Arriving in Mandalay, Sarah and I took to the streets once again on bike. Cycling around cities or towns we get to appreciate and see a lot more. This place was busy and there was a huge amount to see and do in the area. First we visited the Mandalay Palace, the original magnificent palace was destroyed by fire during World War II. Even though the Palace has been rebuilt the city gates with their wooden pavilions and surrounding moat still represent an impressive scene. Unfortunately the reconstruction has used forced labor, as we found out after our visit.
We continued our bicycle adventure visiting Kuthodaw Pagoda (The World’s Biggest Book), the Pagoda was built in 1857 and surrounded by 729 stone slabs on which inscribe the entire Buddhist Scriptures. Finishing up our day by visiting Mandalay Hill, the hill is a holy mount with the legend being that during Buddhas visit he prophesied that a great city would be founded at the foot of the hill. The hill commanded magnificent views of the city and surrounding countryside especially at sunset.
Wanting to get out of the busy city we ventured further into the surrounding areas of Mandalay by motorbikes equipped with drivers. Our adventure took us to Mahamuni Paya Gold Leaf Buddha, a very imported Buddhist place where pilgrims (male only) lay a gold leaf onto the holy statue of Buddha. Next we travelled across the Aveyarwady river to Sagaing Hill, with its numerous monasteries and important religious sites. Our afternoon was spent in the former royal capital of Inwa (Ava), an ancient imperial capital of successive Burmese kingdoms from the 14th to 19th centuries. Throughout history, it was sacked and rebuilt numerous times. The capital city was finally abandoned after it was completely destroyed by a series of major earthquakes in March 1839. Though only a few traces of its former grandeur remain today. A great way to explore these ruins was on horse and carriage, made more adventurous by the mud!
Your time in Mandalay is never complete without enjoying sunset at U Bein’s Bridge. The 1.2-kilometre (0.75 mi) bridge was built around 1850 and is believed to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world.