Mandalay used to be the royal capital of Myanmar, and former Burmese kings had their residences here. As such Mandalay has retained a rather noble feeling to it, as well as a diverse atmosphere that comes from a mix of indigenous groups, Indian immigrants, and Chinese immigrants. As a result, if you are in town then you can’t miss the chance to sample the Indian and Chinese food served in the city, a marked difference from other places like Yangon where the cuisine is delicious but more one note.
Sample the food
The street food in Mandalay is one reason to come here alone, and in particular the Indian bread stalls that make delicious roti with dipping sauce and chapatti, all served street side. There are also a range of Chinese restaurants around the city that serve up local favorites like chicken with cashews, and Mandalay also has a wealth of quaint Burmese tea shops that are a delightful place to spend an afternoon. The best thing about the food here, aside from how tasty it is, is the fact that you can eat in local restaurants extremely cheaply, particularly compared to Yangon.
Since Mandalay was once the royal capital it is also home to the royal palace, although you should note that what you are seeing now is actually a reconstruction of the original which was looted and bombed under the British and Japanese. Due to its reconstruction you will have to imagine much of its former glamour, but it is still a worthwhile trip, particularly to see the throne room and sleeping quarters of the monarch. You won’t be able to view all of the complex, only a portion of it is open to visitors, but you can also walk around some of the grounds and get a sense of how glorious Mandalay would have been in the days of old.
U Bein Bridge
U Bein Bridge is probably one the most iconic sights in all of Myanmar, and can’t be missed, particularly if you like taking pictures. The bridge itself is made of wood and reinforced in areas to make it safer although if you have a problem with heights or with wobbly wooden bridges in general then you might want to just take photographs of it rather than walk on it yourself. The bridge stretches from Mandalay to Amanapura which makes it the longest teak bridge in the world and it is more the experience and images that draw people here rather than the destination. If you don’t feel like walking on it, which can be a bit of a scary experience, then a better idea is to rent a little fishing boat and have the driver take you past the bridge so that you can see it in all its rustic glory without the worry. If you can, go at sunset when monks and locals flock to the bridge and you will be guaranteed amazing photographs of one of the best known places in Myanmar.
Mandalay is such a different kind of city to Yangon and the change of scenery can be very welcome to visitors on the tourist trail around Myanmar. There is a charm and yet a diversity that can be felt here thanks to its mixed population and it is also widely considered the food capital of Myanmar. For that reason alone, you can spend a few days just eating your way around the city and taking in a few of its majestic sites along the way.