cultural city in Mandalay Region, Myanmar

Mandalay (Burmese: မန္တလေး) is the second largest city (after Yangon), and a former capital of Myanmar. The city is the economic and religious hub of upper Myanmar. The city is centred on the royal palace, and has wide avenues filled with bicycles and motorcycles.

A busy street scene in Mandalay, with the clock tower built to commemorate Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee.

Mandalay is known for its millionaires, its monks (half of the country's monks live in Mandalay and surrounding areas) and its cultural diversity.

Understand edit

History edit

The very name Mandalay evokes the splendours of old Burma. But most people will be surprised to learn that Mandalay is not an old city, not even a medieval one, but rather a new city created by King Mingdon Min in 1857 as the new capital of the kingdom of Ava. Only two Burmese kings ruled from there, King Mingdon and King Thibaw, before the British conquest of Upper Burma in 1885. It was a city of splendour between 1858 and 1885, but most of the magnificence has vanished, gone in the fires that consume wooden structures and by intensive Allied bombing during the Second World War. The city, neatly planned with its lettered roads and numbered streets, is a British creation. The once magnificent royal palace and the great Atumashi ("incomparable") pagoda, King Mingdon Min's finest creations, are modern reconstructions. Today, Mandalay lies at the end of the Lashio Rd and it is, by Burmese standards, relatively prosperous as a centre for trade with China and India. Despite the capital having been moved to Naypyidaw, Mandalay remains by far the main commercial centre of Upper Myanmar.

People edit

Mandalay is ethnically diverse, with the Bamar (Burmans) forming a slight majority. There has been a major influx of Chinese from mainland China, and the Chinese (both recent migrants and descendants of colonial-era immigrants) form 30-40% of the population. Their influence is seen in the Chinese-style glass buildings throughout the city. Other ethnic groups include the Shan, who are ethnically and linguistically related to the Thais and Laotians, and the Karen (Kayin). There is also a sizable ethnic Indian population.

Climate edit

Mandalay has a semi-tropical climate. Winter (which is dry and cold) lasts from Nov-Feb, and summer lasts from Mar-May. Because Mandalay is in the central dry zone, it receives far less rain than the more tropical south.

Get in edit

By plane edit

  • 1 Mandalay International Airport (MDL IATA) (35 km south of the city centre in Tada-U). A gleaming modern facility, serves the area with flights to places in Myanmar and some international flights. There are also 3 flights weekly to and from Kunming on flight MU2029 for about CNY2,000 one way. Tourist SIM cards can be purchased from a counter at the airport. A mobile plan with 5 GB and 60 minutes costs less than 10,000 kyat.    

Getting there/away:

Taxis from the airport are 15,000 kyat or 4,000 kyat per person if you fill the vehicle with others. A shared bus is available for 4,000 kyat but may leave before you can exchange cash and purchase a SIM card. Fill out your entry card while on the plane to avoid being at the back of the queue.
Towards the airport taxis cost around 15,000 kyat (Sep 2017) and take roughly ½ hr from the city centre. There is a security check before check-in, and you need to have your ticket, email verification or something related to your flight to get through. Further security check after check-in.

By train edit

  • 2 Mandalay Central Railway Station (at 78th east and 30th north Street).    

From specific destinations:

  • Yangon – There are several trains daily from Yangon. While the tracks are old and, in some cases, the carriages may be old, the fifteen hour journey is quite pleasant. Trains operate during the day so that trains do not cross Pyinmana in the dark, although the privately managed Dagon Mann Express runs overnight. Fares range from about US$15 (ordinary class/hard seat) to US$50 (air-conditioned sleeper on the Dagon Mann Express).
  • Lashio, Hsipaw and Pyin U Lwin – There are two trains daily from Pyin U Lwin (US$4/2) and one from Lashio via Hsipaw and Pwin U Lwin (US$9/3 from Hsipaw). These trains are slow, crowded, but fascinating. The Pyin U Lwin - Hsipaw section includes the famous Gokteik Viaduct, a feat of Raj ingenuity.
  • Myitkyina – This 24-hr journey is on old rolling stock and even older tracks so expect it to be bumpy.

By bus edit

  • 3 Highway Bus Station (Chan Mya Shwe Pyi / Kywe Se Kan). You can either take a taxi or pick-up into town. Taxis are overly expensive (quoting prices as high as 2,000 kyat per person; don't pay more than 5,000 kyat for the car), and often bargain in a mob fashion (except they all offer the same price and try and gang-up on you). A far cheaper option is to simply walk out of the bus station yards to the west, and find one of the pick-ups that just ran a load of people to the station from town (500 kyat per person). They are normally more than happy to help and there are no commission issues to worry about.
    Some bus companies, e.g. OK Bus (btw. Mandalay and Bagan, 9,000 kyat), offer free pick-up from your hostel and will drop you at your next hostel at your destination.

