Mandalay, the royal capital of Myanmar’s last dynasty, is located between the Ayeyarwaddy river and Shan plateau. Mandalay is described as the “center of culture”, city of arts and crafts, the gate way to upper Myanmar, trading center of products from all directions. The square pattern of streets, bustling motor cycles and bicycle riders, low buildings, over 150 years old palace wall and moat are the most visible feature of Mandalay. Mandalay is also famous for having revered gilded Mahamuni Buddha image. Everyday pilgrims and monks perform “ face wash ceremony” for the image at 04:00 in the morning.
The old capitals- Amarapura, Inwa, Sagaing and Mingun monuments can be reached from Mandalay by can or boat in less one hour. The hill station Pyin Oo Lwin is located about two hours drive from Mandalay. All these sites offer a great variety of scenic beauty and the life style of local people.
King Bodawpaya (1781-1819) of the Konbaung Dynasty first founded Amarapura to be his new capital in 1782. Amarapura means "City of Immortality". It is situated 11 km to the south of Mandalay. King Bagyidaw, grandson of Bodawpaya shifted the capital back to Innwa in 1823 but King Tharrawaddy his successor again took the capital back to Amarapura in 1837 and it remained as the capital until King Mindon built Mandalay in 1857 and shifted the capital there in 1860. Today, little remains of the old Amarapura palace, two masonry buildings - the treasury building and the old watch tower. Tombs of King Bodawpaya who died there on 5th June 1819, located to the north of Shwezaga Pagoda, and also of King Bagyidaw (died on 15th October 1846), located east of Pyatthat Gyi Village. These two white washed brick mausoleums have inscriptions in English and Myanmar. They are actually small chedis (pagodas)
enshrining the cremated bones of the two famous kings. There is another smaller chedi enshrining the bones of King Tharrawaddy who died in Amarapura on 17th November 1846. This is located to the north of the palace site close to the present family lines of the 3rd Battalion, Electrical and Mechanical Engineersl Corps II. Today the area is known for silk and cotton weaving, and bronze casting. The most famous spot is U Bein bridge about three quarter of a mile crossing the Taung-tha-man Inn (lake). It is the longest teak bridge in the world and is about two centuries old. It was constructed in 1849 from old planks and timber posts of dismantled houses in Sagaing and Inwa. There are now 1086 posts and 482 spans.
Inwa was the seat of 33 kings for 377 years from the mid 14th century to mid 19th century. Its official name is Ratana Pura, City of Gems. It is located about 21 km southwest of Mandalay, on an island formed by the Ayeyarwaddy River and the smaller Myit Nge River, and a canal on the third side. Inwa was not a capital for one stretch of time. King Thado Minbya founded it in 1364 and it remained a capital with 17 rulers in succession until 1554 when Tabinshwe Hti of the Toungoo Kingdom which lies further south, invaded it. Again in 1597 King Nyaung Yan of the Toungoo dynasty made his capital in Inwa and a period in history is known as the Nyaung Yan Period due to his move. 10 kings reigned there until 1751 under the rule of King Maha Dhamma Razadhippadi. This time King Banya Dala of Bago, a Mon Kingdom of the
south, conquered it. In 1765, King Hsinbyu Shin of the last Konbaung Dynasty founded his capital there until his descendent King Bodawpaya shifted the capital in 1783 to Amarapura. Again, King Bagyidaw of the same dynasty moved back to Inwa in1823 and his heir King Thayarwaddy again moved to Amarapura in 1838.
Inwa became capital for four times, an unusual practice, as kings liked to find new sites that they felt were more auspicious. lnwa even now is a lush, green place shaded with brilliant green tamarind trees and probably in the old days it was as beautiful if not more so. One can still see the inner city walls and gate, and the moat, as well as brick lined walk-ways used by the king now meandering past village houses rather then palaces. There are two beautiful traditional type of monastic architecture, one of wood and the other of brick, the Bagaya and Maha Aung Mye Bon San Monasteries. Bagaya Monastery has 267 whole teak tree trunks, 18m high, as pillars, and
in the ceiling 44 gigantic beams. Its doors are carved with relief figures of celestials holding lotus flowers. It is a beautiful example of traditional Myanmar construction. As palace pavilions were built of wood, no trace of them remains and only the 18m high watch tower, leaning slightly to one side stands alone in the empty fields. There are still more places- to the west of Bagaya Monastery, there is a row of identical stupas but of a style unknown in most of central Myanmar.
Although we cannot see the royals today the villagers living in Inwa give a good opportunity to study their rural life. They work as boatmen, fishermen, horse-cart driver, farmer, and weavers of both fabrics and reed mats. They even make the alms bowls of monks, hammering them out of sheet metal before coating with black organic lacquer, and there are workshops where women spend their days rolling cheroots with their babies playing in the dust beside them. In the early mornings and evenings some gather by the riverbanks to wash clothes or bathe, but many houses have their own wells. The hidden treasures of Inwa provide a glimpse into the life of villagers of today and Royals of three hundred years ago and it is a place well worth a visit.
Sagaing lies 21km south-west of Mandalay on the west bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River. Sagaing became the capital of an independent Shan kingdom around 1315 after the fall of Bagan. Its period of importance was short. In 1364 king Thado Minbya, moved his capital across the river to Inwa. From 1760 to 1764, Sagaing was once again the capital. Today, Sagaing is known as a meditation centre. Myanmar all over the country would visit Sagaing hills for the purpose of religious retreat. On the Sagaing hills you see the hilltops each crested with a pagoda where over 600 monasteries for monks and nuns are located for Buddhist studies and meditation. The Padamyazedi dates from 1300 while the U min Thonze or thirty caves pagoda has many Buddha images in a crescent shaped colonnade. Mural paintings can be seen in the
Tilawkaguru cave temple, which was built around 1672. At the nearby village of Ywahtaung you can see silver workers producing bowls and other silver items by traditional methods. The most impressive Soon Oo Pon Nya Shin Pagoda nearby was constructed in 1312. The view of Sagaing from Soon Oo Pon Nya Shin and its approach is marvelous. The huge Kaunghmudaw Pagoda is 10 km beyond the town of Sagaing. The enormous dome rises 46 m (151 feet) in the shape of a perfect hemisphere and was modeled after the Mahaceti Pagoda in Srilanka.
