Cross U-Bein Bridge & observe everyday life at Mahagandayon Monastery – see why an Amarapura day trip from Mandalay should be on every Myanmar itinerary!
Amarapura Day Trip: History
Since the fall of Bagan in the 14th century to the British colonisation of 1885, the capitals of Myanmar have rotated between the cities of Amarapura, Sagaing and Inwa (before it was transferred, for the last time, to Mandalay in 1860).
The cities lie on both banks of the old Ayeyawady (Irriwadday) River, within a 30km span around Mandalay.
Yet, roaming among the long-abandoned sites in the rural countryside – in what were once the centres of Burma – the importance of a royal past, and proximinity to the modern world, are difficult to grasp.
Numerous pagodas, stupas, monasteries and villages are scattered across the area, within and outside of the cities.
Together with Mandalay and Mingun, Amarapura, Sagaing & Inwa make up the ancient cities of Upper Myanmar that are currently under consideration for inclusion on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Amarapura Day Trip: Hiring a Taxi
A visit to Amarapura, Sagaing and Inwa is a popular day trip from Mandalay.
A private taxi was hired for 28,000 kyat / $28.00 in 2014 for 4 people. You can plan your own itinerary.
A recommended itinerary from us here at DIY Travel HQ begins with:
- a stop at the Mahagandayon Monastery in Amarapura for the lunchtime procession
- followed by visits to Sagaing and Inwa
- before returning to Amarapura for sunset at U-Bein Bridge
This post will cover the visits to Mahagandayon Monastery & U-Bein Bridge.
Check out our separate post for information on visiting the ancient royal cities of Sagain & Inwa.
Amarapura Day Trip: Itinerary
#1. Mahagandayon Monastery in Amarapura
As with the Kha Khat Wain Kyaung in Bago, Mahagandayon Monastery is one of the largest instructional monasteries in Myanmar.
Likewise, at 10am everyday, monks living in the monastery come out to receive lunch.
Here, they do not receive food or gifts from donors along the way, but rather, with alms bowl and tea towel in hand, the monks make their way silently to the dining hall.
The older ones in red robes drape the towel over their left arm, the younger novices over their right shoulder.
Volunteers prepare and deliver the lunch, to up to 1,000 monks (or more) daily.
For Buddhists, it is not only considered a duty but also an honour to serve the monastery.
Here, too, the monks receive gifts and goods, before sitting down to the meal.
The grounds of the monastery are vast and one is free to wander and explore.
Schools, laundries, prayer rooms, living quarters, kitchens and more open out onto leafy streets.
It is a fascinating and authentic insight into everyday monastic living.
#2. U-Bein Bridge in Amarapura
The world’s longest teak-pole bridge is crossed by hundreds of locals and monks everyday, making their way home or to monasteries on both sides.
It’s certainly easier than crossing the Gokteik viaduct!
Built in 1849 using over 1000 teak posts, the bridge is curved to better weather the wind.
Most of the original beams remain, though some have been replaced by concrete slabs.
As the suns sets, the atmosphere is tranquil and enchanting.
Coming to the end of a day, the people are happy, relaxed and relaxing, under the 5 shaded rest areas along the bridge.
Fishermen cast their lines into the shallow water of the Taungthaham Lake – the setting is surreal and other-worldly.
Distant trees and low-lying shrubs, scattered buildings and stupas, the horizon runs alongside a flat plateau.
Black, white and brown birds surround the perimeter of the lake, men and their motorbikes relax on stools at the water’s edge – dwarfed by the soaring braches of two solitary, twisting trees.
Know Before You Go
Private taxi hire from Mandalay: 28,000 kyat / $28.00 for 4 people, whole day (including visits to Sagaing & Inwa Island)
Entrance fees: Free – technically you need a Mandalay Archaeological Zone ticket to Amarapura & Inwa but we were not checked for this
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*** The Final Word – Don’t miss Mahagandayon Monastery & U-Bein Bridge on your visit to Mandalay ***
Which is more interesting to you, Mahagandayon Monastery or U-Bein Bridge?
Not recommended DIY travel; take a tour instead
Visited in June 2014