OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: Wake up early in the morning (around 04:00) and catch a local taxi to Mahamuni Pagoda. Every morning, before dawn, the monks wash the face of the ‘lumpy’ Buddha image with special fragrant water and brush its teeth. The ritual takes around one hour and is a unique insight into the local take on Buddhism. Return to the hotel around 07:30 for breakfast.
After breakfast at the hotel, depart for an excursion around Mandalay to explore the former capitals of Sagaing, Ava and Amarapura.
Cross a bridge over the Irrawaddy River to Sagaing. The Sagaing Hill here is widely regarded to be the religious center of Myanmar. With 600 white-painted pagodas and monasteries, more than 3,000 monks, and 100 meditation centers, there’s no shortage of things to see and do here. Swan Oo Pon Nya Shin and U Min Thone Sae are two of the must-see pagodas every visitor must see.
Afterwards, continue south to the city of Ava, the capital of Myanmar from the 14th to the 18th century.
From here, take a short ferry ride across the river to meet with a horse and cart that will be waiting. While using this traditional method of transportation, visit some of Ava’s highlights such as the old wooden Bagaya Monastery and the remains of the Royal Palace. During the tour of Ava, also stop at some of the many villages located amongst Ava’s ruins. Enjoy lunch in Ava (own account) before returning to the car.
Finally, visit Amarapura, a former capital whose name means “City of Immortality”. Although the ancient city is charming in its own right, the real star is U Bein Bridge. Constructed out of 984 teakwood posts from the deserted Inwa Palace, it is 1.2 kilometres in length, making it the longest teakwood construction in the world. That’s not the real reason it is so iconic, though. Every day, as the sun begins to dip below the horizon, U Bien Bridge is host to what some consider to be one of the world’s most spectacular sunsets. Enjoy a stroll across this famous bridge and be sure to take in the unforgettable sight of it being bathed in golden light late in the afternoon.
Continue back to the hotel and, if timing allows, visit some local craft shops.