From specific destinations:

  • Yangon – There is a night bus with air-con (there are 5 options, 17:00, 18:00, 19:00, 21:00, and 21:30 departures, standard 10,500 kyat, VIP 15,000 kyat, 8½-9 hr) running into Mandalay. Almost certainly the cheapest option for getting between the two main cities in Myanmar. From Inle Lake, 10,000 kyat.
  • Inle Lake, Kalaw or Mid-Eastern Towns – There are buses available along this route, either a day minibus (05:00 departure, 9,000 kyat, 9 hr) or a night bus with air-con (18:00 departure). The minibus in the day takes a slightly shorter route than the larger (and some say more comfortable) full-sized night bus. Expect windy and bumpy roads, stops for picking up and putting down passengers, and, if you are lucky, a search of the bus by just-bribed police officers in plain-clothes.
  • Monywa – There are buses apparently every hour. 2,000 kyat. 3½ hr.
  • Tamu – Minivans leave at around 14:00, 15:00 and 16:00, for 20,300-30,000 kyat. One Ordinary Express (4 seats across 2 + 2) departs at 11:00, 22,000 kyat. And one VIP Express (3 seats across 2 + 1) departs Tamu at 12:30 (arriving in Mandalay at 03:50), 28,000 kyat. (May 2019)
  • Kalay – The Ordinary Express is at 15:00 and the VIP Express at 16:00, coming from Tamu. Kalay may be a convenient stopover for Tamu (for India). (May 2019)

Get around edit

By bicycle edit

The best and most flexible way to see the city is by bicycle, as traffic isn't as heavy as in other Asian cities.

By pickup edit

The cheapest local transportation network consists of mini-trucks, loaded with passages on two benches on the back. They run along routes all over Manadaly starting at the centre at the market at 84th/29th. A number (Burmese symbol) defines where the truck is going and usually two people are standing at the back, shouting their destination and helping people get in. If you catch one at the main hub, it is easier to ask people for the right number and price. Usually 500 kyat pp, sitting in cabin might be more expensive. Routes include:

  • 8 (၈): Centre - Aramapura (along Mandalay - Sagaing Rd.)
  • 23 (၂၃): Centre - 78th south along runway - bus station at Aung Myint Mo Hotel (buses to/from Bagan, Myawaddy)

By moto-taxi edit

Motorbike taxis try to charge you overly expensive prices, but they would eventually turn out to be cheaper than car taxis if there are only one or two people. Don't pay more than 1,000 kyat for a ride to the centre, including to Mandalay Hill. You can get full-day (09:00-sunset) tours for 10,000 kyat. The driver will take you to the ancient cities, Sagaing and to Amarapura for sunset.

Mandalay's roads are laid out in a numbered grid pattern

By moto-rental edit

Renting a motorcycle can be a dangerous in Mandalay as driving can be chaotic, but it is a great way to see the city if you are experienced. Some hotels on 25th St rent bikes and there is an American expat in the centre who rents dirt bikes and motorbikes that can be delivered to your hotel.

By taxi edit

Taxis are relatively inexpensive and are excellent for travelling around Mandalay. Many sights are centred around Mandalay Hill, which makes walking feasible in that area. However, beware it is not always easy to get hold of a taxi depending on which part of the city you are, so making arrangements beforehand can help.

By trishaw edit

Trishaws (cycle rickshaws) are a convenient way of getting around in Mandalay if you're able to find one. If you find a driver who speaks good English you can have a tour guide and transport together for a reasonable price with a little bargaining. They only hold one or two persons.

See edit

Mandalay has a "Mandalay Zone Fee" of 10,000 kyat that covers most of the central attractions and lasts for about a week. Buy it from the first attraction you visit. The tickets are not always checked at all attractions and you might be able to get individual cheaper tickets for some attractions. Access to the Mandalay hill requires an additional entry fee of 1,000 kyat, and Mingung and Sagaing are 5,000 kyat extra both (not always enforced).

Markets edit

  • 1 Jade Market, 87th St. An interesting look at the jade trade in Mandalay. See raw jade being cut, polished and finally sold (sometimes even over smartphones). There are also stalls selling jade jewellery and furnishings, but be sure to do your homework beforehand or you risk getting ripped off. All foreigners are supposed to pay an entrance fee but it is sporadically enforced. Souvenirs for less than US$1. 2500 kyat.
  • 2 Flower Market, 26 and Pulaing Street. A small market with dozens of vendors selling a wide variety of flowers and greenery. Visitors may also venture into the larger market to the north where vegetables, fish, meat and fruit is sold and repacked for distribution.

