Mandalay is the second largest city in Burma (after Yangon), and a former capital of Myanmar. The city is the economic and religious hub of upper Myanmar and is centred around the Royal Palace.
It has wide lanes filled with bicycles and motorcycles and is known for its cultural diversity. Half of Burma's monks reside in Mandalay and the surrounding areas.
U-Bein Bridge near Mandalay in Myanmar
Mandalay, the very name evokes the splendours of the Burma of old. 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 that was created by King Mingdon Min of Burma 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 is gone, destroyed by the fire that consumed wooden structures and by intensive bombing by the Axis powers 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 Road and it is, by Burmese standards, relatively prosperous as a centre for trade with China and as a centre for the growing trade with India. Despite the capital having been moved to Naypyidaw, Mandalay remains by far the main commercial centre of Upper Myanmar.
Mandalay is ethnically diverse, with the Bamar (Burmans) forming a slight majority. In recent years, there has been a major influx of Chinese from Mainland China, and the local Chinese (both recent migrants and descendants of colonial-era immigrants) form 30 to 40% of the population. Their influence is seen in the China-style glass buildings throughout the city, while the Yunnan dialect of Mandarin is often spoken among the ethnic Chinese community. Other prevalent ethnic groups include the Shan, who are ethnically and linguistically related to the Thais and Laotians, and the Karen (Kayin). There is a sizeable ethnic South Asian population, including Nepalis and Sikhs.
Mandalay has a semi-tropical climate. Winter (which is dry and moderately cool) lasts from November to February, and summer lasts from March to May. Because Mandalay is in the central dry zone, it receives far less rain than the more tropical south.
Mandalay International Airport, a gleaming modern facility, serves the area with flights to most places in Myanmar and some international flights. Asian Wings fly once weekly (Wednesdays) from Chiang Mai, Thailand. There are also daily flights to and from Kunming on China Eastern. Thai AirAsia has daily direct flights from Don Muaeng Airport in Bangkok, Bangkok Airways has a daily flight from Suvanabhumi Airport (BKK), Bangkok as well as 3 a week (Su,Tu, Th) from Chiang Mai (CNX). Unfortunately AirAsia no longer has the free shuttle bus going from the airport to city centre. Hong Kong Express began direct service to both Mandalay and Yangon from Hong Kong in September 2016. SilkAir operates three flights per week between Mandalay and Singapore.
The airport is far from the city, 45km on a modern toll highway (with a few hiccups). As of May 2017, pricing from the airport to hotels in central Mandalay is USD11 or MMK15,000 (private taxi), or USD4 or MMK4000 (shared taxi/minibus). There are touts from several competing taxi companies in the post-customs arrival area who will approach passengers, although they all charge the same fares. USD30 to/from Pyin U Lwin.
If you are going with a big group or family, you can arrange private transfers from hotels or travel agent in Mandalay.
From Yangon There are several trains daily from Yangon. The tracks are old and, in some cases, the carriages may be old, and the fifteen hour journey is extremely bumpy. There are sleepers in the last train leaving Yangon to Mandalay, but note that it is all but impossible to sleep on the train as most of the journey is made on extremely bumpy rails. Foreigners can now pay in the local currency and are also charged the same rate as Burmese. Previously, the prices were significantly higher for foreigners and USD was the only currency accepted. Do not buy tickets at the main station in Yangon as they are not issued there. Go to the advance booking office which is not in the main station but in Bogyoke Aung San road on the south side of the tracks, opposite the Sakura Tower and diagonally opposite the Traders Hotel, look for the entrance sign. (The advance booking office was not open as of October 2015, it may be possible to buy advance tickets in the main station, to be confirmed). Depending on class, tickets range from MMK12,750-4,600 for an ordinary seat. In order to reserve a ticket for the evening train, you must go to the train station at 07:00 on the same day.
From Lashio, Hsipaw, and Pwin U Lwin There are two trains daily from Pyin U Lwin (USD4/2) and one from Lashio via Hsipaw and Pwin U Lwin (USD9/3 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 (and American construction!).
From Myitkyina This twenty-four hour journey is on old rolling stock and even older tracks so expect it to be bumpy! There are at least four daily trains. The express train number 38 departs Myitkyina at 04:30 and arrives in Mandalay late in the evening (USD31 for upper class). (Express?) train 56 departs Myitkyina at 07:45 and arrives at 04.15 the next morning (USD27). Train 34 departs at 13:50 and arrives at 07.20 (USD45). Train 58 departs at 15:10 and arrives at 12.20 the next day (USD27). Express trains don't call in at Hopin (for Indawgyi lake) or Nada (for Katha). Departures are on time, but arrival are later, sometimes significantly later.
There are at least three bus stations in Mandalay. The biggest one, Kywe Se Kan Highway station (aka Chan Mya Shwe Pyi), is the furthest away from city center, about 8 km.
Pyi Gyi Myat Shin bus station is south east of downtown (on the corner of 60th and 37th streets). Destinations includes Pyin U Lwin, Kyaukme, Hsipaw and Lashio.
Thiri Mandala bus station is west of downtown at the end of 23rd Street, and is the closest to city center. Destinations includes Shwebo, Hopin (to Indawgyi Lake), Katha, Bhamo and Myitkyinar.
