Don’t get me wrong, I love Bali (soooo much that I live here), Thailand, Singapore, etc but so do a few billion other people. Nowadays I really value less popular destinations because I am not the biggest fan of crowds and long lines. Being around hoards of selfie sticks and people harassing you to buy their trinkets really takes away from the experience for me. Although there were some spots in Myanmar that inevitably had a ton of people, most of my trip was spent in peace and quietness.
Check out these six reasons I’ve listed to learn why you need to visit Mandalay when you’re in SouthEast Asia!
1) U Bein Bridge
This spot has been on my bucketlist forever!! It is just so darn gorgeous and happens to be the world’s longest teakwood bridge. Fun fact: Myanmar is known for their quality teakwood! Here you can hop on a row boat, watch fisherman in action, do some souvenir shopping, and pick up some small bites. This is an extremely popular spot amongst tourists and locals alike. If you hate crowds, I would opt to come for sunrise instead of sunset. But if you aren’t a morning person like me, hopping on the row boat definitely offers you some privacy. Also the flocks leave right around sunset but I stuck around to watch the sky keep performing. This worked out perfectly since the colors really came out after and it got a lot quieter!
I hopped on a row boat at the end of the bridge after the sun went down. The boatman asked for 12k but I bargained to 10k. I’m not sure how the prices differ between the starting point and time of day but this was definitely worth $6 to me.
U Bein Bridge is only 30mins from the heart of Mandalay. I got a taxi using the Grab app and was quoted 16,000 Kyat. The driver offered to wait for me while I got some shots and then drove me back for another 16K. I’m really glad it played out that way since this area is pretty big and overwhelming so it was nice not having to spend time trying to coordinate a pick-up for my return.
2) Temple heaven
This white temple has been so high on my SouthEast Asia list ever since I started seeing it appear in my IG feed last year. It felt like such a dream to finally get to be the one in the photo for a change!! We got there right around sunset and it was practically empty!
This was right in the heart of Mandalay and definitely not to be missed. I am not a religious person but I love checking out temples because they are just so darn beautiful! It’s hard not to fall in love with the intricate details, ornate architecture, and gorgeous colors. The vibe is always so zen and serene.
3) Unreal sunsets & sunrises
With limited skyscrapers and a plethora of temples, it’s pretty easy to catch a gorgeous sunset and sunrise in Mandalay. Every single one I saw here was nothing short of phenomenal! I am going to make a blog post on Bagan where I talk about my experience witnessing hot air balloons for the first time. Stay tuned!
4) Burmese cuisine is delicious!!
I find Burmese cuisine to be heavily underrated! Of the 10ish meals I had here, there wasn’t a single thing I didn’t love. Their dishes are packed with tons of spices and bold flavors. It reminds me of Thai, Indian, and Chinese food.
I plan to do a more in-depth blog post highlighting some of my favorite dishes but for now, here’s a preview! This is my spread from Marie Min, a vegetarian restaurant in central Mandalay. From top left going clockwise, these were: stir fried watercrest w/ tofu and beansprouts, roti, pumpkin curry, more roti, and my absolute favorite: Burmese Tea Leaf Salad. I had this dish many times in Mandalay but this one was my favorite by far! I highly recommend ordering this if you ever have the chance to!!
5) The people
There was not a single exchange I had with the locals where I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of warmth. Although communication wasn’t the easiest, I was always greeted with the biggest of smiles wherever I went whether it was a street stall, hotel, or mom and pop cafe. They are super welcoming to visitors!
When I was watching the sunset on the river one day, two girls ran up to me to ask if they could get a photo with me. When I looked up, 10+ people were snapping pictures of us on their phones! My biggest regret of this trip was not asking someone to take one on my camera too (to be fair they struggled really hard to operate my DSLR). I would love to relive that memory of their warm smiles and curious faces.
6) Staying at the Golden Hotel in Mandalay will leave you feeling like royalty!
When you first arrive at Golden Hotel, you are greeted by the grandest of entrances, fruity welcome drinks, and a nice hand towel to freshen up. From the extravagant decor to the thoughtful amenities, nothing was short of perfection. They even had a gym on premise which is not too common for hotels in SouthEast Asia. I could not have asked for a better place than the Golden Hotel to stay at while recharging for what came next on my Myanmar agenda.
Upon checkin, I was already impressed by the welcome fruit basket, but they ended up refilling it for me multiple times a day! Talk about attention to detail. There are few things that can please my heart more than coming home after a long day of temple hopping to heart shaped watermelon slices.
The suite I stayed at had huge windows in both the living room and bedroom overlooking the city. There’s nothing quite like waking up to beams of natural sunlight and city views! My room also came with a kitchenette which is perfect for travelers who want to try out local produce and do some cooking while visiting. There was also a fridge and microwave which comes in handy for when you have leftovers from restaurants.
In the morning I got to enjoy a breakfast buffet in their grand banquet hall. Their extensive food selection made me wish I had a few extra stomachs! They offered a variety of cuisines to accommodate different guests staying at the hotel. One of my favorite things to do while visiting another country is trying as many of the local flavors as I can and this breakfast buffet made that goal easily attainable. I also loved that they had a fruit station showcasing all the seasonal produce. Their breakfast buffet boasts a congee station, made to order eggs, noodle bar, pastry counter and more, totally blowing my expectations out of the water!
I hope these reasons were convincing enough to sell you on Myanmar. If you decide to come to Mandalay, I could not recommend staying at the Golden Hotel more!