Religious sites edit

  • 3 Maha Myat Muni Paya (Pronounced, ma-ha myah mu-ni pei-ya). Unlike the other main attractions which are mostly located around Mandalay hill, Myanmar's second holiest pilgrimage site is located to the south-west end of the city. It contains a 4 m high Buddha statue, made of gold and decorated with precious jewels. A few inches worth of gold has been pressed onto the statue in the form of gold-leaves, leaving only the face open. Women are not allowed to enter the main sanctuary where the statue is located, but men may do so and also touch the Muni. The statue was brought from Rakhine State, southeast of Mandalay. Nearby the central hall, there is a hall displaying statues stolen from Rakhine state, which were in turn stolen through a string of robberies from Ang Kor Wat via Thailand. The figures may have belonged to Hindu mythological figures Shiva and Airavat, the elephant of Indra. You will see people rubbing the statues as they believes this cures of them of ailments, especially by touching the corresponding body part on the statue. Visit the site around 04:30–05:00 for the amazing ceremony of washing the Buddha's face, which occurs every day and is attended by hundreds of people. 1,000 kyat surcharge for photography.
  • 4 Kuthodaw Paya (pronounced, ku-tho-dau pei-ya) (At the foot of Mandalay Hill). This is known as the site of the world's largest book. Built by King Mingdon in the 1800s, 729 white stupas within the complex contain the complete text of the Tripitaka, Theravada Buddhism's most sacred text, which are considered to constitute the largest book. The nearby Sandamuni paya contains a similar set of structures
  • 5 Sandamuni Paya (pronounced, san-da-mu-ni pei-ya) (at the foot of Mandalay Hill). Similar to Kuthodaw Paya, and next to it, it also contains a large number of white stupas containing the Tripitika. Sandamuni also contains the world's largest iron Buddha image. Quiet and peaceful, similar to Kuthodaw.
  • 6 Shwe Kyi Myin Paya (pronounced, shui ji myin pei-ya). Built in the 1st century, by Prince Min Shin Saw.
  • 7 Shwenandaw Monastery. A monastery made entirely of teak, with beautiful intricate carvings. It was built as part of the royal palace by King Mingdon and moved to its current site by his son, King Thibaw in the late 19th century. It is the only major building from the original wooden royal palace to have survived the bombing of World War II, and thus is the only authentic part of the royal palace which can still be seen today. It was the bedroom in which King Mingdon spent the last of his days. After that, the structure was given to the monks, and became a monastery. The intricate craftwork on the teak pillars, ceilings, roofs and walls, is breathtaking. One can get lost in observing the various animals and mythical creatures, or the thousands of athletic, gracefully twisted and seductive poses and expressions of the dancers seen on the pillars.
  • 8 Atumashi Kyaung. Located in front of Shwenandaw, it contains a very large hall, with a cool silent ambience suitable for a meditation. It was built in 1857 by King Mingdon using teak, but after being destroyed in fire, it was reconstructed to form the structure that you see today. The structure consists of five rectangular terraces in a graduated form.
Mandalay Palace, with Mandalay Hill in the background

Miscellaneous edit

  • 9 Royal Palace (pronounced, man-da-lei nan-dau). After their defeat in the Second Anglo-Burmese War of 1852, the former royal palace of Amarapura was dismantled and moved by elephant to its current site in Mandalay. The British looted and partly destroyed the palace during the Third Anglo-Burmese War in 1885. During World War II the palace grounds were used as a Japanese army storage depot and were completely destroyed by British bombing. The palace complex was rebuilt between 1990-1995. There have been allegations that forced labour was used in its renovation. While the design of the reconstructed buildings is fairly faithful to the original, the materials used are not, with metal and concrete used instead of the original teak wood. The palace contains several pavilions and chambers, most of which are empty. Tourists are only permitted to enter from the East Gate. A 1 km walk connects the entry gate to the palace proper. Replicas of throne rooms and chairs and Madame Tussaud-style images of Kings Mingdon and Thibaw with their chief consorts are on display. At the west end is the Palace Museum where palace memorabilia is on display including religious paraphernalia, court ritual implements, court dresses and uniforms, furniture, palanquins and litters, as well as weaponry. There are also photo exhibits. The surrounding area of the island is a military base, which creates a strange atmosphere. Your passport must be surrendered at the entrance for the duration of your visit. The palace can also be seen from the summit of the Mandalay Hill. 10,000 kyat for foreigners.
  • 10 U Bein Bridge. A historic wooden bridge in the south of Mandalay. Due to the level of cleanliness, it may not look particularly attractive, especially if you are there in the dry season when the water is scarce. But this place allows a great slice view of local life, with locals walking back and forth, stopping for food and shopping, or standing in the water fishing. The stilted thatched huts are the homes of many of the poor in the area, some of whom sell snacks along the bridge.

