Mandalay in Myanmar
The Irrawaddy river
Mandalay is the second largest city in Myanmar and an obvious destination for travelers. It is well connected with Yangon (Rangoon) and it has several unique places to visit. Mandalay Hill is one of the main attractions in town. And outside the city center there are the huge Mingun stupa with its enormous bell and U Bein Bridge.
You can go north east and visit the cowboy town Memyo and Lashio. There's still no possibility to travel further to China although it is possible to cross from China into Myanmar with a guided tour.
There are many places to visit in this part of Myanmar. This is just a selection of places around the second city of Myanmar which are worth to visit and not difficult to reach although some may not be easy to visit on a bicycle:
There's no doubt, Mandalay was an important city in the Burmese history. It's still the second biggest city after Yangon. In the previous centuries it has been on and off the capitol for different Burmese kings. The fortress in the middle of the city is a prove of that statement.
King Mindon, the last independent Burmese king established his kingdom here and build the Mandalay Fort (now housing the Mandalay Division of the military junta)
The fortress in the middle of the city is not to be missed. But just outside the city lies the Payagi temple on Mandalay Hill. Not only the temple is beautiful, the views over the city are great too. The monks living in the complex are always happy to have a chat with visitors and don't be surprised when one of them invites you for a cup of tea and shows you their Manchester United collection!
It's quite a climb up but you can use a taxi if you feel lazy. On bicycle up? Possible, though steep! Inside the temple you will find a statue which is 3.8 meters tall. Originally cast of metal, it is now entirely coated with a two-inch thick layer of gold leaf. So much gold leaf has been applied by so many different hands that the figure has developed an irregular outline.
Accommodation in Mandalay
Plenty of good (and cheap) accommodation to be found in Mandalay. Low budget hotels are not always to be booked through the net but you won't have many problems to find accommodation.
Mingun and the Mingun Bell
The Mingun stupa is only 11 km away from the city center but you won't be able to cycle there. The massive and never finished stupa lies on the west bank of the Irrawaddy river so you need to catch a boat.
In 1819 the stupa was severely damaged by an earthquake. (see the Myanmar photo page for a snapshot). The stupa foundations date back to the early 14th century and was meant to become worlds biggest and most massive stupa. As said it was never finished but it is certainly worth a visit.
The Mingun Bell is located nearby in the village of Sagaing. A visit to the stupa and pagoda can be combined with a visit to U Bein Bridge.
U Bein Bridge
The bridge is made of teakwood and it's supposed to be the longest teakwood bridge in the world. The bridge is to be found at Amarapura, near Mandalay and U Bein Bridge crosses the Taungthaman Lake.
The bridge is 1.2 km long and you can only pass on foot. Even bicycles are not allowed.
Street life in Memyo
This is one of the beautiful little towns on the way to Lashio. It's a good day cycling, preferably two days because it's 136 km away. Although the town has several beautiful temples and pagoda complexes to visit and on the way some extraordinary waterfalls, the main attraction in Memyo are the horse carts. It's looks like an 19th century wild west town in America.
The town has a mellow feel, there's a few hotels and it's nice place to hang out for a day or two.
Monywa lies 136 km west of Mandalay. It is the commercial center of Chindwin Valley. The reason I visited was the Thanbuddhay Temple.
This was one of those hellish journeys. The experience was great, especially after finishing the journey. Here is the whole story.
You can travel further north east to Lashio. The town itself has a border town feel although the Chinese border is still a long way ahead.
If you have a Chinese visa, technically you should be able to cross the border. I have never done it myself and I have not heard of cyclist doing this.
Lashio itself has nothing of real interest except the market. It's basically a dead end street as you are not able to cycle from here south into the Inle Lake area.
However, you can cycle to Lashio and then take the train back or vice versa. It's a pleasant ride.
More pages about Myanmar:
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Map of Myanmar
We have created a map of Myanmar (Burma) to help you when you are organizing your journey: