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Mandalay, Bagan: 2 exceptional sites in the heart of Burma

They are many must-sees in Burma. This country, for a long time closed to tourists, doesn't risk remaining that way as the tourist attractions are big and varied. The cities of Mandalay and Bagan are amongst some of the most incredible places in the country. Don't miss it...

Mandalay, the city surrounded by wonders

Mandalay is Burma's second city and the last royal capitalof the country (19th century). The isolated conflicts between Buddhists and Muslims do not change the very warm welcome and the kindness given to tourists at all in the country, and in Mandalay in particular. Although pleasant, the city only has a limited number of tourist attractions. You can nevertheless walk around the walls of the fort in the city centre or visit a gold leaf factory (which religious people 'stick' on Buddha statues). Workers strike the precious metal there for hours to get an ultra thin leaf!
Some kilometres away from Mandalay, in Amarapura, don't miss the incredible U Bein bridge, which sees a surprising mix of tourists and monks pass over it every day. You can go there for the sunrise and even have a drink in the little bars below which have tables and chairs directly on the river. An aperitif with your feet in the water, facing the longest bridge made of teak in the world (1.2km long!)... What more can you ask for? One moment that fans of relaxed holidays will particularly like!

The super U Bein bridge

Finally, a visit to the surroundings of Mandalay wouldn't be complete without the magnificent paya Hsinbyume which really stands out amongst the pagodas you'll be able to see in the country. All white, it offers photographers striking contrasts and very good memories on glossy paper.

The sun temples

Bagan is THE city of ruined temples and the first tourist destination in Burma. Here there's no gold, it's the old stones that make all of the charm of these thousands of temples all more incredible than each other. In the holds of a religious fervour that lasted 230 years, the kings of Bagan had more than 4000 Buddhist temples built here of which many have resisted erosion, earthquakes and some doubtful restorations. An obligatory visit in your stay in Burma, Bagan will transport you to another time, and you'll be taken away by the magic which is present in the most surprising site in Burma. For lovers of sport, bikes are probably the best way to visit the ruins (daily rental at £0.50, it would be wrong to say no...), but be careful about heat stroke: temperatures can reach over 45°C… For an absolutely unforgettable memory, don't hesitate to climb in a hot air balloon to see the whole site, a memory that you will probably classify at the top of your travel experiences! If you don't have the budget to pay for this extra, you won't be disappointed with a sunrise from the top of Paya Shwesandaw which gives a magnificent view over the surrounding temples and the point of their summits as far as the eye can see...

Alexandra Maillet
8 contributions
Updated 20 November 2015