Do edit

    The temple atop Mandalay Hill
    Mandalay Hill looking down on the moat
    1 Mandalay Hill. One of the favourite sunset spots, and a good quarter-day activity. The climb is enjoyable, providing scenic views of several other attractions and Mandalay. From the base of Mandalay Hill you can either climb the stairs or take a pick-up to Sutaungpyei Pagoda at the top, but the walk is probably worth it in order to catch the scenic views along the way. The climb takes about 30-45 min and requires moderate fitness, but is not overly demanding and is in the shade. Has views of Kuthodaw and Sandamuni paya, and the royal palace in the distance. Plenty of stray dogs, shops and other interesting stops (Buddhas, pagodas, viewpoints) line the path, such as the Gothama Buddha shrine. The two main south entrances are guarded by either Nats (spirit figures) or Chinthes (great mythical lions), but there are several other entrances.
    Along the climb from the southern stairs near the place where these pathways merge, you come across a large statue of Buddha and his kneeling disciple Ananda, who climbed this very hill two centuries before Mingdon conquered it. Buddha is seen ominously pointing towards Mandalay, indicating that after two centuries, the capital of this region would shift to Mandalay. It is this prophecy that Mingdon fulfilled.
    Further up, you come across a shrine showing the various stages of a man's life: birth, youth, monk, old age and death. Interestingly, there are similarities between the birth and death stage indicating the cyclical nature of life believed by Buddhism. You can see same set of figures as an image in Shwezigon Pagoda in Bagan.
    At the top, accessed by escalator, is the shrine to the ogress Sandamukhi on the penultimate storey. Sandamukhi is depicted as offering her cut breasts to Buddha in a scary gesture. It is said the ogress took rebirth as King Mingdon.
    Additional 1,000 kyat for foreigners to enter the topmost level and see the pagoda, which can be avoided by watching the sunset from the Ogress storey. However, the open four-directional view from the top storey may be worth it, apart from the access to the toilets in this area. Footwear including socks are prohibited at the pagoda, which offers nice views of Mandalay and the surrounding plains. At sunset, Sutaungpyei Pagoda crowds with tourists, and many monks and other locals climb the stairs with the hope of talking to foreigners and practicing their English.
    Shared pick-up trucks to the base of Mandalay Hill run along 83rd St, one block from the Clock Tower, and leave every 20 minutes (500-1,000 kyat). Private pick-ups are also available (5,000 kyat). Motorbike taxis from the city centre to and from the base of Mandalay Hill cost 1,000-2,000 kyat. Try not to come down by an obscure entrance to a less crowded area, from where it will be difficult to catch a taxi..    
  • Gold leaf pressing tour. You can have a free tour to see how gold is pressed into fine gold leaves, that is bought by several thousand devotees all over Myanmar and pressed into several Buddha statues like Maha Myat Muni Paya. There are at least two places where this can be done for free in the city: King Galon and Golden Rose. The staff at both places speak English and guide you through the process, with no pressure to buy. Free.
  • 2 Mandalay Marionettes Theatre, 66th St (between 26th & 27th St), +95 2 34446. daily at 20:30. This is a hard-to-find show, even in Yangon. The show lasts 1h and has a traditional orchestra. Everything will be explained in English. Book in advance during high season. 15,000 kyat.
  • Mintha Theater, 27th St (between 65th & 66th St), +95 9 6803607, . Daily 20:30. Classical court and folkloric dances that include a full 8-piece traditional orchestra. 8,000 kyat.
  • Moustache Brothers. 20:30. Formerly a comedy trio who have served 12 years in prison for their political (anti-government) performances and jokes. Now only one of the three performs. About half is comedy and the other half is traditional dancing performed by his family. They are only allowed to perform from their home and for tourists. They perform every night. The admission fee goes towards helping political prisoners. The show lasts for about 1½ hours and mostly features Burmese dance and some political jokes. Rickshaw drivers will try for a return fee. 10,000 kyat.
  • Waterfall Hill (Yaedagon Taung) (on the east side of Mandalay). Outdoor sports, especially caving and rock climbing are popular endeavours here. It is not spoiled, not crowded and not far from the city.
  • A Glimpse of Mandalay Cooking class and day tour, between 35th & 36th St, between 57th & 58th St, Yoe Yoe Lay Guesthouse (free pick up and drop off is included.), +95 944 404 1944, . 09:00-18:00. A combination of cooking class and day tour and the first of its kind in Myanmar. The cooking class is located in a local village about 20-min drive from Mandalay. Hands on teaching while enjoying the green paddy fields. After the cooking class, they will take you a bike tour to see the daily life of the village and end the tour by seeing sunset in a historic place. US$30.
  • Amaravati Thai Massage, Corner of 62th and 37th (in the east of Mandalay). Get body massage, foot massage and aroma massage. They are very professional and the ambience is nice and relaxing. 8,000 kyat for 1-hr body massage.
  • City Park, Myo Patt Rd. A leisure park with swimming pool. Women are requested to wear a t-shirt and shorts. 500 kyat.

Tours edit

View of Sagaing Hill and surrounds from across the Irrawaddy River
  • Daytour "three former capitals": Amarapura, Sagaing, Innwa – You can usually book this tour at your hotel/hostel or directly with a Tuktuk driver (be careful with the price in this case). The normal price for a Tuktuk for the whole day tour is 35,000 kyat (January 2020), which can be divided depending on how many people fit the Tuktuk (usually up to 3 people). The tour starts at 08:30. First place to visit is Amarapura. You will visit the second biggest monastery in the country and watch the monks preparing their food. After that you will go to Sagaing. In Sagaing you will visit two pagodas on the Sagaing Hill, where you have a beautiful view too. From there you have lunch near a small river, which you have to cross after (2,500 kyat per person including return) to get to Innwa. In Innwa you can only get around by horse-drawn carriage (15,000 kyat per person) or walking. The carriage drivers will try to convince you that walking takes too much time, but that's not true. You have enough time to visit all the spots. After visiting Innwa you have to cross the river again. The Tuktuk driver takes you back to Amarapura to watch the sunset on the U Bein Bridge, one of the longest Teakwood bridges in the world. Usually the tour ends at 20:00.
  • Halfday tour to Mingun – For this halfday tour you have to take the ferry at 09:30 in Mandalay and will arrive at 10:30 in Mingun. The ferry (5,000 kyat per person including return) only leaves once a day. Mingun belongs to Sagaing Region and not to Mandalay Region anymore, that's why you have to pay another 5,000 kyat as "entrance fee". In Mingun you can visit the famous Hsinbyume Pagoda (a beautiful white Pagoda also called "photo pagoda") and the Mingun Bell. The ferry back to Mandalay leaves at 13:30. There are no other ferries back to Mandalay later. If you miss it, you can take a Tuktuk back or find a place to stay. (January 2020)
U Bein bridge