From Yangon There is a night bus with air-con, and there are 5 options: 17:00, 18:00, 19:00, 21:00 and 21:30 departure, 8.5-9 hours to Mandalay. VIP (2+1 seats in a row) buses are more expensive than Ordinary A/C bus (2+2 seats in a row). Price range from 17500 MMK (ordinary) to 27550 MMK (VIP). JJ Express company has buses leaving in the evening and arriving in the early morning (ex: leaving at 9pm, arriving at 6am), other good companies include BOSS, Mandalar Min, Academy, Khaing Mandalay... etc. The VIP bus is almost certainly the most comfortable option for getting between the two main cities in Myanmar. If you do not want to upset your bio-rithm, there is a 9AM JJ Express bus, arriving at 6PM in Mandalay.
From Bagan a comfortable bus is available for MMK11,000 and MMK9,000 for a minibus(5-6 hours). There are many bus options to choose from. Mini Buses companies include 'OK', 'Pyi Taw Aye' and 'Nyaung Oo Mann', with scheduled departures (including pick-up and drop-off services) almost every hour in the morning and latest around 17:30. Big buses leave daily at 09:00,14:00 and 21:30 (beware that 21:30 bus will get into Mandalay at around 2 am in the morning, not 5 am like they would tell you) without pick-up. There is also an express bus at 08:00 for MMK8000 incl. pick-up from guesthouse (Aug. 2016)
From Inle Lake, Kalaw or Mid-Eastern Towns There are buses available along this route, either a day minibus (05:00 departure, MMK 10,500, 7 hours) or a night bus with air-con (18:00 departure, MMK 10,500-12,500). 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 un-uniformed and just-bribed police officers.
From the Highway Bus Station you can either take a taxi or pick-up into town. Taxis are overly expensive (quoting prices as high as MMK2,000 per person or MMK7,000 for the car), and often bargain in a mob fashion except they all offer the same price and try and gang-up on you. As of May 2014, a taxi ride to city centre costs MMK6,000 with a little bargaining. A far cheaper option is to simply walk out of the bus station yards to the West (perhaps 10 minutes to the larger north/south road, look for traffic lights) and find one of the pick-ups which just ran a load of people to the station from town (MMK500 per person) - they are normally more than happy to help and there is no commission issues to worry about. A motorbike taxi for the same journey costs MMK2,500.
From Bagan there are boat services at different levels of luxury. The trip is about 10 hours travel time and around USD40.
The ferry services from Mandalay to Bagan will be shut down, except for the slow ferry ( available only on certain days in the week), during the months of April, May and June when the water level in the river is low. Most tourist-oriented services run from 1st October until 31st March. There are very limited services (every couple of days) outside of these months.
By pick up
From Pyin U Lwin there are pick ups and shared taxis waiting outside the train station to transport passengers to Mandalay. While the train journey between Pyin U Lwin to Mandalay can take about four hours, the journey by pick up or shared taxi takes only two hours. The journey costs about MMK1500 - 2000 / person in a shared pick up. Expect to be crammed in with other local and foreign passengers.
Taxis are relatively inexpensive and are excellent for travelling around Mandalay. They can be difficult to flag down so expect quite a bit of walking to be necessary (the city layout is very simple and easy to navigate). Many of them waits in front of hotels.
Motorcycle taxis are a cheap alternative, and will usually give you a cheap helmet to wear as well. A day of sightseeing in the city (north and south sights) should cost around MMK10,000, and a three-city tour (Sagaing, Amarapura, Inwa) costs about MMK15,000-20,000 for the day.
Many sights are centred around Mandalay Hill, which makes walking feasible in that area.
Renting a motorcycle it is a great way to see the city or nearby villages if you are an experienced rider. Bear in mind that Mandalay's traffic is not suitable for newbies to practice their driving skills here. Riding is similar to the rest of south-east Asian countries, there are semi-auto (with foot gears but no clutch), automatic and manual bikes rentable. Some hotels on 25th street (near zeycho) rent bicycles and motorbikes. you can rent a automatic motorbike for around MMK 12,000-15,000. They are usually not really new, so you better check it twice before you go. Petrol stations are uncommon, mostly in the outskirts of town, i.e. south of 78th/84th street, east of 35th/TheikPan road etc. Locals also sell petrol in 1 litre bottles for MMK1000.
Cycle hire is much cheaper at USD1-2 a day. It is a very feasible option if you are doing the main sights in the city centre. It is generally only for those who have cycled in other SE Asian cities. Being a 'grid' city the endless crossroads can be difficult especially at evening rush hour, with not-so-many working traffic lights. But cycling into the east part of Mandalay is very nice, where traffic is much less and with refreshing countryside views.
Trishaws (cycle rickshaws) are a convenient way of getting around in Mandalay. If you find a driver who speaks English well, you can have a tour guide and transport together for a reasonable price with a little bargaining. They only hold one or two people (back to back) though.
- Maha Myat Muni Paya (Burmese: ma-ha myah mu-ni pei-ya) (Mahamuni Paya, Paya is the term for pagoda) is Myanmar's second holiest pilgrimage site. It is a 4-metre high Buddha statue, made of gold and decorated with precious jewels. The image was brought from Rakhine State, southeast of Mandalay. Only men are allowed to approach the Mahamuni. For 1600kyat, you can get a small pack of gold leaves to partake in the ceremonial tradition of decorating the buddha statue. Over the past century a layer of gold over 6" deep has been pressed into the body of Mahamuni.
- Shwe Kyi Myin Paya (Burmese: shui ji myin pei-ya) was built in the 1st century, by Prince Min Shin Saw.
- Mandalay Hill (Burmese: man-da-lei thaonh) is a 230m hill located near Mandalay. Along its path are several monasteries and temples. At its top are famous pagodas and temples. Beautiful at sunset and many monks also make the trip up for sunset to practice their English with foreigners. *Alert: There are fake monks who will talk to and show tourists around, and then proceed to ask for money. The Vinaya prohibits monks from asking for money, do not give money to any monks.
