3 days in Mandalay with kids

This was the last leg of our Myanmar journey and one I was looking forward to.  I’d always heard of Mandalay and thought it sounded amazing!

The name “Mandalay”evokes images of bright colours, culture and vibrancy. And although the images in my head didn’t quite match the reality – it was a much nicer city than Yangon!

The city palace has a lovely walkway around the outside, which gives a more picturesque scene.  There are lots of locals exercising and enjoying family time here during the evening’s.

Mandalay also has lots of sites dotted around the outside of the city for you to visit.  These are a short grab ride away – meaning they aren’t too difficult to access. 

Here’s how we spent 3 days in Mandalay with kids.

 

Things to do in Mandalay with kids

City loop

We always like to get our bearings and explore the streets of any new city. But like Yangon, these streets don’t offer much character. Instead, head towards the city palace where there’s is a wide (and active) pathway around the moat.

Kuthodaw pagoda – world’s largest book.  It is made up of 729 marble slabs, each of which is housed in a little white building.  It’s a lovely area to stroll around and the boys enjoyed hiding and popping out! Actually, I think they just enjoyed scaring the pants off me.

Try and get the late afternoon, then after you can head over to:

Mandalay hill – There’s a fabulous climb up to Mandalay hill. It’s a fairly easy walk which weaves through temples and is mostly undercover. This helps to provide shade from the sun and shelter from the rain. 

The only downside is that you have to take your shoes off for each temple. We ended up just taking them off the whole way up. I wouldn’t recommend flip flops on case it rains as it does get slippery on the tiles.

It takes about 45 minutes at an easy pace for us to walk up. This could be longer depending on your photo & rest stops. There are stalls on the way up to buy drinks or snacks if you need.

Once you reach the top you are rewarding with 360 degree views over the city! And of the incoming storm!

But we had enough time to take photos and to chat with the young monks who frequent this spot each evening. Supposedly they come to talk with tourists to practice their English. It was lovely, but what do you say to a monk?!

 

They chatted with the boys mostly  they were intrigued by them & funny enough, they wanted to know if the boys had girlfriends!!

City Palace – We decided not to go to the place, mainly because we were quite tired from our recent travels and the palace didn’t get great reviews. Unfortunately the structure was destroyed fitting world war 2.

Views over city palace

Therefore, what you see today is only a replica of the original structure. It still looks pretty and has some lovely gardens. But the afternoon heat was too much for us to contemplate including this excursion.

 

Mingun loop

We prefer not to do tours, instead we like the flexibility to arrive and leave. So if you choose not to do a tour, then you need to catch the 9am ferry to mingun. First you need to go to the booking office (with your passport or a copy) to reserve your seat.

It takes 1 hour to go there and half an hour back. It’s a very relaxing ride, especially if you bag the handful of recliner chairs target than the plastic chairs put out for passengers!

The boat returns from Mingun at 12.30pm leaving 2 and a half hours to explore – which is more than enough.

Tickets cost 5,000 kyats (kids half price).

Note: you need to show a copy of your passport or bring your original.

What’s there to see:

You arrive at the bank on the other side of the river. There are a few drivers offering taxis, bit it’s only a short walk! You also need to walk up to the main road where there’s a ticket booth. It costs 5,000 kyats per person to enter this site.

Unfinished pagoda – a large temple which is more broken than splendor. It’s been impacted by mother nature, especially earthquakes.  

You must take your shoes off before entering. There are some steps which lead up the side of the building. But it offers no views or access.

The site wasn’t very appealing, but we did laugh at the history behind the unfinished stupa.  The Burmese people have a strong belief in astrology. In this instance the king was told by an affair that he would die when the work on the stupa was completed.

 

2 big lions – crumbling statues which even we were trying to decipher what they looked like. But I can guarantee they weren’t lions! Unfortunately they too were impacted by the earthquakes.

 

Big ringing bell – this is the second largest working bell in the world. It is pretty huge! The boys stood inside it and had a go at ringing it (not while they were inside!).  It was a brief stop with a few photos before we moved on.