Do-it-yourself bicycle tour of Mandalay: A whole day tour to Maha Muni, Innwa and U Bein Bridge. Sagaing Hill can be included as well. You can visit U Bein Bridge twice: Once during the day and once at sunset. Start early at the Clock Tower in Mandalay (26th Street, 84th Street) and cycle south 84th Street till two streets after the 42nd street. The road will then split into 2, go left. After the next bend you will see the entrance to Maha Muni Image. Lock your bicycle and take your time to explore the temple and the gardens behind.

Go back to where the 84th Street splits into two and this time go right. Continue further south. Parallel to your street runs another, getting really close to yours after about 3 km, only to then turn right when yours goes gradually left (there is a petrol station, 100 m to your left is a white pagoda). From there continue on the main road. After 400 m the road bends right, then continues straight for about 1 km and then bends left. You can stop there to visit the Burkayar Monastery. Afterwards, continue straight and leave the main road. After 500 m the railway tracks cross the street. Continue straight through the neighbourhoods for 500 m more until you reach the Taungthaman Lake. Follow the road anti-clockwise along the lake and after 2 km you will reach the parking area of U Bein Bridge. You might have to pay a small parking fee (100-200 kyat). Cross the Bridge and settle in a teahouse on the other side.

Get back on the bicycle and go west until you hit the main road (Sagaing-Mandalay Expy) and the tracks. From there you can explore the neighbourhoods and stop by any building where you hear the dominant rattling noise of the looms. There are factory-like businesses and private homes with only one or two machines. There are plenty, and you will be warmly welcomed to any of them to have a look.

To go to Innwa follow the main road (Saging-Mandalay Expy) further south for 4.5 km, always straight until you reach a roundabout. Go straight for Innwa, or turn right and cross the bridge to Sagaing. After another kilometre you will reach a crossing. The main road bends right a little and crosses the river to Sagaing, a smaller road bends sharply left to somewhere else. And straight continues a small street of rather poor condition. Take this small street and follow it for another kilometre until you reach the river. You can only cross it by ferry (1 min). 1,000 kyat per person and 200 kyat extra for the bicycle return ticket.

Once you leave the ferry you will want to continue as soon as possible as the horse cart tour touts pester you. Follow the horse tracks.

Mahar Aung Mye Bonzan Monastery: From the jetty follow the road, go left, then right at the T-crossing. When the road turns left follow the small trail straight instead (no horse cart can pass), cross the tiny bridge. And after 50 m you reach the monastery (zone ticket). Right hand side from the main entrance there is a stupa, walled with two doors each having stairs. The stupa is connected to the monastery.

Take 2-3 hr to explore Innwa fully. Then go back the same way to see the sunset at U Bein Bridge. There are street lamps all the way to Mandalay. There are no hills, just flat land.

  • Mandalay Clock Tower - Maha Mudi Image: 4 km, 20 min
  • Maha Muni Image - U Bein Bridge: 8 km, 40 min
  • U Bein Bridge - Innwa: 8 km, 40 min

In case you got lost just ask people for the way. As few cycle in the area, not even locals, they are very curious and will gladly help you. Have your destinations written in Myanma as it's easier for people to understand. Try to get a bicycle with lights.

Costs: 1,500 kyat for bicycle, 1,200 kyat for the ferry. Alternatively you can rent a motorcycle for 10,000 kyat. But only one can fit at a time on the ferry.

Buy edit

  • 1 Zegyo Market (Pronounced zei-gyo). A street bazaar near the city centre.

Some other markets are listed under #See.

Eat edit

Mandalay is a former capital of Myanmar and a major trading centre between Myanmar and its neighbours, China, India and Bangladesh. As a result, it has a notable array of specialities from various regions in Myanmar and from other countries. Cuisine from the Shan State (usually including fermented pastes, vegetables and meats) is popular in Mandalay which has a sizable Shan minority. Muslim Chinese noodles, pronounced pan-THEI-kao-sweh (flat thin noodles mixed with an array of spices, chili, and chicken), are also famous in Mandalay and the surrounding hills. Regardless of where you eat, try to leave space for Htou moun(to-moh), a traditional Burmese dessert sold only in Mandalay; it contains a lot of oil and is extremely sweet.