Mandalay Zone Admission Fees (USD10) give you access to the following sites:
- Shwenandaw Monastery is a monastery made entire out of teak wood with beautiful intricate carvings. It was originally part of the royal palace built by King Mindon and moved to its current location 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 during World War II, and thus is the only authentic part of the royal palace which can still be seen today. Also located at the foot of Mandalay Hill, all of these sites can be visited together.
- Sandamuni Paya (Burmese: san-da-mu-ni pei-ya), located at the foot of Mandalay Hill, is similar to Kuthodaw Paya, an adjacent site. Sandamuni contains the world's largest iron Buddha image.
- Kuthodaw Paya (Burmese: ku-tho-dau pei-ya) is site of the world's largest book, located at the foot of Mandalay Hill. 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.
- Maha Atulawaiyan Monastery (or Atumashi), to the south of Kuthodaw Paya
- Kyauk Taw Gyi Pagoda, contains an image of the Buddha carved out of a single block of marble from the Sagyin Hill. The figures of 80 arahats or the disciples of the Buddha, are arranged around the central shrine, 20 on each side. The carving of the image was completed in 1865.
- Myanan San Kyaw Golden Palace, inside the Mandalay Palace City. USD10 to get in, and not well maintained, nor exciting.
- Royal Palace (Burmese: man-da-lei nan-dau) is a walled city within Mandalay. It was built in 1861 by King Mindon, to fulfil a prophecy. The palace, although destroyed in World War II, was rebuilt, and was renovated recently. In addition, while the design of the reconstruction was fairly faithful to the original, the materials used were not (metal was use instead of the original teak wood). The palace contains several pavilions and chambers. Tourists are permitted to enter only from the East Gate; no exceptions are made - don't be confused by locals entering the site from other sides - they're allowed, you're not. And mind that it is a long walk around the site - might look confusingly close, while it is not. As of February 2015, foreigners are charged 10,000 kyat (equivalent of USD10), payable in kyat only, for a 5-day ticket; the ticket is stamped on each day you visit the palace and gives access to all of its exhibits. An almost kilometre walk connects the entry gate to the palace proper. Replicas of throne rooms and chairs and Madame Tussaud style images of Kings Mindon and Thibaw with their chief consorts are on display.
- At the west end is the Palace Museum where all palace memorabilia is on display including religious paraphernalia, court ritual implements, court dresses and uniforms, furniture, palanquins and litters, as well as armoury - all in their typical intricate Myanmar design and execution. There are also photo exhibits. The palace is good to visit in the late afternoons, during the setting phase of the sun, as the gold roofs will reflect the warm sunlight and produce a nice and warm glowing effect.
- Ayeyawaddy Dolphin Protected Area: The endangered Irrawaddy dolphin can be found in the Ayeyawaddy Dolphin Protected Area, a 74-km stretch of river located north of Mandalay, which is accessible by boat. The area is noted for communities who practice "cooperative fishing", the unique phenomenon of fishing and communicating with dolphins. Book a tour with the Living Irrawaddy Dolphin Project (https://burmadolphins.com), which has overnight and day trips available. Tours are designed to support dolphin conservation and fishing communities.
- A vanishing sight almost anywhere in the world, see magnificent street-block long teak tree trunks the diameter of which is the size of a boy's stretched out arms being hauled by 8-wheeler trucks. You can see them at least twice a day, coming from the river.
- Mandalay Hill In the old days you had to climb Mandalay Hill on foot, a 30 minutes journey to the top. Nowadays visitors can take a shared pick-up for a handful of kyats. The pick-ups leave every twenty minutes and bring you to the foot of the hill pagoda, where an entry fee of MMK1,000 is collected and footwear is prohibited. You can also take the motorbike taxi which cost MMK1,000. As of May 2016 the former camera fee is included in the entry fee. The pagoda offers nice views of Mandalay and the surrounding plains. One can also rent a private pick-up for MMK5,000 or so, a more comfortable option since the shared pick-ups can be very crowded.
- Moustache Brothers, 39th street between 80th and 81st (any bicycle rickshaw), . The Moustache Brothers are a comedy trio. They perform from their home, for tourists. They perform every night at 20:30, cost MMK10,000. Bicycle rickshaw drivers will undoubtedly approach you to strike a return pedal deal. The show lasts for about 1.5 hours and mostly features Burmese dance and some jokes. Famed in the past. Par Par Lay, one of the brothers passed away in late 2013, but his brother Lu Maw and the cousin continue to perform the show every night. No tickets needed; just show up. MMK8000. edit
- Waterfall Hill (Yaedagon Taung) is located on the east side of Mandaly, where you can have outdoor sports. Especially caving and rock climbing is the most favourite one since it is not spoiled, nor crowded and not far from the city.
