The city of Mandalay itself doesn’t have too many tourist attractions. The royal palace is supposed to be amazing, but it’s a reconstruction. The original was destroyed in World War 2. It was also constructed using forced labor, so I didn’t visit. There is an important pagoda, said to be the second most important after Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon.
But the main attraction is the countryside. On my second day in Mandalay I rented a motorcycle and its driver to take me around to these nearby villages.
Sagaing is set in the hilly countryside outside of Mandalay. Here, you can climb up over 300 steps and get a 360-degree view of the pagoda-dotted landscape. At the top you can see the Irawaddy River as well as visit other nearby temples.
The clay pots filled with water is something you see throughout Myanmar. During my tour of Dharavi Slum in Bombay, they said a clay pot is like a poor man’s refrigerator. It keeps water cool and bacteria away. They just usually don’t have a designer cup attached!
Innwa Village is largely preserved traditional village with some amazing sites to see. First, there is the Bagaya Monastery, still in use, made entirely of teak wood. There is the “Leaning Tower” of Innwa. Lastly, there is the Mahar Aung Mye Bonzan Monastery. Apart from these sites, you also get to see colorful village life.
Buying A Burmese Shirt
In between Innwa and Amarapura, the motorcycle driver stopped at a textiles factory. You can see how the clothes are made using cotton or silk, and then are invited to buy something. The driver gets some money regardless and it’s a common tactic in many places. I knew this would happen going in, and the boat ride on Inle Lake was far worse.
I got to try on traditional Burmese clothing like this shirt and the skirt-like longyi that men wear.
I really liked the traditional Burmese shirt and saw it as a good formal shirt to wear since I have none right now. It was a relatively expensive purchase on my side, but I think it looks nice.
A similar stop was made at a goldsmith’s workshop. There they take pure gold and create art out of it as well as golden leaves. These leaves are eaten as locals say it helps the stomach and digestion. But they are also used to give all the pagodas their golden color. They really are golden, applied one small leaf at a time by devotees. Below a few pictures and a video.
Amrapura has a 1.2km/4000ft long bridge made of teak wood. On the other side of the bridge is a village with several temples and religious structures. The main draw, however, is the impressive bridge and the beautiful sunset you can see from it every evening.
This was truly an incredible day full of stimulation for all my senses. The Burmese countryside is so, so beautiful, so green, and still cultivated using traditional methods. The people, as always, were so nice. I don’t know. It was just a wonderful day!