A day (or two) in an exotic royal capital city
Mandalay has not only enchanted travelers throughout the ages, but it also cast a powerful spell over Burma's ancient rulers who founded no fewer than four resplendent capitals in its immediate vicinity. Its important position on Chinese trading routes has ensured its prosperity and vibrant street life. The focal city of Buddhism in Myanmar and home to more than half of the country's monks, Mandalay is often characterized as the most quintessentially Burmese of all Myanmar's cities. Royal Mandalay's thriving cultural life, numerous monasteries and bustling markets make it a 'must see' for all travelers to Myanmar.
Catch an early morning flight to Mandalay. You should choose a left-side window seat to catch sight of the city's thousands of white hillside pagodas. Our driver will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel and, after you have an opportunity to freshen up, take you and your guide to see some of the city's famous landmarks: the moated Mandalay Palace, with its stately pavilions and intricately carved wooden pagodas. You will also see the fabulous Kuthodaw Paya monastery, often called 'the world's largest book' with its 729 individual pagodas, each containing a granite stone exquisitely engraved with Buddhist scripture. Next, visit the Shwenandaw Kyaung, a superb example of traditional teak monastery architecture which has survived wars, earthquakes and fires over the centuries. Most visitors prefer to return to their hotels in the heat of afternoon for a bite to eat and a rest. Before dusk your guide picks you up again for a drive to the top of Mandalay Hill, from which you will enjoy a panoramic view of the city as it is lit by one of its famous sunsets. If you wish, you may leave your shoes and socks in the car and make a 40-minute barefoot descent down the picturesque covered walkway to ground level, where your car will be waiting. Your evening is free to rest in your hotel or wander through the city streets and along the riverfront.
Unless you have decided to stay longer we see you to the airport for your early flight to Yangon, Bagan or Inle Lake.
If you stay a second night, today's touring is devoted to the Ancient Cities surrounding Mandalay. The best of them are Amarapura and Mingun.
Mingun and Sagaing. Mingun can be reached only by boat, which will give you fascinating glimpses of daily life along the river. Once you arrive you visit Mingun Paya, a huge pagoda erected by thousands of slaves until construction was stopped when the King was told of a prophesy that its completion would portend disaster to his dynasty. The building you see is therefore only a third of its originally intended size, but even so it is the largest mass of brickwork in the world. An earthquake in 1838 shook the monument, and this accounts for the imposing crack in its facade. If you feel energetic, you can climb the steps to the top. There is a smaller "model" nearby that shows just how grand the place might have been. Mingun is also home to the world's largest bell, some 16 feet/5 meters in diameter. Follow tradition and stand inside the bell and ask your guide to strike it. Opposite the bell is the Buddhist Infirmary, which can be visited if you are interested in traditional medicine. Later, a boat ride and a short drive to Sagaing, capital in the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries. Built on a hill, Sagaing is now a warren of lovely monasteries and convents that collectively make up one of the largest and most interesting Buddhist religious centers in Myanmar.
Amarapura & Inwa. After an early breakfast depart for Amarapura, twice Myanmar's former capital. Visit the charming U Bein Bridge, the longest teak footbridge in the world. If you feel like exercise, cross the bridge, greeting colorfully dressed students resting in sheltered stops along the way. At the end, view ruins of the Kyauktawgyi Paya, with marvelous frescoes in its four entrance porches. Cross back in time to see one of Mandalay's great sights, hundreds of young monks eating in silence at the Mahagandhayon Kyaung monastery. Afterwards, head to the river, where you leave the car and make a ferry crossing to Inwa (commonly called Ava), a haunting ruined city which served as the capital of the Burmese Kingdom in the 14th century and again for a short time in the 18th century. If you like you can engage a charming horse cart to conduct you to Inwa's more interesting sights. The palace that once stood within the city's massive, fortified walls has given way to small villages and farms, monasteries built of teak, the remains of an ancient a fortress and an elephant stockade.
Once again your evening is free, so you might consider attending a traditional Burmese puppetry show.
We transport you this morning to Mandalay airport for your flight back to Yangon or onwards to must-see Inle Lake.
Prices and Hotels
Prices depend on your choice of hotel and when you want to travel.
We offer several different hotels in Mandalay, ranging from three to five stars. If you have a specific hotel in mind, please let us know. All of the hotels we use are carefully chosen for location, amenities, quality of service, security and value. We only use hotels that are gay-owned, gay-managed or gay-friendly. We inspect most hotels at least once a year.
To see prices and compare hotels please click on the "$" button on the left. If you have questions or suggestions about the hotels we use, please email us.
Includes private airport transportation; accommodation, tax, service, and breakfast beginning on day 2, one day of private guide, car and driver, admissions. Not included: airfare, other meals and beverages, gratuities, features not specifically mentioned in the itinerary, or items of a purely personal nature.
Optional Mingun and Amarapura & Inwa side trips includes guide, car and driver, and boat cruise, Mingun "Zone Fee" but do not include additional hotel night