money.
  • I was surprised by the number of Chinese in Mandalay – having not seen many Chinese-Burmese in my earlier stops, I couldn’t help but notice that nearly half the people I saw in Mandalay are Chinese. You notice it most from a commercial perspective and from the food you can find in the city.

Link to Myanmar pictures

The Adventure Continues…Up Next: Thailand

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2 Responses to Two Sunsets in Mandalay

  1. joshuaspitzen@yahoo.com says:

    MISS YOU!

    Sent from my HTC Inspire™ 4G on AT&T

  2. danberstein says:

    Did Mike design any notable video games?

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