- Mahamuni Paya. Visit at 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. edit
- The Three Cities Tour. This can be arranged from your hotel for a private driver that will take you to visit Maha Muni on the way Southwards towards Sagaing Hill which has beautiful views of the numerous golden temples around. Typical stops include a visit to Mahagandayon Monastery in Amarapura where 1,000 monks currently live and study; the Kaung Hmu Taw golden domed monastery which is modelled after the Mahacedi Pagoda in Sri Lanka; river boat to Ava where you can take a horse cart around to different temples; and the teak U Bein's bridge where locals congregate to watch the sunset. edit
- Motorcycle/Taxi Tour of Mandalay Outskirts. Many (if not all) motorcycle drivers are hooked up to hotels and can take you on the tour of the three main tourist draw villages surrounding Mandalay. Amarapura boasts the U Bien Bridge, the famous 1.2 km teak bridge which is a popular sunset stop. Sagaing offers the chance to climb to Sagaing hilltop, dotted with gleaming golden and enormous payas, such as Soon Oo Pon Nya Shin Pagoda, can be reached by 300+ steps and offering a 360-degree view of and overlooking the Irrawady River. And the town of Old Ava, also called Innwa, is usually reached by boat for MMK1,200 round trip. Horse carts greet you on the other side and charge MMK10,000 (Oct 2016) to take you around to the main sites. Or alternatively, you can pay your motorcycle driver an extra MMK4,000 to tour you around and skipping the boat crossing and horse cart. The horse cart tour usually consists of four attractions - the antiquated looking teak monastery Bagaya Kyuang; Nanmyin Palace Watchtower, the leaning tower of Ava; the 27m-high Mahar Aung Mye Bonzan Monastery; and Yadan Sinme brick temple complex - a group of stupas and temples that serves as teaser for what's to come in Bagan. There is one other extra attraction, not necessary to get out of the horse carriage - the ruined former palace gate. The Yadan temple is not signed, but there are two or three souvenir stalls set up at the entrance path, an indication that this is popular with tourists. The whole motorcycle tour costs MMK12,000 or MMK16,000 if you pay your driver to skip the boat and horse cart, saving you some kyats.
The same tour can be done by an air-conditioned taxi for MMK35,000 (May 2014), though some hotels will offer it for MMK45,000. Just as with the motorcycle option, negotiate with the taxi driver to avoid the boat and horse cart ride, which should not come at an additional cost if you are paying him MMK45,000 for the whole tour. A good option if there is more than 1 person or for those hot summer days. edit
- Watch Puppet Show @ Mandalay Marionettes Theatre, 66th St., Bet. 26th & 27th St., ☎ +95 234446, . . This is a hard to find show, not even in Yangon. Here, they are featured as a regular show. Impressive considering that the marionette master is 80 years old, but the show itself is a bit odd and takes a certain type of appreciation to be able to enjoy. If you have difficulty understanding interpretive dance performed by humans, the puppet version may not fare much better with you. edit
- Mingun. The boat to the village of Mingun departs at 09:00 and returns at 13:00. MMK5,000 round trip - min 4 people on ferry or pay difference. It takes about one hour there and 45 minutes back, giving you three hours to explore. You can climb the Mingun Paya, but no shoes or socks are allowed and the stairs and the stones on top can be incredibly hot with no shaded parts to cool your feet, so be careful and sit down with your feet off the stones to avoid burning them. Other sites include the world's largest uncracked bell and Hsinbyume Paya, a white pagoda. edit
- movies at Diamond Palace, 78 street (near 35th street, very large building). Three movie theatres are at the top of this mostly empty complex. Very limited times & movies (12:30, 15:30, 18:30 in Nov 2013) but they sell out quickly so buy early. MMK2,500-3,000 per ticket. There's a nearby games arcade that's good for spending a little time. Be warned that the cinemas are cold and very noisy, people talk, make phone calls, receive phone calls etc all the way through, especially in dialogue heavy spots. edit
Dee Doke Waterfall on a weekday
- Dee Doke Waterfall. Small layered waterfalls, about 40 miles / 60 km outside Mandalay (1.5 hours by motorbike, 45 000 Kyat for a taxi). Not touristy at all (though crowded with locals bathing there most of the time), good for a full day trip, if you are tired of Pagodas and looking for some not-so-quiet nature.
Directions: from Mandalay's 35st, drive east towards Pyin U Lwin (there are pick-ups going this way as well) until you reach Ye Yoa village (about 20 miles / 30 km from Mandalay). In the village you'll see a petrol shop named "CCH Energy", and that's where you turn right (If you came with pick-up, you either rent motorbike / hitchhike the rest of the way, since no public transportation goes there). After a while, the road turns into a concrete road, continue driving for another 20 miles / 30 km (measurements are not precise!), with the Doatawaddy river on your right. Finally you'll see a small gorge and some shops at the bottom. It takes about 30 minutes to climb to the top floor. If you ever seen a waterfall in your life, and have a shower in your room, don't waste your time Depends on the season, the falls can be clear blue (Nov to Feb) or muddy (after storms/ heavy monsoon rains) and dirty and dry (March to May), good luck and choose the time wisely if you are thinking of visiting. edit
- A Glimpse of Mandalay Cooking Class, between 35th-36th st, between 57th-58th st, Yoe Yoe Lay Guesthouse, Mandalay (free pick up and drop off is included), ☎ +959444041944, . 9AM-6PM. It is a combination of cooking class and day tour. The first of its kind in Mandalay and Myanmar. The cooking class is located in a local village about 20 mins drive from Mandalay. You can get a hand 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. Recommended. 30$. edit
- Living Irrawaddy Dolphin Project: (34th between 78th-79th st, +95993339460, https://burmadolphins.com, daily departure, prices $95 1-day, $165 2-day, $225 3-day). The endangered Irrawaddy dolphin can be found in the Ayeyawaddy Dolphin Protected Area, a 74-km stretch of river located north of Mandalay, which is accessible by boat. The area is noted for communities who practice "cooperative fishing", the unique phenomenon of fishing and communicating with dolphins. Book a tour with the Living Irrawaddy Dolphin Project (https://burmadolphins.com), which has overnight and day trips available. Tours are designed to support dolphin conservation and fishing communities.
