- Place or Religious Monument
- Place or Historical Monument
Amarapura sits on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, at a distance of around ten kilometers from Mandalay. It was once the capital of the Burmese Empire. The Buddhist monastery of Mahagandayon, home to over 1000 monks, is located there. As in Mandalay, I was able to watch them taking their meal as well as their procession through the city's streets.
Apart from Amarapura's several temples and stupas, the city's main tourist attraction is the U Bein Bridge, the longest teak bridge in the world. It was constructed in 1782 when the city was the royal capital. It is 1.2 km long and has 1060 pillars. I crossed it in the afternoon, walked along the banks of the river on the other side, then crossed back over at sunset. That experience was really worth the trip!
Amarapura is well-known and a coveted destination because of the famous U Bein Bridge. And its reputation is not at all undeserved. You must go to see it early in the morning or at nightfall, when the experience is enhanced by the changing light and atmosphere. I encountered Buddhists, street peddlers, tourists equipped with state of the art cameras and disabled beggars, amongst other types, at the bridge. But without a doubt, visiting the site independently and arriving at dawn or leaving after nightfall is what guarantees the kind of exclusive experience I was able to enjoy.
Not far from the teak bridge, close to the Kyaun Maha Ganayon monastery, there were dozens of little, brightly colored Mazdas parked up. These were taxis that had brought tourists who'd come to take photographs, before 11 am, of hundreds of Buddhists at their last meal of the day. Try to avoid acting like a voyeur, but instead simply observe the fervor of the purple-robed monks. Sometimes you can really resent people who are so eager to take close up photos. Don't be one of them. Just simply try to be respectful!
Like most travelers, I was hoping to visit Amarapura mainly to go and admire the very photogenic U Bein Bridge there, which at 1.2 km in length is the world's longest teak bridge.
Although it is very touristy and quickly fills with groups of people, I really enjoyed visiting Amarapura, and I absolutely recommend that all travelers visit the sites at sunrise or sunset as the scenery is absolutely wonderful. I remember seeing the splendid sight of the sun setting over the surrounding countryside from the bridge.
Furthermore, I have no regrets about hiring a guide in Mandalay and opting for a two-day combined visit to the Sagaing and Inwa sites. Travelling around on his bike, I was able to make the most of my visits in complete freedom and take my time when walking around and taking photos.