Tag Archives: temple

Mandalay, Myanmar

Hotel:
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!

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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.

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The room was beautiful!

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Breakfast is included and is lovely. A large buffet with nice variety of food, plus eggs made to order.

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Hotel Yadanarbon
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:
Golden Bagan
This restaurant was just down the street from our hotel and was so good that we ate there two nights in a row!
Highly recommended.
Here is some of what we ate:

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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.

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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.

The Sights:
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
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.

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Mandalay Palace Gates

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If you drive a scooter to the Palace you will have to walk it through the gate. Once you are inside you can drive again.

Some more photos of the palace below:

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Kuthodaw Pagoda
Kuthodaw Pagoda is known as the Worlds Largest Book. Build in 1859 and surrounded by 729 marble slabs inscribed with Buddhist Canon.

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Sandamuni Pagoda
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.

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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.

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Atumashi Monastery
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.

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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.

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Mandalay Hill
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.

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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:

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Street Fair
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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

Bagan, Myanmar

Getting There:
The easiest way to get to Bagan from other cities in Myanmar is by bus.
See my previous post to read about our bus trip from Yangon to Bagan.

Arriving:
Our bus arrived in Bagan way ahead of schedule, at about 5am so our taxi driver took us to see the sunrise over the pagodas (the #1 thing to see in Bagan) before dropping us off at out hotels.

Entrance ticket:
To enter the Bagan Archaeological area (basically the entire city and surrounding area) you are required to purchase passes for $15 per person. You will purchase these at check points along the road as you enter the city. When coming from the bus your taxi will take you here to buy your passes.

The passes are valid for 5 days.

You are supposed to always have these passes with you to show at various checkpoints. We were never asked to show ours after buying them but I would NOT recommend skipping this step. Just buy the pass to be on the safe side.

Sunrise over the Pagodas:
Bagan is home to nearly 3,000 pagodas.

Between the 11th and 13th centuries over 10,000 temples, pagodas and monasteries were built on the Bagan plains and nearly 3,000 still remain standing today.

Of course these pagodas and temples are beautiful at all times of the day but the most well known and most talked about time to see them is sunrise over the plains.
The sun rises at approximately 6am (check with your hotel or online to be sure you have the correct time of sunrise for the time of year you are visiting).

Sunrise can be enjoyed from anywhere across the Bagan plains but the best view is from the top of the largest pagodas. One example is Shwesandaw Pagoda.

Here are just a few photos of the sunrise (we took about 100!).

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Hot Air Balloons:
Another option you have to see the sunrise over the pagodas is to take a hot air balloon ride. This experience looks absolutely unbelievable however it is not cheap. One ride (about 1 hour) costs approximately $300-400 per person!
Of course this was NOT in our budget.
Maybe someday.

The balloons do really add to the beauty of the sunrise view.

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Renting an E-bike:
And electric bike is really the best way to get around both the city and the pagodas and the prices are very good.
Small e-bike (hold 1 person) $5 per day
Large e-bike (holds 2 people) $10 per day

The bikes are not terribly powerful but Bagan is pretty flat so this was not a problem. Tourists are not allowed to rent scooters so the e-bike is the best option.

Note: most likely there will be a problem with your e-bike. Once we ran out of battery and another time we got a flat tire.
Don’t Panic.
Every bike has a phone number attached to the front of the bike.

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Simply call that number and they will send a repair man or a new bike to you at no charge.
Don’t have a local phone. Don’t worry.
The locals are so friendly and helpful. Just flag someone down and they will call for you.

One of the times we had problems a car stopped even before we could flag them down and then a second one stopped. They called the bike shop for us, explained what was wrong in Burmese and stayed with us until the repair man arrived.
You will be well taken care of.

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Other ways to get around:
You can rent a bicycle for about $2 per day. This is a very easy and cheap option but you will not see as much because it will take a lot longer to get around.
You can also ride in a horse cart. These fit about 2-4 people. It is a very charming way to get around but is not cheap (I do not have the exact price but it was the most expensive option for getting around the pagodas.

