Mandalay is the second-largest city and the last royal capital of Burma. Located 445 miles (716 km) north of Yangon on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River, the city has a population of one million and is the capital of Mandalay Region.
Mandalay is the economic hub of Upper Burma and considered the centre of Burmese culture. A continuing influx of Chinese immigrants, mostly from Yunnan, in the past twenty years, has reshaped the city’s ethnic makeup and increased commerce with China. Despite Naypyidaw’s recent rise, Mandalay remains Upper Burma’s main commercial, educational and health center.
Like most former (and present) capitals of Burma, Mandalay was founded on the wishes of the ruler of the day. On 13 February 1857, King Mindon founded a new royal capital at the foot of Mandalay Hill, ostensibly to fulfill a prophecy on the founding of a metropolis of Buddhism in that exact place on the occasion of the 2,400th jubilee of Buddhism. In June 1857, the former royal palace of Amarapura was dismantled and moved by elephants to the new location at the foot of Mandalay Hill although construction of the palace compound was officially completed only two years later, on Monday, 23 May 1859.
For the next 26 years, Mandalay was to be the last royal capital of the last independent Burmese kingdom before its final annexation by the British. Mandalay ceased to be the capital on 28 November 1885 when the conquering British sent King Thibaw and his queen Supayalat into exile, ending the Third Anglo-Burmese War.
Mandalay is located in the central dry zone of Burma by the Irrawaddy river at 21.98° North, 96.08° East, 64 meters (210 feet) above sea level. Its standard time zone is UTC/GMT +6:30 hours.Mandalay lies along the Sagaing Fault, a tectonic plate boundary between the India and Sunda plates.
Mandalay International Airport is one of the largest and most modern airports in Burma. Built at a cost of US$150 million in 2000, the airport is highly underutilized; it serves mostly domestic flights with the exception of flights to Kunming and to/from Bangkok with Air Asia, 4 flights per week and Thai Smiles, 5 flights per week. The airport has come to represent the military regime’s propensity for bad planning and penchant for white elephant projects. Myanmar recent opening stance on tourism means the airport is now receiving a growing number of visitors from Bangkok.
The Ayeyarwady River remains an important arterial route for transporting goods such as farm produce including rice, beans and pulses, cooking oil, pottery, bamboo and teak.
Buses and cars
As the government allows only a few thousands of vehicles to be imported each year, motor transportation in Burma is highly expensive for most of its citizens. Most people rely on bicycles, motorcycles and/or private and public buses to get around.
Mandalay is Burma’s cultural and religious center of Buddhism, having numerous monasteries and more than 700 pagodas. At the foot of Mandalay Hill sits the world’s official “Buddhist Bible”, also known as the world’s largest book, in Kuthodaw Pagoda. There are 729 slabs of stone that together are inscribed with the entire Buddhist canon, each housed in its own white stupa. The buildings inside the old Mandalay city walls, surrounded by a moat, which was repaired in recent times using prison labor, comprise the Mandalay Palace
Mandalay is the major trading and communications center for northern and central Burma. Much of Burmese external trade to China and India goes through Mandalay. Among the leading traditional industries are silk weaving, tapestry, jade cutting and polishing, stone and wood carving, making marble and bronze Buddha images, temple ornaments and paraphernalia, the working of gold leaves and of silver, the manufacture of matches, brewing and distilling.
Around the city