Myanmar / Burma Travel Update
Since I was there, the situation in Myanmar/Burma has changed a lot. In February 2021, a military coup sparked widespread civil unrest and armed conflict.
The U.S. State Department currently advises: "Do not travel to Burma due to civil unrest and armed conflict." You can find their full travel advisory and security alerts here. And you can find the British Foreign Office's travel advice for Myanmar / Burma here.
It’s a long way up. It’s humid. For much of it, there’s no sidewalk, so you’ll be sharing the narrow road with cars and buses. And you’ll have to do a good part of it barefoot. But it’s worth it, especially for the sunset.
Like Sagaing not far away, Mandalay Hill hosts a cluster of monasteries and convents. One, in particular, is a major attraction. Sitting on top of Mandalay Hill, Sutaungpyei Pagoda features a large ornately tiled patio that offers a wonderful view out over Mandalay City to the south. And if you time it right, and the weather cooperates, you can also watch the sunset over the Ayeyarwaddy River to the west.
And, because foreign tourists are drawn particularly at sunset, the sprawling patio, in turn, becomes a draw for local monks and novices to converge there to engage the visitors in conversation so as to practice their English.
As you go up or down, you’ll pass by several statues related to the story of the Ogress Sandha Mukkhi (San Dha Mukhi), including one of her offering up her sliced-off breast. Legend has it that she ruled Mandalay Hill, but that when the Buddha came they prayed together, and pilgrims came to make offerings to the Buddha. She had nothing to offer, so she sliced off her breasts and offered them to the Buddha with the condition that she would one day be the King of Mandalay. He agreed and reincarnated her 2400 years later as King Mindon.
Photos of Mandalay Hill and Sutaungpyei Pagoda
More About Mandalay Hill
- Mandalay Hill is believed to be where the historical Buddha prophesied the founding of the city of Mandalay.
- The climb to the summit features 1,729 steps, which are surrounded by lush vegetation and home to monkeys and various bird species.
- The staircases leading to the summit are adorned with colorful mosaic panels that depict scenes from the Jataka tales, stories of the previous lives of the Buddha.
- Mandalay Hill is also home to a standing Buddha statue known as Shweyattaw Buddha, which is said to be pointing towards the future location of Mandalay city.
Mandalay Hill’s significance dates back to the time of the Buddha, who is said to have visited the site and prophesied that a great city would be established at its foot. This city would later become Mandalay, which is now the second-largest city in Myanmar and the last royal capital of the Burmese Kingdom. The hill’s spiritual importance has endured over the centuries, and it remains a major pilgrimage site for Buddhists in Myanmar and beyond.
The journey to Mandalay Hill’s summit offers visitors an opportunity to immerse themselves in the rich history, culture, and natural beauty of the region. The staircases are lined with colorful mosaic panels depicting scenes from the Jataka tales, which chronicle the previous lives of the Buddha. Along the way, climbers may encounter friendly monkeys, various bird species, and lush vegetation that creates a serene atmosphere.
Once at the summit, visitors can explore the Sutaungpyei Pagoda and the Shweyattaw Buddha statue, both of which have deep historical and religious significance. The pagoda, with its impressive architecture and decorations, is a testament to the skill of Myanmar’s artisans, while the statue serves as a symbolic reminder of the Buddha’s prophecy and Mandalay’s storied past.
What’s Nearby to Mandalay Hill
- Kuthodaw Pagoda: Home to the world’s largest book, inscribed on 729 marble slabs.
- Sandamuni Pagoda: Known for its impressive collection of white shrines and the world’s largest iron Buddha image.
- Kyauktawgyi Pagoda: Features a colossal Buddha statue carved from a single block of marble.
- Royal Palace: The last royal palace of the Burmese monarchy, now a museum showcasing the country’s regal history.
How to Get to Mandalay Hill
Mandalay Hill is located in the city of Mandalay in the Mandalay Region of Myanmar. The nearest major airport is Mandalay International Airport (MDL), which offers connections to many regional and international destinations. From the airport, visitors can hire a taxi or arrange private transportation to reach Mandalay Hill and other nearby attractions.
What to Know Before You Go
- The long walk up is the traditional way to get to the top, but that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. There’s also parking most of the way up. For the last little bit, there are escalators.
- I was initially a bit taken aback at first that the monks were so forthright in engaging tourists. In many parts of the world, unfortunately, that often signals an opening for drumming up business, asking for money, or evangelism. But as I soon learned, in this case, they really are asking for nothing more than a chance to practice their English and chat.
Mandalay Hill FAQs
How tall is Mandalay Hill?
Mandalay Hill is approximately 760 feet (230 meters) tall.
How long does it take to climb Mandalay Hill?
It takes approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour to climb Mandalay Hill, depending on your pace and fitness level.
What is the distance of the walk up Mandalay Hill?
The walk up Mandalay Hill is about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) in distance.
Is there an entrance fee for Mandalay Hill?
Yes, there is an entrance fee of 10,000 Myanmar Kyats (approximately 6 USD) for foreign visitors.
What is the best time to visit Mandalay Hill?
The best time to visit Mandalay Hill is during the dry season, from November to February, when the weather is cooler and more comfortable. Sunrise and sunset are also popular times to visit for the beautiful views.
Is there any alternative way to reach the top besides walking?
Yes, there is an escalator and a lift available for those who prefer not to walk. The fee for using the escalator and lift is 1,000 Myanmar Kyats (approximately 0.60 USD).