Mandalay, both due to its history as a former capital of Myanmar, and its position as a major trading centre between Myanmar and its neighbours in China, India and Bangladesh has a notable array of specialities both from various regions within Myanmar as well as from other countries. Cuisine from the Shan State (usually including fermented pastes, vegetables, and meats) is popular in Mandalay which has a notable 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 and leave space for Htou moun(to-moh), a traditional Burmese dessert sold only in Mandalay. Beware, it contains a lot of oil and is extremely sweet.
Concerning street food, there are plenty of dishes and places to explore all over Mandalay. Some even serve the extraordinary Tea Leaf salad (Leh-Peh).
- XinXing bakery, 84th street (Between 30th and 31st street). Traditional Burmese bakery with a nice, English-speaking owner who explains all the pastries to you. edit
- Man Myo Taw, 84th street (84th close to the corner of 32th street, to the right of the hotel entrance.). Very good Myanmar dishes. They only have 8 to choose from: Soup (Pork/Chicken), Fried Rice/Noddles, Pork Dumplings (huge), Chicken/Pork buns. The menu is in Burmese, but all with pictures. The dumplings are really good, and quite large. There are several floors of tables, and it looks like the best approach is to find a table yourself, then either wait or flag down a server. The name of the restaurant is on a yellow sign on top of the building. edit
- Mann Restaurant, 83rd Street (Between 25th & 26th Streets). A Chinese restaurant, frequented by locals, but not so much by foreigners. Has a number of basic Chinese meals, at around 2000k a plate. Easily recognised from the street by the abundant yellow and black advertising for a local whisky brand. (They do sell beer and alcohol here too, Myanmar Beer at 1500k a bottle compared to 2000k in Yangon.) edit
- The Square BBQ and Restaurant, 66th Street (Between 12th & 13th street). Formerly named The Golden Lion, this is about the only restaurant near the Mandalay Hill area. A bit pricier than others for this reason (5000kyat per dish) but good with mostly Chinese options. The underside of the cutlery still says 'Golden Leo'. edit
- Street Pancakes (Indian roti), SW corner of 81st & 26th (enter unmarked alley going west, next to Myawaddy Bank). In the southwest block of 81st & 26th streets, enter the unmarked alley besides the Myawaddy Bank during the afternoon to 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. edit
- The Pyay Restaurant, Corner of 30th and 82nd street, ☎ 02-22096. Clean little restaurant run by a Chinese family. Great dumplings, fried or boiled. Simple but tasty noodles, rice noodles, flat noodles and chicken soup. Also serve cold drinks, fresh fruit juice and home-made ice cream. 1000-2000. edit
- Koffee Korner, 70st St and 27th. Koffee Korner is a posh and modernly decorated spot where the young and hip middle class of Mandalay come to hang out. More than just a cafe, they have a wide arrangement of Thai/Chinese/Italian food and great drinks. Easily walkable on a dark and poorly lit street, this place will stand out to you by the noticeable decor. More expensive than many of the local spots, but good food and ambiance with air conditioning. edit
- Min Min Restaurant, 83rd Street, between 26th and 27th, ☎ 02-34449, 02-65010, 09-2001704. Myanmar Traditional Food & Chinese Food, Roasted Honey Duck & Chicken. Had their Duck with mushrooms and was great! Dont be fooled by the number people in the restaurant (although it does get full), a lot of locals seem to come here for their take-away. Halal place according to their card and thus indeed they don't sell alcohol.--~~~~ edit
- Shwe Gokai, 35th St (between 68th and 67th streets) (north side of 35th street the 4th shop west of 68th street). 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 street. It is next to a pottery store with many clay pots in front. edit
- Daung Lann Gyi Traditional Myanmar Salad Restaurant, 68th St (between 32nd and 33rd streets) (corner of 68th street and a small lane), ☎ 09-8552075. 9:30 Am to 9 PM. Quality Myanmar restaurant specialized in traditional salads: tea leaves salad, Indian Trumpet Blossom salad, Pennywort salad, tofu sald... to named a few, they have a long menu. Also serve good and fresh fruit juice ('machine-blended' for smoother texture/ 'hand-blended' for fruit-salad kind of experience). Popular among locals as well. MMK800(one salad)-18000(set for 6). edit
- Night food market, 76th Street (between 34th and 35th Street). Nightly food market stall selling mainly Chinese (Yunnan) food. Open air and more established eateries opposite each other. Good variety of Chinese food but main attraction are noodle soup (sold at basically every shop) and dumplings. Cheap, good, fast food and reasonably clean for Mandalay standards. Some shops have picture menus however most staff can only speak Burmese or Chinese. 1000 - 3000 kyats. edit
- Cafe Riviera, 78 street between 34 & 35 streets (1 Block south of Diamond Palace complex on the western side of the street). Cool spacious retreat from the hot dusty streets. Excellent Wi-Fi and comfy booths for lounging. Extensive menu and staff speak great English. Some of the food is a bit iffy but the drinks are delicious. Definitely recommend. edit
- Aye Myit Tar, No. 530, 81st Street (between 36th and 37th). Phone: 02-31627, 02-61816. Open: 9:00-22:00. Last order: 21:30. Traditional Burmese food, dishes from 1,000 kyats to 3,700 kyats! The restaurant serves traditional Burmese food meaning the meal comes with 4-5 side dishes, a basket of fresh vegetables and their dipping sauces, steamed rice and soup of the day for 1,500 kyats serving 2 people! Clean restaurant with friendly owner and very attentive staff making sure soup and side dishes are refilled and rice is hot! 6,600 kyats is the price for 2 people of full table of food and a bottle of water (December 2014). All dishes and condiments prepared in restaurant, side dishes and soup made fresh everyday. For those who have sweet tooth, try a couple of jaggery from the big bowl on each table. Strongly recommend for an authentic Burmese experience! edit
- Unnamed Curry Restaurant, Northeast corner of 84th and 30th. This buzzing family run eatery had an array of all the traditional curries that are typical to Myanmar, it also did a fried rice instead of just plain rice. The mutton curry was especially amazing! It is local so don't expect an English translator but a few simple hand actions with a lot of laughing will get the communication flowing. Not sure if this is open during the day but its quite busy at night and you won't miss it. When in Myanmar eat where the locals do at local prices! edit
Mandalay is notorious for being a rather dull town in the evenings. There are virtually no bars at all. If you want to drink alcohol, your best bet is to simply keep ordering drinks at the restaurant you ordered dinner from or take some beers back to your hotel room. Yangon also shuts down early, but in comparison to Mandalay, it is a raucous party town. Do not come to Mandalay for the nightlife.
