6 Things To Do In Mandalay

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If you’re lucky enough to visit Mandalay in Myanmar, then here are six activities to consider during your stay:


Start your day by visiting the weavers in Amarapura, the former capital of Myanmar. Watch how they create the intricately beautiful hand-woven designs – like a cross between lace work and weaving. It’s mesmerising!

Then cross the road and buy yourself a traditional Longyi and blouse.  Expect to pay between $10 and $20 dollars for a beautiful Longyi – large, and long, enough for Western bodies and bottoms. They come in a range of rich, sumptuous colours with subtle designs or more eye-catching motifs. They fit any size, can be expanded if you over-indulge in the delicious local food, are comfortable and cool to wear, and look great.

Expect to get lots of compliments; the locals love it when tourists wear their national dress, and they will want to pose for a photo with you. I spent quite a while at the Giant Bell having my photo taken like a Hollywood A-lister as locals literally lined up to be photographed. Now I know how Angelina must feel!


Hire a boat and take a trip on the Ayeyarwady River. During the ‘shoulder’ season we hired a boat big enough for at least ten people (it was the smallest we could find!) to take us an hour up river to Mingun, wait while we visited the temples, and then take us back to the Jetty in Mandalay – all for under $30. Expect to pay a bit more in peak season and a little bit extra for each additional person.

Accessing the boat is an adventure in itself; the name ‘jetty’ implies something solid and permanent, but this isn’t the case. The boats are moored side-by-side, parallel to the river bank. You walk along a narrow plank of wood from the bank to the first boat, and then cross from one boat to another walking from plank to plank – until you reach your boat which will be the last in the ‘chain’.

Once on the boat relax in the large armchairs as the vessel chugs up the river passing dredgers and tiny fishing boats, narrow sand banks, wide empty beaches and egrets stalking the shallows. With the sun shining, the air already warming up, the breeze of the river is a real treat.


At Mingun, if you don’t already have a guide, then expect some enterprising young locals to offer you a taxi ride (think motorised rickshaw) and an English-speaking guide. There is an entrance fee for foreigners to visit the temple area – less than $5 dollars each, paid in local currency.  

Visit the huge, partially built Mingun Pagoda that has suffered huge cracks due to an earthquake and walk around the giant (despite being broken with only their backsides left) guardian lion statues (also victims of the earthquake).

Definitely go inside the white Hsinbyume Pagoda with its dozens of arches climbing upwards giving the impression of an elaborately decorated wedding cake. 

Try ringing the massive Mingun Bell (apparently the second largest working bell in the world), and take a moment to enter the Bhaddanta Memorial. Allow some time to browse the stalls and walk along the sandy river edge.

Mingun is a lovely place to spend a few hours.


Around 11am every day nearly 1000 monks line up outside the Mahagandhayon Monastery waiting to go in to eat their lunch (they are not allowed to any solid food after 12midday, so this is their last meal of the day). As they queue, they are surrounded by devotees who thrust food (often sweets and fizzy drinks) and money into the large bowls (or when these overflow, into plastic bags) carried by the monks. It’s a fascinating sight and an opportunity to learn more about life in a Monastery.


The U Bein Bridge, built around 1850, is believed to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world. It spans the Taungthaman Lake near Amarapura and is 1.2km long. There are no hand-rails or side walls – so stick to the centre if you can. Dotted along its length are stalls selling souvenirs (purses, hats, jewellery etc.), food and drink, and even an opportunity to get your fortune told. 

Buffalo graze below the bridge (in the dry season) and egrets stalk through the long grasses. Take your time; the people are friendly and the views are beautiful.


The Burmese Star Tortoise was nearing extinction – but thanks to the Minzongtaung Wildlife Sanctuary it is now coming back from the brink. The Sanctuary has recently opened its doors to visitors. You can meet the staff who will show you around and introduce you to the tortoises; from babies born less than a year ago (small enough to sit in the palm of our hand) to a slightly over-weight spinster tortoise (who refuses all her male suitors).

There is also a very informative and clear visitor centre and the opportunity to support the project by purchasing some cute tortoise souvenirs. Definitely worth a visit.

Myanmar Tourism
Khiri Travel
The Minzongtaung Wildlife Sanctuary
Ayeyarwaddy River View Hotel, Mandalay


Chantal Cooke is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster and co-founder of PASSION for the PLANET. Chantal is passionate about tourism being used as a force for good.  You can follow her adventures on Facebook and Twitter @chantalcooke and on Instagram @Chantaldcooke

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