The Pagodas:
When visiting the Bagan plains, there are simply too many pagodas and temples to even come close to seeing them all. Some guidebooks will give you lists of which pagodas you ‘must see’.
I say, don’t bother spending time trying to find these specific temples.
Just rent an e-bike and start driving. Each pagoda you come upon is more amazing than the last. It is best to just explore and see what you find.
By doing this you will also likely avoid most of the tourist crowds allowing you to enjoy visiting the temples and pagodas in peace (and giving you the chance to take many photos without other people accidentally photo bombing all of your amazing photos).

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Most of the pagodas are open so you can go in and explore.
You are also able to climb many of them!

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The roof area of the pagodas have wonderful views and are amazing photo spots!

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Enjoy exploring!

You will also find that locals are at several of the pagodas. Many of them are the caretakers of that particular pagoda (unlocking it in the morning, locking it at night). The government lets them live on the land of the pagoda rent free in exchange for them taking care of the pagoda.

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Many of these men (in our experience they were all men) are also artists. After giving you a FREE tour of the pagoda they will likely want to show you their work (of course hoping to sell a painting). Please give them a few minutes. Mostly they are interested in talking with you, telling you about the history and culture and their painting techniques. We found that these artists were not pushy at all so if you don’t want to buy anything it is not a problem.

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However, I highly recommend buying a painting. I cannot think of a better souvenir! The paintings are beautiful. They can also handle travel.
The artists paint start with a piece of white cotton, add a layer of glue and river sand and then add paint on top.
These paintings can be folded and ironed (on the back) and the color will not come off.

Some paintings are done in acrylic paint. Others are done in natural colors (made from nature). The colors are as follows:
Red – Marble stone
Yellow – Saffron
Green – vegetables
Blue – Indigo
Brown – tree bark
Black – soot (ash from a fire)
White – limestone

Visit a traditional village:
Another great thing you can do while exploring Bagan is to visit a traditional village. You can find the village nestled among the pagodas near Nyaung U.
Ask your hotel how to get here because the maps are unclear and often not to scale.

At the village entrance you will find one or a few local women who will take you on a tour of the village showing you everthing they produce and how they live. At the end of this tour she will of course ask you for a bit of money but it is completely up to you how much you give. I do not have a problem with this because it was such a nice tour and an interesting experience. We gave about $3.

In the village they:

Grow peanuts and sesame

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The sesame seeds are pressed into oil using this machine (powered by a cow walking around it).

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Make beautiful silver (mainly jewelry).
I bought a set of 7 thin silver rings for $18 and a pair of dangle earrings for $10, which I thought were excellent prices.

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Make lacquerware items (these were expensive, buy elsewhere in Bagan for better price).

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Weave lovely fabric and scarves

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The village also grows cotton and grandma spins it into thread for the weaving.

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Roll cigars

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In the village you (my female readers) can try tanka, a sort of make-up/sunblock that the local women wear. It is made by wetting a stone and rubbing a branch from a particular type of tree on the wet stone to make a paste. This is then applied to the cheeks.

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Hotels:
Hotels in Bagan on average are quite expensive. When we looked online the cheapest option we found was about $45 per night (way over our budget).
So, we decided to take a chance and just see what we could find walking around town.
It paid off!

We found a lovely guest house in Nyaung U after only about 10 minutes of walking.
Pann Cherry
A double room was $16 per night.
Rooms were simple but the rooms were large and the bed was comfortable and very clean.
The bathrooms are shared but very nice.
The wifi works well.
I highly recommend this guesthouse for budget accommodation.

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Food and Drink:
During our stay we spent most of our time in Nyaung U and exploring the pagodas in the plains area. Here are a few of my food recommendations.

If you are looking for a quick snack, breakfast or just a drink head to Bagan Regalia in Nyaung U.

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For some excellent local food with a river view try
Kyi Kyi Mya in Old Bagan near Buphaya Paya Pagoda

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For a nice dinner with a free puppet show go to Pyi Wa in Nyaung U.

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If you are craving a burger try Weather Spoons in Nyaung U. Everyone raves about them!

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I will be honest we did not try the burger…crazy I know, but we were craving fried noodles. They were amazing! So I definitely recommend this restaurant for whatever food you are craving.

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A few more photos of Bagan:
Because it was so beautiful and amazing

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Buddhist nuns collecting alms

Temple Details

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Sunset over Bagan

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