- Nova Coffee, 37th St (between 79th and 80th streets) (north side of the street, on the first floor), ☎ 09402766721, . A nice new cafe in Mandalay with tasteful deco and great coffee. A little pricey for Mandalay standard but very good choice if you are missing a good shot of espresso, or a good piece of cheese cake, or a calm place with Wi-Fi to get works done. MMK 2,000-4,000. edit
- Nylon Ice Cream Bar, The corner of 83 and 25. Serves a variety of ice creams from chocolate to durian - delicious and surprisingly cheap (300 kyat and up). As of March 2013, lowest price on the menu is MMK600. Ice cream is interesting but not particularly creamy or rich. Kind of balances between ice cream and sorbet. Reports of problems with giardia, so eat at your own risk. edit
- Golden Coffee Shop, No. 80/4, 35th St between 88th and 89th Streets. Free Wi-Fi. Decently priced fruit shakes and coffees and a good array of snacks on display. Friendly staff try their best with English, but best take a phrasebook if you want to do more than point at pictures on menus. MMK500-2000 for drinks, similar for food/snacks. edit
Mandalay has several tourist-friendly lodgings. Many hotels face the Royal Palace.
Most budget guest houses are located around 25th St, between 81st and 84th Streets. There are many more than the maximum of 9 in each section that we list here. Prices are not much cheaper than Yangon.
- Ace Star Hostel, Rm (T2-8), Thazin Plaza, Pearl street, between 31st and 32nd, and between 77th and 78th, Mandalay (About 200-300m east of the train station), ☎ +95 9258411776, +95 9796521146, . New hostel in Mandalay (opened ~Jan 2015), great and place to stay. Centrally located, very close to the train station and just south of the palace. Dorms and rooms are very clean and have AC. Breakfast included, free towel, free tea and coffee all day long. Nice rooftop where you can chill. Good value for money, especially in Myanmar. Dorm USD12; superior dorm USD14; double USD30 (March 2015). edit
- AD1 Hotel, Eindawya Sintada St, Chan Aye Thar San Township (East of the Eindawya Pagoda), ☎ +95 2 34505, +95 965 02430. Great place to stay! Central location in the heart of Zeygo market. Rooftop is something special. Rooms are tacky and bathrooms dated but the price is right, also with stable free Wi-Fi (pass: ilovead.1). Sgl USD15, dbl USD25 (Feb 2013). The rooms on the first floor are mouldy, dark and smelly. USD15-25. edit
- Dreamland Guest House, Corner of 69th and 37th street, Maha Myaing, ☎ +95 9 402544997 +95 943068299 +95 2 32850 ([email protected]), . checkin: 13:00; checkout: 12:00. Awesome budget guesthouse in a unique building. Also an art school, music class and art studio. Very friendly and helpful staff who speak excellent English and can book you tickets to everywhere. Clean and lovely rooms with air-con and fan, even in the dorms. Homemade breakfast that changes menu everyday. Beautiful rooftop for sunrise/sunset-watching. Free and good Wi-Fi. Bicycles (MMK2000 per day) and motorbikes (auto 12,000, semi-auto 10,000, tracker 25,000-35,000, Royal Enfield 45,000, 24hrs ) for hire as well. dorm USD8, sgl USD13, dbl USD18, en suite dbl USD20, en suite sgl USD15. edit
- ET Hotel, 83rd and 23rd/24th Street, ☎ +95 2 65996. Nice and clean, free Wi-Fi (password: et832324 & ethotel.83 on upper floors) tours and transport booking, friendly staff. Breakfast and towels included. Cheapest rooms with shared bathroom and fan are on the roof - single USD12, double USD20 (Mar 2015). En suite twin room USD30 (rather poor value since the place is completely worn down and the beds are hard and also not clean, plus the pillows are ridiculously bad), room was quite big. Beware, many of the roof rooms offer little to no sound insulation, and you may be woken up by the construction crew talking loudly very early in the morning. edit
- Garden Hotel, 83rd and 25th St (around the corner from nylon hotel), ☎ +95 2 31884. checkin: Early check-in available.; checkout: 12:00. Friendly and helpful staff. The rooms are a bit worn but clean and there is room service daily. Toilet paper, soap, towel included. Double room was two single beds pushed together with separate bedding. Motorbikes MYK8000. Reasonable Wi-Fi (faster than surrounding hotels) in lobby only. Staff charge MYK2000 to book tickets. Cheapest in the 83rd St/25th St area in April 2014 (including Thingyan festival). Sgl USD20 air-con, USD11 fan (Mar 2015); Twin: USD20 air-con, USD15 fan (Apr 2014) all incl continental breakfast. But air-con might not work and you will have to remind them often. edit
- Hotel Mahar, 24th St. (around the corner from Garden Hotel). checkin: Early check-in available.; checkout: 12:00. Acceptable digs but no ambiance. Rooms are a bit worn but clean (sometimes you have to insist on the cleanliness bit). Fantastic water pressure and hot water! Staff helpful and breakfast included. Great working Wi-Fi in rooms. Sgl air-con/en suite USD18, dbl USD25, family USD35 (Dec 2013). edit