Mingun is located on the western bank of the river Ayeyarwaddy, approximately 7 miles north of Mandalay. It is reached by ferryboats across the river and takes 1 hour for up-river and 40 minutes for down-river. It is famous for many Buddhist shrines, monasteries, meditation centres and monuments of historical and cultural importance. A boat trip to Mingun is pleasant with plenty of life on the river . Mingun Pahtodawgyi was built by King Bodaw Badon in 1791. From the top of the Pagoda one can view the scene of Mingun and Ayeyawady river. The pagoda was left unfinished. Two enormous statues of lions faces the Ayeyawaddy river. This unfinished structure was badly damaged with cracks by the earthquake of 1838 but it is still the largest brick base in the world. King Bodawpaya dedicated a big bronze bell
( 89 tons) near Patodawgyi casting with gold, silver ornaments and jewellery into the bronze. It is the world's biggest ringing bell. Myatheindan pagoda was built by King Bagyidaw in 1816 representation of the Sulamani Pagoda which according to the Buddhist plan of the cosmos, stands atop at Mount Meru. The seven wavy terraces around the pagoda represent the seven mountain ranges around Mount Meru. This pagoda was badly damaged in 1838 by a quake but King Mindon restored it in 1874.
Monywa is a city in central Myanmar and situated on the eastern bank of the Chindwin River. It lies 136 km north-west of Mandalay. Monywa serves as a major trade center for India and Burma through Kalay Myo road and Chindwin river.
About 20 kilometres before the town there is unusual Buddhist temple complex Thanbuddhae pagoda. The pagoda was completed in 1952. There are many different Buddha images, row upon row in ascending tiers in niches along the walls. The total number is 512, 028 an amazing figure! The entrance is guarded by a pair of white elephants which are sacred and auspicious in Buddhist symbolism. The annual pagoda festival held in the beginning of the Myanmar month of Tazaungmone (usually around November) which goes on for several days.
Two miles east from Thanboddhae, there are one thousand Bodhi trees (Ficus religiosa) complex, large reclining Buddha image, elegant standing Buddha image and lying Buddha image and sitting Buddha images. One can view the surrounding landmarks from Aung Sakkya Pagoda
Poewin Hill and Sheweba Hill
From Monywa, one can take the ferry across to the village of Nyaungbingyi and then continue the 25 km to Poewin Taung cave complex is famous for its cluster of ancient art-works. The shape of the hill looks like a capsized racing boat. Poe-Win Taung is a place where Myanma ancient sculptures, mural paintings and natural sand-stones can be studied in one spot at the same time. The hill has about 974 caves and over 4400 Buddha statues_ some intact, some cracked and some worn away almost completely by rain-washed. The caves’ murals are dating to the 17th and 18th centuries. Most are exhibited the Inwa style though some may date as far back as the 14th to16th centuries. A covered stairway climbs a hill to the main cave shrine, but there are dozens of large and small caves in the area filled with old Buddha images. On the next mountain – Shwe Ba Taung – there are 46 more recently built caves features unique pavilions cut from the surrounding sandstone and filled with plain Buddha images. There, temples and caves are curved out of volcanic rocks and inside walls of some caves are decorated with 13 century to 18 century mural paintings.
Pyin Oo Lwin
Pyin Oo Lwin is located 69km north-east from Mandalay. Over 1080 metres above sea-level, Pyin Oo Lwin is a popular hill station. It is well known for its colonial style houses with large compound and pine trees, eucalyptus and silver-oak abound in town. Delightfully cool and pleasant the whole year round.
NORTHERN SHAN STATE:
Sipaw in the North of Shan State, at an elevation of 1370'feet, is cool in the evenings. It is an ancient Shan town, the local capital of a Shan principality of the same name which according to its legendary history goes back to year 58 B.C. It is said to have been founded by Sao Hkun Hkam Saw, the fourth son of the Sawbwa (Saohpa) of Mong Mao named Sao Hkun Lai. The Bamar people pronounce the name as Thibaw and the last king of Myanmar, King Thibaw (1875-85 AD) got his name from this town. Sipaw has a large local market in the center of the town, with cinemas, small guest houses and restaurants near the bus stands. The old wooden traditional Haw, Palace of the Sawbwa is at the northern end of the town and the main pagoda, the Maha Myatmuni Phaya is right at the southern end. The roads are parallel to the Namtu or Dokhtawaddy River with its clear, cool waters against a backdrop of hill and mountains. It's fertile valley an ideal place to grow fruit and vegetables. The present town is almost 400 years old.
Capital of the northern Shan State, major settlement is Shan and Chinese being bordering with Yunan province of China. The famous Burma Road built by the British before the War, interests with Ledo Road leading into the Yunnan province. The highlight about this trip is to enjoy the most spectaculars scenic views of the Shan plateau traveling one way by winding road with elbow crossing hilly drive and the other way by train with twisting and turning hilly trek. Crossing over historic Gokehtaik viaduct will be an unforgettable experience. There is a hot spa near Lashio which is always crowded with local pilgrimages to enjoy the nature warmed both of they believe bathing here will purify body and mind.