Travel Guide to Mandalay, Myanmar

Mandalay is the second-largest city in Myanmar and is considered the center of Burmese culture. You’ll find many unique pagodas here and can enjoy views from U-Bein Bridge and Mandalay Hill.  Set aside 2 or 3 days to experience everything this city has to offer.

Things to Do

Mandalay Hill

This 790 feet high hill gives you incredible views of Mandalay. The entrance fee to Mandalay Hill is 1000 kyat. We left our hotel around 9am and had a tuk tuk take us here. You have your choice to walk up the hill or pay 500 kyats per person to get a ride to the elevator and escalator which is located on the foot of the highest of the temple. We had plenty of time so we decided to trek up the hill by foot.  There were a lot of stairs, and we were dripping with sweat by the time we made it to the top, and we passed several temples along the way.  We were happy we chose to walk up as it added to our overall experience.

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Kuthodaw Pagoda

Lying at the foot of Mandalay Hill (just a few hundred feet from where you have the option to walk up or ride up Mandalay Palace) this pagoda contains the world’s largest book. Make sure to allow yourself enough time to explore, as there are 729 stupas that make up the largest book.

Explore Mingun

Rather than making the long (and expensive) drive from Mandalay city to Mingun by taxi, consider a 1-hour ferry ride across the river.  Our roundtrip tickets cost 10,000 kyat per person, and the ride included views of communities living on the river. Here at Mingun you can explore the Hsinbyume Pagoda and the Mingun Pagoda.

  • Hsinbyume Pagoda – Of all the places in Mandalay I believe this is the most beautiful.  The pure white color of this pagoda stands out among the green trees making it a perfect photo opportunity.  

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  • Mingun Pagoda – The brick structure is a result of slave and prisoner work during the 18th century that was left unfinished. In 1839, an earthquake left large cracks in the building that are visible today.  The front of the pagoda was crowded, so we opted to walk around and there was no one in sight.

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Mandalay Palace

This place is hard to miss as it is right in the center of Mandalay and surrounded by a large moat. The entrance is 10000 kyat. This is a Mandalay Combo tickets which also gives you entry to the Kuthodaw Pagoda and a few more.

U Bein Bridge

The U Bein Bridge is a 30-minute drive from Mandalay Hill and is most commonly visited during sunset. The Bridge has been used for many years as a crossing of Taungthaman Lake by locals and is used by tourists and locals alike today. The old wood shows character and age and the 3/4 mile bridge provides a great viewpoint to see locals fishing and swimming.

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Zay Cho Market

This 12-acre market is the most common in Mandalay.  It’s open from 6 AM until 5 PM.  Zay Cho in Burmese means “cheap price,” and you’ll find most things very affordable here; especially if you barter down.

Places to Stay & Eat

My blog focuses on affordable travels. However, as a backpacker, it is nice to take a break and spend more for a luxurious hotel. My husband and I had the opportunity to stay at Hotel by the Red Canal. We loved our experience and definitely recommend it! The hotel has won many awards including: Myanmar Leading Resort-Winner World Travel Awards, Winner World Luxury Hotel Awards and TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice. The hotel is in a great location as is situated at one of the busiest locations in the city. It is near Mandalay Palace, Kuthodaw Pagoda, Nan Shae Market, and other historical attractions.

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Hotel by the Red Canal sports a modern design with a touch of traditional theme.  It’s really cool to experience a taste of the ancient Myanmar culture from close quarters. They offer four different room choices that represent the ethnic groups of Myanmar such as Chin, Shan, Kachin and Rakhine. Every room offers traditional paraphernalia, continental breakfast, welcome fruit basket, and free internet access. They also have beautiful views of the outside waterfall, stream, and swimming pool.  The Kachin room is distinguished with an outdoor shower and stone forest. We stayed in a Rakhine room and were more than pleased with our experience!

Hotel by the Red Canal delivers round the clock services and treats their guests as royalty. At hotel you can enjoy delicious food served at the Spice Garden Restaurant, pamper yourself at the spa, or take a refreshing dip in the pool.  They also offer daily complimentary snacks at noon and cocktails by the poolside during the evening happy hour. If you don’t drink alcohol, they offer non-alcoholic too. The Spice Garden Restaurant is featured in an English house with a high ceiling building near
the pool side with garden views. It is open from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM, which is great if you plan to leave in the early morning to explore the area. Be sure not to miss out on the breakfast buffet that offers Myanmar and Western choices. The restaurant specializes in Indian food, but everything we ordered was amazing! Over the course of our stay we ordered the desi burrito, mutton chettinadu with naan, paneer butter masala with naan, and the grilled fish with lemon rice.  Our favorite was the desi burrito, which is an Indian dish with a Mexican twist.  You have to order it!  My husband and rarely choose to order anything but water, however, while here we tried their lime and watermelon juices and their mango and blueberry smoothies.  All were fresh and well prepared with garnishes. The smoothies were especially tasty! As a Registered Dietitian I was especially impressed with the quality of food they served.  Everything was super fresh and later I learned that the chefs hold a policy of preparing food for the same day only.

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The underground spa is really calm and relaxing, perfect for a rejuvenating experience. Each staff member is extremely polite and willing to fulfill your needs. We both agree that the masseuse’s were well qualified for the job Our massages at the end of our stay were just what we needed after exploring the Mandalay.

Overall, we loved our stay in Mandalay and you should definitely include a few days here during your trip to Myanmar!

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