Overview of Mandalay Palace

Things to See & Do in Mandalay Archaeological Zone

Mandalay Archaeological Zone ticket covers all the main sightseeing spots in the city – find out what’s included & see for yourself what’s worth visiting.

Mandalay Archaeological Zone

A Mandalay Archaeological Zone combo ticket (10,000 kyat / $10.00 in 2014) is required for the following sites:

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

Of them all, only Mandalay Palace and Shwenandaw Kyaung checked for tickets.

But we here at DIY Travel HQ feel that they are both outstanding attractions, making the ticket somewhat necessary.

Besides, the many things to see & do is one big reason by Mandalay is better than Yangon 🙂

Hall room at Atumashi Kyaung

The stunning hall inside Atumashi Kyaung, part of Mandalay Archaeological Zone

  • #1. Mandalay Palace & Fort

Like Beijing’s Forbidden City, the Mandalay Palace & Fort complex was more than just royal living quarters, it was a walled city within Mandalay.

However, unlike its Chinese counterpart, little of the original palace survives today.

First, British colonial forces arriving in Mandalay in 1897 looted and pillaged the buildings, then in World War 2, it was completely razed to the ground.

Royal Palace & Fort Mandalay

The moat around the huge Royal Palace complex, free without Mandalay Archaeological Zone ticket

A faithful, yet controversial, reconstruction process began in 1989, with the use of modern techniques and materials, particularly corrugated metal and concrete, rather than the original teak wood.

The main palace platform includes the great audience hall, lion throne room and glass palace, with little to no replicas, furnishing and signage.

On the grounds are a hluttaw (Supreme Court), royal mausoleums, royal mint, clock tower, relic tower, and watch tower – from which there are wonderful views.

Mandalay Royal Palace

Some of the many buildings on the vast grounds of the Royal Palace

For Mandalay’s most visited and historically important site, the compound is rather underwhelming and uninspiring – we preferred the ancient royal cities of Sagaing & Inwa outside of Mandalay.

However, against a backdrop of bright blue skies and glistening green grass, the ochre roofs, golden spires and white buildings evoke the regal magnificence of yesteryear.

Visitors may enter only from the east gate.

* Mandalay Archaeological Zone ticket was checked * 

Hall in Mandalay Palace

A magnificent hall in Mandalay Palace, part of Mandalay Archaeological Zone

  • #2. Mandalay Hill

Mandalay Hill stands at 240m high.

Here, the best viewpoint in the city can be accessed via a long stair climb or a taxi, escalator and lift option to the top of the Hill.

Either the way, the journey is thoroughly rewarded with an incredible panorama of Mandalay:

  • the old city walls and moat
  • stupas
  • temples and pagodas
  • the commercial centre
  • the Irrawaddy river and mountains on the horizon.
View from Mandalay Hill

The view of evergreen Mandalay from Mandalay Hill

Taking the more demanding option, under the covered stairway of the Mandalay sun, the way up by foot is laborious and seemingly unceasing.

At every landing which appears to be the summit is, just, yet another pagoda or monastery – and more stalls and sellers of snacks and souvenirs.

It is a cultural, social and physical exercise, as much about the journey as the destination.

* Mandalay Archaeological Zone ticket was not checked * 

Shrine at Mandalay Hill

One of the many temples & shrines to stop at on the way up to Mandalay Hill

  • #3. Mahamuni Paya

According to ancient history, only five likenesses of the Buddha were created in his lifetime – 2 in India, 2 in paradise and the 5th in Myanmar.

It is housed here at Mahamuni Paya, cast in bronze and weighing 6.5 tonnes.

Seated on a throne upon a 6-ft high pedestal, the Buddha measures 3.8m in height.

Together with Shwedagon Pagoda and the Golden Rock on Mount Kyaitiyo, it is a major pilgrimage site for Burmese Buddhists.

Mahamuni Paya

Worshippers pray in front of one of only 5 likenesses of the Buddha made in his lifetime

The entrance leading to the Buddha image is lined with shop stalls, crowds, noise and blasting music.

Such overt displays of commerce and enterprise is commonplace in pagoda’s across the country, where Buddhism is completely intertwined with day-to-day life.

Yet, for many foreigners, it can be a somewhat confronting and uncomfortable experience, challenging assumptions and associations more commonly associated with religious reverence.

Mahamuni Paya Mandalay

Temples across Myanmar are lined with stalls, trinkets & blasting music

The temple is part of a larger complex set on pleasant grounds, with stone carving workshops in the behind the the complex.

