Tiger One Hotel
We stayed at Tiger One Hotel in Mandalay and it was wonderful!
Very central location, beautiful rooms and great service.
We did not book in advance but we had found this hotel on agoda.com when we did a search prior to arriving in Mandalay and it was the one we liked the best so we had a taxi bring us there from the boat. The hotel was beautiful!
The walk-in rate is higher than the online price (walk-in rate: $45 for double room) so we sat down in the lobby to book it online using their wifi. When the hotel realized what we were doing they agreed to just give us the online rate of $32 to make it easier.
Such lovely service.
The room was beautiful!
Breakfast is included and is lovely. A large buffet with nice variety of food, plus eggs made to order.
On the same street as Tiger One hotel you will find hotel. Equally nice (though we have not actually seen the rooms). The prices is about $5 more than Tiger One but is an excellent option if Tiger One is fully booked.
Food and Drink:
This restaurant was just down the street from our hotel and was so good that we ate there two nights in a row!
Here is some of what we ate:
Getting around Mandalay:
Both Tiger One and Hotel Yadanarbon offer free bicycle rentals for their guests. Most hotels in Mandalay offer this as well.
This can be a nice option for getting around town as it is not really a walkable city. Of course you can walk but the main sights are farther apart than you think and you will end up having extremely long days if you choose to walk.
You can also rent a scooter or motorbike.
We rented one for 2 days for $30 ($15 per day). I think this is the best option if you can drive one because it is how the locals get around and is much quicker than walking or biking.
Mandalay was the royal capital of Myanmar (then Burma) until the British colonization so there is really a lot to see here.
To see the main sights in Mandalay you will have to pay $10 for a multi-sight entrance ticket.
Mandalay Palace, where the Burmese royal family lived and ruled is at the center of the city. It also served as a fort. You cannot miss it. It is surrounded by a brick wall and moat that is 2km long on each of the four sides. During the British colonial era it served as a Fort Dufferin. Most of the palace was destroyed during WWII and was rebuilt in the 1990s.
Well worth a visit!
Note: though the area is huge, tourists are only allowed to visit the palace area. Guards will keep you from entering any other area of the citadel.
Some more photos of the palace below:
Kuthodaw Pagoda is known as the Worlds Largest Book. Build in 1859 and surrounded by 729 marble slabs inscribed with Buddhist Canon.
Next to Kuthodaw Pagoda (closer to the main road) you will find Sandamuni Pagoda, a copy of worlds largest book.
Though the two pagoda complexes are quite similar, we actually found this one to be much more impressive. There are more marble slabs to start with, 1774 slabs. The slabs are also open so you have the freedom to walk through, read if you can, and admire the text. In Kuthodaw Pagoda all of the small structures have bars on the doorways so you cannot actually access the marble slabs.
Sandamuni Pagoda is also far less crowded. Kuthodaw Pagoda is a part of every tour of Mandalay and Sandamuni is part of none. This offers the opportunity to admire the pagoda and marble slabs in peace.
Also at Sandamuni Pagoda we met a local family selling some amazing pieces of sequin embroidery! As we passed I noticed the pieces in a basket. As someone who does some needlepoint and embroidery myself I noticed the amazing craftsmanship and asked if they were selling them. They were! They had new ones made by their mother and antique ones made by their grandmother. The antique ones had the original bronze sequins! The prices were incredibly reasonable for such amazing work $5-$10 depending on the size. We bought several because they were so unique and beautiful and also because the family was so friendly and willing to tell us everything about the pieces without pushing us to buy anything.
If you see this family please buy something from them. We were their first customers in 2 weeks! Such a shame because the pieces are beautiful and a much better souvenir than something made in a factory and sold in a big store. You also will have a great experience speaking with the family and have a wonderful story and memory.
Atumashi monastery is one of the major sights in Mandalay. Honestly it is not too exciting, but since it is right next to the other pagodas and temples and is included in the Mandalay Sights entrance ticket you might as well visit. It is basically just a huge monastery, big and impressive but you will only spend a few minutes here because there is not much to see and it is no longer an active monastery.
Shwenandaw Monastery (Golden Palace Monastery)
Next to Atumashi Monastery you will find Shwenandaw Monastery. This one cannot be missed. It is made entirely out of teak and is so impressive. It is also the only remaining part of the original royal palace.
Mandalay Hill is at the center of Mandalay and is the best place in the city to see the sunset. You can drive up if you rent a scooter. You can also take a local scooter taxi to the top. Or if you choose, you can walk up the stairs (about a 30 minute climb).
If you decide to walk up this is a great place to buy some souvenirs as their are venders lining the entire way. This area is technically a temple but honestly the huge number of tourists an all of the vendors selling things takes away the spiritual aspects and turns it into simply a tourist attraction.
Note: At Mandalay Hill you may see a few long-neck ladies, local tribes women who wear gold rings to elongate their necks. Please do not take your picture with them. They are often exploited in Myanmar and made into tourist attractions like the characters in Disneyworld. Do not support this.
Puppet show/ traditional music/ traditional dance
If you are interested in seeing a traditional show, look no further than Hotel Yadanarbon. They have a rooftop restaurant and every night they have a free show with traditional music, traditional dance and a puppet show! You can have dinner during the show but it is also fine to just order drinks (menu looked great but a little expensive).
Here are some pictures from the show:
During our stay in Mandalay, we were extremely lucky that there was a local street fair on our street right outside of our hotel. It was not big but we were the only foreigners their. We played a few games and bought a cotton candy (made on a machine powered by a hand crank on the back of a man’s scooter). Such a fun experience. These local experiences are the best travel experiences.
Outside of Mandalay:
The Ancient Capitals
Surrounding Mandalay are 4 cities which were capitals before Mandalay and each has amazing sights to see. Unfortunately we did not have enough time to visit these cities but we heard great things about them and plan to visit next time we are in Myanmar. I would guess you need 2-4 extra days to see these 4 cities. We did have enough time to visit U Bein Bridge near the ancient capital of Amapura.
U Bein Bridge
This bridge is the world’s longest teak bridge connecting two villages. It is well worth a visit. It was about a 20 minute scooter drive from central Mandalay.
It seemed to be a very popular spot for young locals to go for a date, we saw many walking arm in arm.
You can take a boat trip on the lake, this is very popular at sunset. WE however had a wonderful time during the middle of the day.
If you are at U Bein Bridge during lunch or dinner I recommend the restaurant on the far end of the bridge right next to the water (these places had no names that we could find). We had amazing friend noodles!
You can arrange a trip to U Bein Bridge with your hotel in Mandalay if you do not rent a scooter. Most cost about $20 pp.
Have fun in Mandalay!