  • 1 Myint Myint Khin. Recognisable by the abbreviation MMK on the company logo, the most famous purveyor of Htou moun in all of Myanmar.
  • 2 Unique Bar and Restaurant, 66th Street (near Mandalay hill). This bar and restaurant is near the foot of the Mandalay hill, and provides an easily accessible lunch spot during a tour of the nearby monasteries and the hill. The cuisine is a mix of Western, local and South-east Asian options. The curries are worth trying for their variety, and the coffee is good. The bar has an extensive range of cocktails, and provides hookahs. Very popular in the evenings, but less so during lunch hours. main course at around 5,500 kyat.
  • 3 Mingalar-bar, corner of 71st and 29th Street. up to 21:30. A good place to try a large variety of local Myanmarese cuisine. Apart from the pun-ny name, the restaurant's dishes are quite creative. The best part about the main course is the large spread of sumptuous appetizers and sauces of different types, served at the beginning of the meal. The local twists on many dishes is great. Don't leave without trying the special dry mango pork curry and mutton curry, and it is also worth attempting the river prawns, and if available, boar. There is a sumptuous dessert platter also available with many local sweets made of unique combinations of glutinous rice, banana, peanut, coconut etc. The service is very friendly. box from 2,000 kyat; 5,000 kyat for a full main course.
  • Shop for Htou moun, 78th and 31st Street (left of the train station). They will normally let you try the different types. You can have mixed boxes as well. Eat them within 4-7 days (depends on type). box from 1,800 kyat.
  • Indian Street Restaurant, 82nd & 27th. Cheap and delicious Indian food, including chapati (2 curries and 2 rotis, for 300 kyat), birmani, and mutton curries.
  • Mann Restaurant, 83rd St (between 25th & 26th St). A Chinese restaurant, frequented by locals, but not so much by foreigners. Has a number of basic Chinese meals, at around 2,000 kyat (meat), 1,500 kyat (vegetarian) a plate. Nothing special. Easily recognised from the street by the abundant yellow and black advertising for a local whisky brand. Sells beer and alcohol, Myanmar Beer at 1,500 kyat a bottle compared to 2,000 kyat in Yangon.
  • Street Pancakes (Indian roti), 81st & 26th (in the SW block of 81st & 26th St.; enter the unmarked alley going west, next to Myawaddy Bank). Afternoons you'll find a pleasant Indian lady making savoury and sweet street pancakes in a cast iron frying pan in front of her house. Cheap, delicious and pleasant company.
  • 4 Too Too Myanmar Cuisine, 28th St (Between 74th & 75th St). OK, touristified Burmese curries.
  • 5 Super 81, 39th Street, between 81st and 82nd, Mandalay. Daily 09:00–23:00. Double-storey restaurant with great barbecued seafood. Air-conditioned second floor. The extensive menu includes Thai, Chinese, Indian and western dishes. Popular with locals. 5,000–7,500 kyat.
  • Grand Royal, 69th Street, between 34th and 35th. Nice busy restaurant with two floors. English menu available, but no English spoken. Try Tauk Tauk Kyaw (chicken, veggies and spicy mint 2,500 kyat), Pinsein (chicken pie with veggies, 2,000 kyat). They have hand-mixed-pineapple lassi which means yoghurt and pineapple pieces with ice cubes that you eat (and mix) with your spoon. from 1,500 kyat.
  • Nameless Street Stall at corner of 30th and 84th Street. dinnertime. Busy place right at the crossing with more than 10 curries to choose from. The staff just knows enough English to point out what meat (or fish) is in the curry. Choose by the look. The curry traditionally comes with rice, soup and veggy plate. Set meal with one curry 800 kyat.
  • Night market, along corner of 76th and 34th Street. best time 18:00-19:00. Choose a shop where there are many people in order to point at the dish you want as there are no English menus. Stalls sell hot pots, dumplings (soup, steamed, salad), Thai noodles, seafood with flat rice noodles, pig feet with noodles, sticky rice and other sweets. A yoghurt dessert with honey or sugar is popular with locals.
  • 6 Lashiolay, 23rd St. (between 83rd & 84th St.). Great Shan food. Choose by pointing the main dishes. Always comes with a little salad and rice. Limited English. From 3,000 kyat.
  • 7 Twist Potato, 26th street, between 78th & 79th (south of the moat, 200 m from the southwest corner), +959777788820. 10:00-21:30. As a Korean franchise they do serve twist potato (with or without sausage) their trademark, and spicy food for the ones who like it. But they also offer finger foods and Western dishes (fish and chips, burger, spaghetti), along with fried dishes. For dessert ice cream and waffles (both can be combined). Also offer hot and iced coffees, fresh juices, smoothies and yogurts. Very reasonable prices. Menu in English. Air conditioned. 2 floors. Friendly staff, and management speaks English. Extra service offered: one can rent a motorbike from here (and get a discount on the food)