- Nylon Hotel, Corner of 83rd & 25th St, ☎ +95 2 33460 / 66550 / 60757, . checkin: early, if room available; checkout: 12:00. Air-con and fan in room - whilst the power is working the air con is really cold, fan and lights are hooked up to a 24/7 generator. Room/bathroom quality is standard for Myanmar at this price. Make sure that the air-con works before you commit to a room. Basic Breakfast and working but slow Wi-Fi in lobby only. Double bed wasn't too comfy, but sufficient. No email/website, but the weblink has video and info. Staff are polite, but passive and not overly helpful. Dbl en suite USD25, Sgl USD15 (Apr 2014). edit
- Peacock Lodge, 60th Street., Mandalay (Between 25th and 26th street), ☎ +95-2-61429( or 02 61429 from within Myanmar) Mobile phone: +95 920 42059 ([email protected]), . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. comfortable accommodation for couples and individuals looking for a quiet hotel within a few minutes (by bicycle or car) of the centre of Mandalay. USD35. edit
- Rich Queen, 87th Street, Bet: 26th&27th Streets, ☎ +95 2 260172, +95 991 028348. checkout: 12.00. Place is very basic but very clean. Showers have hot water which works even blackouts. There is usually no electricity from morning to 17:00 though (April 2013). Quite popular in backpackers. All rooms have air-con. Free Wi-Fi in the lobby. USD20-35. edit
- Royal Guesthouse, No. 41 25th Street (Between 82nd & 83rd Streets, Southern side.), ☎ +95 2 65697. checkout: 12:00. Popular, Lonely Planet "Our Pick". This place does fill up pretty quickly, so if you want to be sure - place a reservation before arriving in Mandalay. Cheaper rooms have fan and shared bathroom (Double rate as of August 15th 2012 USD25, single rate USD20) - more expensive have air-con and attached bathroom (Double rate as of February 2013 USD30). The air-con is on the government grid and so will go down during (common) blackouts. Friendly (well, not really) staff, and close to the Royal Palace. Bike rental (MYK1500 per day, negotiable) available across the road. $12/ Singles with fan and breakfast. edit
- Sabai Phyu Hotel, 81st and 25/26th Street, ☎ 39997. checkin: 9; checkout: 12:00. Semi-squalid, cell-like rooms on the first floor. Larger rooms with air-con and fan on floors 2 and 3. Some of the best water pressure in Burma. Free Wi-Fi working well. Very friendly staff except the owner, who can anger very quickly. Can help with booking a bus, but will charge more than double the price at the bus company. Rooms can be unclean: e.g bed sheets not changed for new guests (in case ask for clean ones). Not all rooms have hot water. Triple room in first floor without bathroom is USD30, sgl USD13. Rooms in the tops are more expensive. Dbl USD20 (Aug 2013) USD30. edit
- Stone Inn, No. Ta-7/ Nya-28, Bogyoke Ywa, Between 68th & 70th Streets and Theikpan Road & Thazin Streets, ☎ "+95280301, ([email protected]). checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. Comfortable accommodation for couples, family and individuals who looking for a quiet hotel quiet place within a few minutes (by bicycle or car) of the centre of Mandalay, new business district of Mingalar Garden City and Mandalay Convention Centre Project. Free Wi-Fi , tea/coffee facility, hot & cold water, friendly staff will help to book for a highway bus, airticket USD35. edit
- Yadanar Theingi, 83rd St between 26th and 27th Streets, Chan Aye Thar Township, ☎ +95 2 36968, +95 2 36700. checkin: 12.00; checkout: 12.00. Opened in 2014. One of the cleanest hotels in Myanmar. LED TV and mini bar. All amenities included. (Towels, soap, bath foam, toilet paper, free coffee and jug kettle, hair dryer, free bottled water, bathroom slippers etc.) Early check in possible. Buffet breakfast with many choices including rice, bread, noodles, etc. Large banquet hall. Reasonable prices of food, and 24 hour service. Fast Wi-Fi compared to other hotels. Air-con sgl USD29 (''Mar 2014''). edit
- Yoe Yoe Lay Guesthouse, Between 35th and 36th street & 57th and 58th street, Shwe Gal Pwar (About 10min East of downtown. You can also take local pickup bus number 11 from 35th street: MYK300), ☎ +95 944 404 1944 ([email protected]), . checkin: 12:30; checkout: 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 very kind and helpful. Kind of 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. Only 5 mins walk from Eastern Bus station (buses that go to Pyin Oo Lwin, Hsipaw, Kyaukme,etc). It is about 10 mins drive to major attraction sites. air-con ''en suite'' dbl: USD30, shared bathroom: USD25, 4-6 bed dorm: USD7 per person (7$ price does not include breakfast. You can have it for addional 2,000 kyat). edit
- 79 Living Hotel, 79th Street (Between 29th and 30th Streets), . New and popular hotel located at the back side of the train station. Comfortable rooms for around $. Fast Wi-Fi in all rooms for free. Helpful staff. USD40 (when booked online) incl good buffet breakfast (Nov 2013). edit
- Hotel Mandalay, 78th Street (between 37th and 38th Streets), . Next to shopping centre with a large and modern supermarket on the ground floor. Hotel rooms are extra large however rooms are old and run down. Bed is hard and internet connection is poor and very slow. The room is fully decorated with wooden furniture and has nice views of Mandalay city from the top floor. The capsule shower is interest but water pressure is okay. Price (May 2013) with breakfast was USD95. No credit card facilities. edit
