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Mandalay – City that Bears Little Resemblance to its Name

Mandalay has an enchanting sounding name which bears no resemblance to the city.

Like most of Myanmar there is absolutely no consideration for foreign tourists who are targets for exorbitant demands. There are no metered taxis and the taxi app Grab does not work here.


Unfortunately, the better and more honest operators get tarred with the same brush and it results in many unpleasant haggling confrontations. 

For example, in Yangon a Grab fare for a forty-minute ride at 5 in the morning and a one hour trip any other time of the day was MMK8 000. In complete contrast a short, maximum, 10-minute ride in Mandalay was MMK5 000.

Mandalay Archeological Zone

The fee you pay for the Mandalay Archaeological Zone gets you into a number of attractions including:

  • Atumashi Kyaung
  • Cultural Museum Mandalay
  • Kuthodaw Paya
  • Mahamuni Paya
  • Mandalay Palace - Checked
  • Paleik Paya
  • Shwenandaw Kyaung - Checked
  • Entrance to the ancient cities of nearby Amarapura and Inwa

However, the tickets were only checked at Mandalay Palace and Shwenandaw Kyaung.

 On our first sightseeing day we first visited the Mandalay Palace. We had to walk half the complete perimeter (and its massive and it was hot!) to get to the only entrance and then walk back to get to the actual palace. From what we could see and you are only allowed on a few restricted roads was that this is just a military barracks.

Visiting this Palace is a complete waste of time. It's tatty and in need of major repair. Consisting of red with gold trim painted wooden buildings and a similarly coloured tower. The views over these buildings suit the phrase “nice from far, far from nice” … the pictures look good!

After this disappointing visit we then went on to some nearby pagodas or payas.

  • Kyauktawgyi Pagoda
  • Sandamuni Paya
  • Kuthodaw Paya

Sightseeing by Taxi

The next day we negotiated a half day sightseeing trip with a taxi and visited.

  • Mandalay Hill
  • Shwenandaw Kyaung
  • Chanthar Gyee Pagoda
  • Shwe In Bun Monastery
  • Gold Leaf factory and shop

Even reading the history and stories about these does not prevent one from becoming “templed” or “pagodaed” out.

Big Buddhas small Buddhas, seating Buddhas, lying Buddhas, portly Buddhas, thin Buddhas, masculine looking Buddhas and feminine looking Buddhas.

There are some fascinating stories about the rulers who commissioned these but many involved overindulgence, excess and superstition. Massive wastes of money and effort. Even lives lost.

As you walk barefoot around the grubby dusty floors. Cobwebs hanging down add to the unkempt appearances.

Many are extremely neglected the timber is dry and cracked and there are incongruent odd repairs.

Walking in Mandalay

Pavements are often non-existent, complete panels are missing. The storm water drains and canals are filled with stagnant water and rubbish. There is a lingering smell of sewage which intensifies as you walk along from place to place.

In Summary

  • In our over 4 months in Asia Mandalay was the only real disappointment.
  • Mandalay sounds interesting but it isn’t.
  • In retrospect we should have rather gone to Inle Lake.

About the Author Patrick Millerd

On a mission to help others expand their horizons. Who knows where they can end? Passionate about learning and embracing the changing world. Adventurous and skeptical but optimistic!

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