It contains a gigantic Buddha cut out of marble.
Mandalay, the country's second largest city, is 400 miles North of Yangon. It is possible to get there by cruising on the river. Indeed, many cruise boats have been offering trips up the Irrawaddy for the past few years. The last capital city of the independent kingdom of Burma, Mandalay is the cultural and religious centre of Buddhism, with numerous monasteries and 700 pagodas. Among the monuments not to be missed is Mahamuni pagoda, the city's most venerated, which was rebuilt at the end of the XIXc after it was destroyed by fire. You will see gold and bright colours next to admirable bronze Khmer sculptures. You should also see Kuthodaw and Kyauktawgyi pagodas, standing next to each other. The first has magnificent entrance doors, the second conceals a gigantic Buddha, carved out of marble. Shwemawdaw monastery, inhabited by Bhikkhus, displays wonderful architecture, inspired by royal palaces. It holds 10 sculpted and gilded bas-reliefs, representing the last 10 lives of Buddha. Make the most of your stay in Mandalay to visit the old capital cities: Amarapura, the "immortal city", Sagaing, Mingun and Ava.
There isn't much to do apart from visiting the pagodas, temples and monasteries. Don't hesitate to venture off outside of the city, there are many attractions to see in the surrounding areas, like the U Bein Bridge. This bridge was built on Taungthaman Lake in 1849, in Amarupa in the Mandalay region. It is the longest teak bridge in the world. From Mandalay, you can also go on a boat ride on the Irrawaddy River to the village of Mingun, famous for its brick pagoda built by King Bodawpaya in the early 19th century. It is home to one of the largest bells in the world, with its 90 tons, 4 metres in height and 5 metres in diameter! The village of Sagaing, with its hill offering panoramic views over the Irrawaddy River, is also worth a visit.
About two miles south of Mandalay you will find the Mahamuni Pagoda. Built in the 18th century, it a mix of gold, bright colours, and beautiful bronze Khmer sculptures. It is also home to a 4m-high Buddha that was brought from the kingdom of Arakan. You should also see the Kuthodaw and Kyauktawgyi pagodas, standing side by side. The first has magnificent entrance doors while the second has a gigantic Buddha carved out of marble. The Shwemawdaw Paya, inhabited by Buddhists, displays lovely architecture inspired by royal palaces. It holds 10 sculpted and gilded bas-reliefs, representing the last 10 lives of Buddha.
A journey through time awaits you in this region where the ox-cart is still a familiar means of transport and trips are made by small planes due to the absence of usable roads. This is one way of getting to Mandalay from Yangon; another more interesting way is by taking a famous 'Road to Mandalay' cruise along the Irrawaddy River which leaves from Pagan. Take flip flops. They are the easiest to take off when visiting the numerous pagodas in the city. If you have time, try to visit the ancient capitals: Amarupa, the ?immortal city', Sagaing, Mingun and Ava. It will not be very easy to stay in contact with your loved ones since the communication networks are limited. Take precautions and warn them of this before leaving. Internet connections are random and mobile telephone networks often non-existent.
Don't forget to bring repellent and an after-bite cream/ointment for mosquito bites.
During the monsoon season, which starts in May and ends late October, the heat is unbearable. The best season to visit is from November to January, and particularly November to take the most beautiful pictures.
You can find meals starting from £23. The most common dish here is fish served with Burmese-style fried rice or vegetables. The national dish (mohinga) consists of rice noodles in fish soup with coriander and onion. There are also many different prawn and seafood dishes. The main seasonings used here are curry, coconut, garlic and chilli. Vegetables are the basic ingredient of most soups. As far as desserts are concerned, try the coconut-flavoured semolina cakes, or the banana cakes
The Burmese subsoil is rich in ruby, sapphire and opal. You will find very beautiful and affordable pieces in the jewellery stores. Beware of fake stones! The artisanry in the region is beautiful and diverse. You will find pieces of lacquerware, puppets, bronze Buddha and musicians, as well as silver objects such as boxes, vases and tumblers. It is prohibited to take antiques and ancient religious objects out of the country. Don't leave without a few cheerots, the hand-made Burmese cigars.
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