Drink edit

  • Golden Coffee Shop, No. 80/4, 35th St (between 88th and 89th St). Free Wi-Fi. Decently priced fruit shakes and coffees and a good array of snacks. Friendly staff try their best with English, but best take a phrasebook if you want to do more than point at pictures on menus. 500-2,000 kyat for drinks. Similar for food/snacks.
  • Shwe Gokai, 35th St (N side of 35th St a few shops W of 68th St). This is a Chinese BBQ restaurant famous for its BBQ beef tongue and rice noodle soup (ba ba si). There is no English sign, but it is easy enough to find as it is the only BBQ restaurant on the north side of 35th St. It is next to a pottery store with many pots in front.
  • V Cafe, No 408, Corner of 80th & 25th St (Near Royal Guesthouse), +95 9 6804928. A cool cafe at Mandalay with good food, friendly and attentive service at fair price. A nice escape from the teeming streets for those weary after a tiring day. US$5-10.
  • 1 Nylon Ice Cream Bar, Corner of 83rd and 25th Streets. A bit of a novelty, ice cream, milkshakes, fruit juices and beers that you can drink on the side of the bustling street. Flavours are geared towards Asian tastes, there's no food unless street sellers are operating, and there's usually a gaggle of beggars (who seem to be in league with the owners) harassing drinkers.

Sleep edit

Budget edit

Most budget guesthouses are around 25th St, between 81st and 84th Streets. There are many more than those listed here.

  • AD1 Hotel, Eindawya Sintada St, Chan Aye Thar San Township (E of Eindawya Pagoda), +95 2 34505, +95 9 6502430. Central location in the heart of Zeygo Market. The rooftop is something special. Rooms are tacky and baths dated, but the price is OK. US$15-30.
  • ET Hotel, 83rd and 23rd/24th St. Nice and clean. Free Wi-Fi, tours and transport booking, friendly staff. US$20.
  • Nylon Hotel (Corner of 83rd & 25th St), +95 2 33460, +95 2 66550, +95 2 60757. Check-in: early, if room available, check-out: 12:00. Room, bathroom quality is standard for Burma at this price. Basic breakfast and working Wi-Fi in room included. Extremely friendly staff, except for the owner (unfriendly, doesn't care about his guests at all). They may try to scam you on laundry, so clarify the price per unit and count for yourself. US$10-20.
  • Mahar Hotel (24 St, between 83 & 84th St), +95 2 22854, . Check-out: 12:00. One block from Nylon Hotel, rooms are very clean and relatively good value for the price (for Mandalay), though single rooms are small. Hot shower, free Wi-Fi in rooms, standard breakfast included, friendly staff. US$18-25.
  • 1 Peacock Lodge, 60th St, +95 9 2042059, . Terrific home stay B&B, with very friendly family staff. A bit out of the centre. Has bike rentals. Free Wi-Fi in the rooms, includes breakfast outside in the garden. Hot shower. Can organise airport transfers, bus tickets, etc. Standard double US$35, Deluxe double US$55.
  • Rich Queen, 87th St (between 26th & 27th St), +95 2 260172, +95 9 91028348. New and has a flash backpacker feel to it. Has modern facilities including the baths. All rooms have air-con. US$25.
  • Royal Guesthouse, No 41 25th St (between 82nd & 83rd St, S side.), +95 2 65697. Check-out: 12:00. Cheaper rooms have fan and shared bath, more expensive have air-con. The air-con is on the government grid and so will go down during the common blackouts. Friendly staff, and close to the royal palace. Bike rental (1,500 kyat per day, negotiable) available across the road. Popular so advance booking advisable. US$7+.
  • Sabai Phyu Hotel, 81st and 25/26th St. Despite the semi-squalid, cell-like rooms, due to the overpricing in Mandalay, this is probably the best bet in the area. Free drinking water. Breakfast for US$1. Some of the best water pressure in Burma. US$10-20.
  • Yoe Yoe Lay Guesthouse, Between 35th and 36th St & 57th and 58th St, Shwe Gal Pwar (about 10 min E of downtown; you can also take local pickup Bus 11 from 35th street, RMB300), +95 944 404 1944, . Check-in: 12:30, check-out: 12:00. Great breakfast included with fruits, western and local food, free Wi-Fi & drinking water. Clean bathrooms with warm water. The owner "Mama" and the staff are kind and helpful. Has a homestay feeling. Bicycles for rent (2,000 kyat per day). Motorbikes for rent (10,000 kyat semi automatic and 12,000 kyat automatic. 24 hours). They organize bus tickets and sightseeing tours. Booking through their Facebook page or email. Air-con en suite double: US$30, shared bathroom: US$25, 4- and 6-bed dorm rooms: US$7 per person (not including breakfast. You can have it for additional 2,000 kyat. It is worth it: orange juice, coffee/tea, toasts, jam and butter, eggs, bottle of water, rice or noodles, watermelon). US$7-30.
  • Dreamland Guesthouse, corner of 69th and 37th street, +95 2-32850 (land-line), +95 9-402544997, +95 9-43068299, . Best thing about this hostel is the included breakfast. They cooperate with the small restaurant nextdoor and have a huge number of choices: e.g. pancake (sugar, beans, banana), bread, Mohinga, Shan Noodles, eggs. There is coffee and 3 types of tea on the menu, they have 8 different types of tea, so ask in the hostel. The hostel doubles as an art studio. So during the day children will have violin or piano lessons and there is a small exhibition of paintings. The staff are friendly and helpful. The dorm has air con and the bunk beds have curtains, lamps and sockets. You reach the upper bunk by stairs not by an ordinary ladder. Plenty of bathrooms in the house with hot water. Everywhere Wi-Fi, clean, bicycle and motorcycle renting, free drinking water, free towel. dorm US$10.