Mya Thein Tan Pagoda – a brilliant white circular pagoda. It’s great for exploring, especially with kids as you can climb across the mounds. But make sure you bring your sunglasses. It’s very bright!!

Market stalls & eateries  – due to the numerous sites here they have created a little town of market stalls selling along the main road. You will find lots selling the usual traveller pants, pictures & wooden souvenirs. There’s also lots of snack stalls for food and drink while you wait for the return boat.

There are toilets here, but all of them ask for a 2,000 kyat fee pp!

 

Amarapura loop

U bein bridge sunset – We didn’t have the time of energy to complete the full proposed circuit.

Instead, we just got a grab taxi to U bein bridge (who agreed to wait and return after sunset). The place was mobbed. I have no idea where they have all come from as we’ve hardly seen a soul during our trip around Myanmar!

The downside of this is the loud music, boisterous restaurants and the many, many coaches which are parked right next to the bridge. It doesn’t bring about the most ambient surroundings.

So we decided to head along the bridge in the hope of escaping the crowds and noise. We soon realised this was going to be an impossible task. The bamboo bridge itself was of typical construction with the bare minimum to class it as a bridge. There were no sides, no health and safety and no orderly progress.

We negotiated past people stopping for photos or coming the other way across a bridge only 2 metres wide. We’d soon been jostled enough and decided the best place would be down in the ground.  Keith headed off to take photos and I took the boys to a riverfront bar to have a cold beer and watch the world go by.

As an alternative you can hire a hire to row to the other side of the river to capture the sun setting.

The area itself is a lovely focal point, but as we are nearing the monsoon season, so the water levels are very low.  I know I’m made it sound like a tourist frenzy, but it’s actually a nice place to watch the sun go down. In fact, when the sun disappears, so does the noise!

Mahagandayon monastery – This is listed as a must visit monastery where visitors can witness the daily activity of monks collecting alms, starting at 10.15am in the morning. However, we decided not to attend. The main reason is that we’d read the site is overloaded with tourists clambering to get a photo of the event.

We have travelled to many countries on our world adventure and whilst it sounds amazing, we have been to monasteries as well as met & chatted with monks (go to Mandalay hill to meet monks wanting to practice their English).

There are also reviews that many tourists, mainly Chinese, don’t adhere to the rules for visitors to show respect to the monks and novices in the monastery. To observe quietly from a distance and do not disturb the monks from doing their daily activities.

If you do decide to visit, it is recommended you arrive early (around 9am), but please observe the rules and be respectful in your manner and behaviour.

 

Places to stay in Mandalay with kids

We managed to get a reasonable deal in a nicer hotel (much to Keith’s dismay), called Moonlight hotel.

It was a nice room with 2 double beds, air conditioning, TV and fridge! They had a roof top restaurant serving a decent buffet breakfast and views over the city. Any power outages were short, probably due to the fact that they had a generator for such instances.

Places to eat in Mandalay with kids

 

Again, in cities it can be hard to find decent eateries as they are so spread out. But actually, a grab is fairly cheap and traffic isn’t as bad as Yangon so you can get around with a grab.

These are the places we ate: 

Neo phoenix bar & restaurant – great little place with such a lovely owner. He was very chatty and even wrote out an itinerary suggestion for us! He is very proud of his home and arranged for the boys to face some chips while we ordered our food!

Nice cold beers and lovely food at a reasonable price.  Plus you can pay on credit card here (a rarity in Myanmar!)

Mogok Daw Shan Noodle – a local restaurant that doesn’t look like much from the outside… but the pork dumplings!!! Oh my goodness – they were divine. Fabulous cheap food and delicious!!

It’s across the road from the diamond plaza, so we popped into the supermarket downstairs to stock up on supplies afterwards!

 

Conclusion

Mandalay is usually the place you fly in or fly out of and was it’s a great start or ending to any Myanmar visit!  We enjoyed the few days there and found it much more appealing than Yangon.

There are a number of sites you can head out to explore – my favourite being Mandalay hill & chatting with the young monks.

The easiest way to get around was by grab, and was cheap too!  As with everywhere we went in Myanmar, the people are warm, friendly and helpful! It leaves you with such a warm feeling!

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