Mandalay was the last royal capital of Burma, and beyond independence in 1948 the city continues to be at the heart of Myanmar’s cultural and religious activity. Along with the exceptional royal palace and a collection of other beautiful dynastic buildings, it’s impossible to visit Mandalay and not make the additional trip through to the Ancient City of Bagan – without doubt one of the world’s most sublime archaeological sites.
Myanmar used to be the exclusive preserve of intrepid explorers, but in recent years this extraordinary country has become much more receptive to tourism of the more mainstream variety. You’ll discover that Burmese traditions have remained endearingly steadfast in the face of the tourism boom, and the temples, mosques, dress and food are every bit as authentic as they always were. Mandalay in particular has so much to explore!
The Ayeyarwady River – also known as the Irrawaddy – floats gently by to the west of Mandalay, and Rudyard Kipling’s immortalisation of the beauty and romance of the region certainly doesn't over-glamourise the real thing. Take a hot air balloon ride at dawn to see the mists rise from the riverbank and the surrounding forests. Explore the city in a cycle rickshaw, or visit the array of local craft shops on every other street corner. There’s plenty to discover!
Mandalay is well-served by SilkAir, making it a fantastic option for authentic South East Asian escapism. While the city itself is full of wonderful experiences, taking a paddle steamer along the river to the heart-stopping temple city of Bagan. The city originally had over 4,450 temples, and with half remaining to this day, it’s a site which compares in stature to anything Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat have to offer – but without the impenetrable crowds!