With Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos nearby, Myanmar holidays are not as popular as their well-known neighbours. It’s this fact alone that also makes them utterly desirable, giving you the chance to explore this wonderful country in all its traditional glory without the huge tourist crowds getting in your way. More famously known as Burma, Myanmar is the second largest country in Southeast Asia and whilst it has had its troubles in the past, it’s a country filled with wonderful cities for travellers to explore.
Burma’s second largest city and the country’s last royal capital is Mandalay, the iconic city that Kipling made famous with his ‘road to Mandalay’ phrase. Situated in the centre of the country, Mandalay has excellent transport links, with a modern international and domestic airport making it easily accessible from many places across the world. The city is also linked up by road, rail and by river. Mandalay has a tropical climate, with the mercury rarely falling beneath 30C, however plan your trip after April and May as temperatures regularly hit 40C during these two months.
Any visit to Mandalay has to incorporate a trip to Mandalay Hill, a 230m high hill located to the northeast of the city. It is a place of such spiritual importance and spectacular beauty that you will want to visit again and again. Legend has it that Buddha himself visited the hill and it is a major pilgrimage site for many Buddhists. If you are feeling fit, head up one of the stairways to the top of the hill for the most spectacular panoramic views of the city beneath you and far across the horizon. Don’t worry if the sight of the hill overwhelms you; there are plenty of rest points on the way up including many stalls selling locally made souvenirs and food. If you’re not feeling up to the walk but still want to experience the views, there is a road which also can take you to the top.
The foot of the hill is almost as incredible as the top of it, as in the Kuthdaw Pagoda lies the ‘Buddhist Bible’. Made up of over 700 large marble stones, it is said to be the largest book in the world. Mandalay is filled with pagodas, with over 700 dotted around the city to visit. With so many to choose from, ensure you visit Kyauktawgyi Paya located at the southern entrance to the hill and features a large great green marble Buddha.
Once you’ve explored the hill and pagodas, head to the vast and sprawling Mandalay Palace. Being the last royal palace, it was of great importance to the city. The high and mighty outer walls and moat are clear signs of this as they ooze decadence, as do the twelve gates around the palace, all named after a different sign of the zodiac. Unfortunately, the original palace itself was largely destroyed during World War II but the complex has been recently restored to its former glory.
Natalie Likness’ love of travel was introduced to her from an early age due to a trip abroad before she was even born! Having close family and making friends across the world, she has continued to travel ever since.