* Mandalay Archaeological Zone ticket was not checked * 

Maharani Paya complex

The pleasant grounds around Mahamuni Paya

  • #4. Kuthodaw Paya

Roaming lost in the pages of the World’s Largest Book is one of the highlights of Mandalay.

Each of the 729 marble slabs at Kuthodaw Paya are inscribed with a page of the Buddhist canon Tripitaka.

They are housed in an individual stupa, surrounding a central 57m high golden stupa. A 730th slab lies in one of the corners, telling its own story of the site’s construction.

Each stone contains 80-100 lines chiselled in Burmese script, on both sides, originally in gold.

It is said that, reading for 8hrs a day, it would take 450 days to complete reading of the entire “book”.

* Mandalay Archaeological Zone ticket was not checked * 

Kuthodaw Paya Largest Book

The World’s Largest Book is written across 729 marble slabs at Kuthodaw Paya

  • #5. Sandamuni Paya

In the shadow of Kuthodaw, this similar site is underrated and, if visited first, overwhelming.

It is comprised of 1773 marble slabs of Buddhist script – more than Kuthodaw.

However, its inscriptions are commentaries on the Tripitaka, not the official text itself, thus disqualifying it from holding Kuthodaw’s famous title.

Sandamuni Paya marble slab

One of 1773 marble slabs of Buddhist script at Sandamuni Paya

The stupas are also placed closer together than those at Kuthodaw.

Set amongst palm trees and overgrown bushes, and attracting few visitors, Sandamuni feels almost abandoned, offering a rawer and more intimate experience.

* Mandalay Archaeological Zone ticket was not checked * 

Sandamuni Paya temple

The elegant Sandamuni Paya

  • #6. Shwenandaw Kyaung

Shwenandaw Kyaung was originally part of the royal palace where King Mindon lived, and is the only major original building that remains.

Shwenandaw Kyaung

Shwenandaw Kyaung – a masterpiece of teak wood architecture

The elaborate detail of the wood carvings, symbolising Buddhist myths, possess incredible depth and character.

Inside, the golden pillars and ceilings definitively display their age and history – it is a fragile, and fine, masterpiece in Burmese teak wood architecture.

* Mandalay Archaeological Zone ticket was checked * 

Shwenandaw Kyaung wood carvings

One of the many intricate wood carvings found at Shwenandaw Kyaung

  • #7. Shwe In Bin Kyaung

Unlike Mandalay’s other primary monasteries, the grounds of Shwe In Bin Kyaung remain inhabited with live-in monks.

Visit the Mahagandayon Monastery in Amarapura (outside Mandalay) if you’re interested in seeing monks receiving lunch.

Shwe In Bin is another stunning teak structure: the main building is raised on poles, with a large balustrade stairway.

With thin, soaring spires and equally ornate engravings and detailing, Shwe In Bin is constructed in the fashion of Shwenandaw, evoking too, the same awe-inspiring wonder of skill and beauty.

* Mandalay Archaeological Zone ticket was not checked * 

Shwe In Bin Kyaung monastery

Shwe In Bin Kyaung is another stunning example of teak wood architecture

  • #8. Atumashi Kyaung

Notable for its yellow, ochre and white five-tiered wedding cake structure, the monastery was originally built from teak wood, before being heavily damaged in an 1890 fire.

Inside it is a large, largely empty hall with a Buddha statue; outside, the peeling stucco reveals its brick foundations.

* Mandalay Archaeological Zone ticket was not checked * 

Atumashi Kyaung

Atumashi Kyaung resembles a wedding cake!

  • #9. Kyauktawgyi Paya

In a city of exceptional monuments, the temple would be of lesser interest – save for an 8m tall, 900 tonne Buddha carved from a single block of marble.

Legend has it that the marble originated from a nearby canal, requiring 10,000 men 13 days to transport it to its current site.

* Mandalay Archaeological Zone ticket was not checked * 

Kyauktawgyi Paya Buddha

An 8m tall Buddha carved from one single slab of marble

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Things to See & Do in Mandalay Archaeological Zone


*** The Final Word – You don’t need the Mandalay Archaeological Ticket if you don’t plan to visit Mandalay Palace and Shwenandaw Kyaung (but they’re both highly recommended) *** 

What was your favourite attraction in Mandalay?

5 Shovels-2

Super easy DIY travel around city centres

Visited in June 2014