Mandalay is a city and former royal capital in northern Myanmar (formerly Burma) on the Irrawaddy River. In its center is the restored Mandalay Palace from the Konbaung Dynasty, surrounded by a moat. Mandalay Hill provides views of the city from its summit, which is reached by covered stairway. At its foot, the Kuthodaw Pagoda houses hundreds of Buddhist-scripture-inscribed marble slabs.
Every day, thousands of colourfully dressed faithful venerate Mahamuni's 13ft-tall seated Buddha, a nationally celebrated image that’s popularly believed to be some 2000 years old. Centuries of votary gold leaf applied by male devotees (women may only watch) has left the figure knobbly with a 6in layer of pure gold…except on his radiantly gleaming face, which is ceremonially polished daily at 4am.
Lavished in carved panels, this fine teak monastery-temple is noted for its carvings, particularly the interior gilded Jataka scenes (past-life stories of the Buddha). The building once stood within the Mandalay Palace complex as the royal apartment of King Mindon, who died inside it in 1878.
The 1990s reconstruction of Mandalay's royal palace features more than 40 timber buildings built to resemble the 1850s originals. Climb the curious spiral, timber-walled watchtower for a good general view. The palace's most striking structure is a soaring multilayered pyramid of gilt filigree above the main throne room. Today, much of the palace complex outside the front chambers is in serious disrepair, dusted with rubble and bird droppings.
To get a sense of Mandalay’s pancake-flat sprawl, climb the 760ft hill that breaks it. The walk up covered stairways on the hill's southern slope is a major part of the experience; note that you'll need to go barefo…