- Royal Power Hotel, 80th St (between 27th and 28th Streets), ☎ +95 2 24676, . checkin: 06:00. Clean, comfortable en suite rooms, buffet breakfast included, Wi-Fi, inexpensive minibar in rooms. Ideal for couples or sharing room with friends. Many rooms also have a view towards the palace. Most guests are better-off Burmese, but the hotel is equally-well set up to cater for foreigners, and all staff speak English. The early check-in is perfect for those arriving in Mandalay in the small hours of the morning on night buses. Beware of possible confusion with the name: this used to be called simply Royal Hotel, as their webpage indicates, and this is NOT the same place as "Power Hotel" listed in other guidebooks/websites. twin/dbl USD45. edit
- SMART Hotel, No. 167, 28th St (between 76th & 77th), ☎ +95 2 32 682, . Newly built hotel in 2013, just south of the Mandalay palace Comfortable, but rooms are already showing their age. Wi-Fi is unreliable and slow. If you choose additional services (taxi, laundry etc.) they will add on hidden extra charges through a conversion from dollars to Kyatt and vice-versa. Breakfast is decent, but otherwise over-priced. USD70/night. edit
- Zegyo Hotel, 84th Street (Between 27th and 28th Streets, next to Zegyo market), ☎ +95 2 39494, 39495, 39990, 39991 ([email protected], fax: +95 2 39992), . Near busiest market of Mandalay. Clean rooms. Bungalows at the top of bldg. edit
- Mandalay Hill Resort, No.(9), Kwin (416.B), 10th Street (the foot of Mandalay Hill), ☎ +95 2 35638 ([email protected], fax: +95 2 35639), . Peaceful location, clean rooms. edit
- Sedona Hotel Mandalay (Mandalay Sedona), No. 1 Junction of 26th and 66th St (opposite to the South-East corner of Mandalay moat), ☎ +95 2 36488, . A Singaporean-owned hotel built using a blend of traditional Burmese and modern architecture. Good view of the Royal Palace and Mandalay Hill as it is directly facing them. edit
Mandalay is a haven for drug kingpins and is a main trading centre of illicit drugs (but don't expect to get offered any). In 2005, an explosion occurred at Zegyo Market. That being said, Mandalay is generally a very safe city.
In 2014 there was also religious violence at Zegyo and throughout the area which caused a curfew to be put into place.
Females should be careful with motorbike taxis after dark.
Taxi called by hotels are more safe than random hiring outside.
If you plan to go overland to India, check the situation carefully and organize the trip well in advance. Since the summer 2014 it is possible to enter India overland from Myanmar but some restrictions apply. You will need to get a special permit through an agency (in Yangon for example). Prices for the permit vary (between USD50 and USD100 were reported) as well as the proceeding time (up to 20 business days in some agencies).
Similarly, check the situation if you plan to enter into Thailand via Tachileik/ Mae Sai. While it is theoretically possible, the road is periodically closed to foreigners. As of April 2015, the overland route eastward into northern Thailand at Tachileik is blocked across central Shan State, between Taunggyi and Kengtung, ostensibly due to the ongoing Shan insurgency (Internal conflict in Burma: Shan State). Flights are available from Mandalay via Heho (close to Inle Lake) to the border town Tachilek (4 days/week)
- Amarapura - buses / shared minivans leave from the corner of 29th and 84th regularly. Expect to pay around 200-500MMK pp.
- Bagan - Ferry departs at 07:00, costs USD40 (Apr 2013). Daily service (arrival 17:00). Read more in Get-in section on Bagan's page. Mini buses to Bagan ("OK express" company) leave at 8am, 10am and two times in the afternoon, taking 5h to arrive and costing 9,000 MMK (June 2016). If booking via your hotel they may charge you 10,000 MMK but it is very easy to find a travel agent and book through them instead. You can ask to be picked up at your hotel no problems. Alternative, (Oct 2018) MGRG offers Mandalay To Bagan cruise, departs in the morning 6:30am-7:00am, the journey is approximately 10 hours, arrive Bagan about 4:00pm-5:00pm. The cost is USD42 which includes breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. MGRG cruise is NOT daily service, don't turn up the jetty and expect to buy ticket on the sport, but check with the hotel/travel agent for the available date and buy from them. Travel agent normally includes free hotel pickup up to jetty.
- Pyin U Lwin - shared taxis come pick you up (MMK6500 back seat, MMK7000 front, 1.5h). Pickups leave from the corner of 27th and 82nd (MMK1500, 2 hours)
- Mingun - boats leave from the Mingun jetty (all drivers know it) at 09:00 and return at 13:00. MMK5000 return, Passport number is required (bring your passport or take a photo of your passport page on your phone). Upon arrival at Mingun, tourist needs to buy a "Mingun - Sagaing Archaeological Admission ticket" which costs MMK5000. The ticket stated for "1 Day Only", but generally you can re-use it on your next day visit to Sagaing.
- Hsipaw - Bus leaves at 06:00 and 14:30 (MMK5,000), 5 hours. Duhtawadi Express (31st between 81st & 82nd Street) ☎ +95 2 61938
- Yangon - Overnight buses at 19:00 and 21:00 (MMK10,500), leaves from the Highway Bus Station, 10 hours. You can also take a bumpy 16 hour train ride that is a fantastic cultural experience itself.
|This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!