Mid-range edit

  • Bagan King, Blk-732, No (44), Corner of 73rd And 28th Roads ChanAyeTharZan Tsp, +95 2 67124. Nice hotel. Friendly staff, restaurant, bar, free Wi-Fi. From US$70.
  • 2 Hotel Sahara, No. 414/A, 80th Road, between 26th & 27th streets (50 m from the southwest corner of the moat), +95267313, . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. 2-star hotel in the heart of Mandalay. 29 rooms (3 different kinds), all of which offer AC, TV, fridge, hot/cold showers, comfortable beds; deluxe rooms are bigger and offer a bathtub in addition. Free wifi accessible from all areas. Free buffet breakfast 06:30-09:00. Excellent restaurant recommendations. Friendly & smiling staff who speaks excellent English. Low season, US$16 for standard double, US$19 for superior twin, US$25 for deluxe double. High season, US$20 standard double, US$25 for superior twin, US$30 for deluxe double.
  • 3 Mandalay City Hotel, 26th Street (between 82nd and 83rd Streets). Decent hotel, hidden from the noise and traffic inside a courtyard. Has OK rooms, good staff and a tranquil pool. US$80.
  • Smart Hotel, No 167 28th St (between 76th & 77th St, Chan Aye Tharzan Township), +95 2 32682. A nice central hotel. Several types of rooms, ranging from fairly basic up to quite nice (even by Bangkok or Singapore standards). Staff very friendly and capable of assisting with tourist plans, onward travel tickets, etc. Onsite restaurant and bar. Free Wi-Fi. US$60-90.

Splurge edit

  • 4 Mandalay Hill Resort, No 9, Kwin (416B), 10th St. An 8-storey hotel at the foot of Mandalay Hill. From US$170.
  • Hilton Mandalay, No 1, Junction of 26th & 66th St. Formerly the Sedona hotel. Now a full service Hilton blending traditional Burmese and modern architecture that faces the Royal Palace and Mandalay Hill. From US$121.
  • Zegyo Hotel, 84th St (between 27th and 28th St, next to Zegyo Market). Great location, clean rooms.

Stay safe edit

Mandalay is a haven for drug kingpins and is a main trading centre of illicit drugs. In 2005, an explosion occurred at Zegyo Market. However, Mandalay is generally a very safe city.

Go next edit

  • Amarapura (Pyi) – Famous for its ancient sights, and for U Bein bridge, the world's longest teak bridge.
  • Hsipaw – Bus leaves at 06:00 and 14:30 (5,000 kyat), 5 hr.
  • Mawlamyine – Overnight bus Shwe Mandalar at 18:00 (15,000 kyat), leaves from the Highway Bus Station. Quite luxurious (Swedish) bus, includes a towel, pillow, blanket toothbrushes and water. Arrives at Mawlamyine at 05:00.
  • Maymyo (Pyin U Lwin) – A former British hill station in a lush alpine forest. The small town contains a variety of colonial relics, and is most famous for its botanical gardens (modelled on England's Kew Gardens). Also known for the Defence Services Academy, the top-ranked military academy in Myanmar. Shared taxis come pick you up (6,500 kyat, back seat, 7,000 kyat front, 1½ hr). Pickups leave from the corner of 27th and 82nd (1,500 kyat, 2 hr). Train is very scenic, and is a must-do train journey if you like trains. It leaves Mandalay at 04:00 (US$3 for upper class).
  • Mingun – Best known for the Mingun Bell (one of the largest bells in the world), is a boat ride away. Boats leave from the Mingun jetty (all drivers know it) at 09:00 and return at 13:00. 5,000 kyat return.
  • Pyin U Lwin – Hill station established by the British. Pick-up trucks run east along 35th street and take about 2 hours and cost 1,500 kyat. Shared taxis leave from 27th and 79th streets (next to the Mother's World Hotel). Depart when full. They will pick-up in Mandalay, and drop off at your desired destination in Pyin U Lwin. Cost was 7000 kyat (May 2019). The train for Pyin U Lwin departs from the railway station each morning at 04:00 (May 2019).
  • Sagaing (to the east) – Has many Buddhist temples and monasteries, especially on Sagaing Hill.
  • Yangon – Overnight buses at 07:00 and 09:00 (10,500 kyat). Luxury bus for 16,000 kyat. Leaves from the Highway Bus Station.
  • Bagan by bus (OK-Bus with pick up and drop off at your hotels) 8,000 kyat. By slow boat (13 hr) on Sundays and Wednesdays at 05:30 for US$15 or express boat (8 hr) daily at 07:00 but only Nov-Feb, US$45. Ticket office for both in 35th Street & Sein Pann Road (kyat not accepted)
This city travel guide to Mandalay is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.