Where We Stayed
We stayed at Hotel Yadanarbon ($50 USD per night) – a great choice for Mandalay with a rooftop dining area/bar and nice view of the city, great service and clean rooms. The food and drink is nothing special and overpriced but they do a cute puppet and dance show every evening from 8-9. There is an ATM right in the lobby and the staff will help organize tours and transport for you. A taxi to the airport cost 12,000 kyat and took about 50-minutes.
Where to Eat
We splurged one night and ate at a more expensive Thai restaurant called Green Elephant. It was worth it as the food was delicious, as well as the atmosphere and service.
What to Do
The U Bein Bridge tops most tourists’ lists (the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world) and most people prefer to get out of the city on a day trip or two. In the city itself there is the popular Mandalay Palace and moat. We arranged a custom day trip via our hotel focusing on the unique teak monasteries and bridge. This made for a great day. Here is what we did:
- Maha Myat Muni Pagoda in the city
- Mahar Wai Yan Bon Thar Bargaya Monastery in Amarapura
- Bargaya Monastery in Inwa
- Late lunch at Renaissance Café in Amarapura
- U Bein Bridge in Amarapura for sunset
If these teak monasteries interest you as well, here are TWO IMPORTANT NOTES:
- Note the word “Bargaya” is in the names of both monasteries which causes confusion…make sure your driver knows which monasteries you are talking about.
- You will likely get told that the only way to get to the Bargaya Monastery in Inwa is by taking a boat to a horse cart but this is absolutely not true. You can get there by car with a willing taxi driver (or for the right price). We went by car.
The Maha Myat Muni Pagoda is pretty interesting and is a great stop for souvenir shopping if you’re looking to pick up some things. Note that women are not permitted to enter the very end section of the temple where you can place golf leaf pieces on the Buddha. There is a $1 camera fee here.
Tips for Visiting the U Bein Bridge
The bridge is located in Amarapura and was a 30-minute drive from our hotel in the city. My guess is that no matter what time you go there will be a lot of tourists and people walking on the bridge. We got there at 3pm. If you want to walk all the way across and back give yourself an hour or maybe two at a slow pace with stops to rest/take photos. A boat ride is well worth it, enjoyable, and the only way to get “the photo.” Negotiate with the boatmen by the shore and get your price and boat set by 4pm. (Then grab a drink at one of the cafes lining the shore.) At 4:30 we set off and returned just after the sun went down at 5:45. The boatmen were asking 9-10,000 kyat and we were only able to get them down to 8,000.
Our Day Trip Costs (for 2 people)
- Custom tour $40
They wanted another $10 for taking the car to Bargaya Monastery in Inwa but decided not to charge us when we complained about not being told upfront about this.
- City ticket $20
We were required to purchase the Mandalay city ticket at $10 each to visit the monasteries. The ticket gets you into multiple sites, so a better value if you visit more places.
- Lunch $16.50
For 2 entrees and 3 drinks at Renaissance Café.
- Boat ride at U Bein Bridge $10
8,000 kyat + 2,000 tip.
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