Mandalay which is one of the biggest cities of Myanmar is actually famous for its 3 surrounding ancients cities. Crazy, right?
The amazing and intricate towns scattered around Mandalay were once part of the residences of the Myanmar King from 1315 to 1857. Most of the monuments and stupas were destroyed during the II World War but many Buddhist temples still stand and today the whole area is visited by many tourists and religious people from all over the world.
The 3 cities are Innwa, Sagaing and Amarapura and we really wanted to visit them while we were in Mandalay, but as we do, we avoided the crowds and rented a motorbike to tour those 3 cities in 1 day.
DYOT: 3 Ancients Cities of Mandalay
If you, like us, enjoy a little adrenaline and wouldn’t mind taking the road like we did, do as the locals and rent a motorbike for the day, which should cost you around AU$10-12.
Start early to avoid the crazy traffic (it will get crazy nonetheless) and kick off the day by visiting the Mahamuni Buddha Temple in Mandalay.
The temple was packed but beautiful. The Buddha inside was covered by gold leaves that only men can touch. Many visitors and faithful Buddhist people visit the temple daily to pray and admire the beauty of this incredible temple and its golden Buddha.
Tip: If you take your camera, beware you’ll have to pay a small fee to take photos. So worth it though!
Next off, get on the bike and head to your first city:
Less than 30km from the city centre of Mandalay, it’s Sagaing, a city clustered with several temples around its hilly landscape. We spent the whole morning visiting and exploring several of them, following the pathways through monasteries and bumping into oddly designed temples.
In one of the last temples we stumbled upon, an unfinished project was being completed but the care for Buddha was being diligently done.
We could probably spend the whole day going around and visiting every single temple as the little town itself was fairly small and welcoming. Roads were mainly good (for Myanmar standards) and there were several restaurants around.
The city of Innwa was next and just a few more kilometres from Sagaing. We didn’t like it that much to be fairly honest, although we quite loved the old unsealed roads and the lively locals around. Tourists usually take a horse cart to travel around which adds quite a vibe to the area.
We visited this temple in ruins:
We didn’t even found the name of it nor any other information, but the temple is quite difficult to miss when you drive past. Entirely destructed inside but with over half of its exterior pretty intact, this was a beautiful place to explore.
After that, we visited Mae Nu Oak Kyaung Monastey, one of the highlights in the city. Still highly visited and popular by locals, the area is pretty ‘tourist-y’ and you have to buy a pass to enter (which is valid for all temples in Mandalay).
Inside, just the wooden structures and a few Buddha images survived.
After having lunch in a restaurant by the river in Innwa we headed to the last city of the tour:
No visit to Myanmar would be complete without enjoying the sunset in Amarapura. Before heading to the U-Bein bridge, we stopped at the monastery of Mahagandhayon.
A must-visit to simply walk by and observe the busy monks at work.
Before the sun sets, get going to one of (if not) the best sunset spots in the country. The U-Bein bridge is also famous for being the longest teak bridge in the world and you can totally understand why this place has such a reputation.
During the dry season the water recedes and tourists flock to the river bed to sit down and wait for the sunset. The boats are packed with eager photographers waiting to witness the spectacle.
The area is full and sometimes is difficult to find a spot, so get there a little earlier. We found a spot to chill and drink some fresh coconuts while we waited.
All the wait was worth it and this is what we’ve got:
Let the sight sink for a moment and head back walking through the busy teak bridge (a little nerve-wreaking if you are afraid of heights).
Head back to Mandalay and save those amazing memories forever!
Have you travelled to Myanmar and explored the Ancients Cities of Mandalay? What did you like the most? Have you seen the U-Bien sunset?
Larissa & Jean