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By Adrien Gallo

Mandalay, Burma (now called Myanmar) a cameo frozen in time exudes a special exotic charm and conjures up images of an Asian Royal city imbued with mystery. Not much has changed in this truly Asian city, caught as it is in a time warp between colonial and modern times. Men still wear sarongs (longyis) and monks can be seen on the streets performing ceremonies. Everyone is gentle and friendly as Mandalay was once a center for Buddhist scholarship. Rudyard Kipling made it famous with his poem “The Road to Mandalay”. To borrow a phrase from Somerset Maugham, “Last night I dreamt I went to Mandalay again”!
This former royal capital and the last to fall before the British took over, evokes images of romantic bygone times. Royal Palaces and a surrounding moat sits at the base of the imposing Mandalay Hill. Mandalay lies on the banks of the Ayeryarwaddy River in the heart of Burma. Apart from trishaws, horse drawn tongas are an interesting way to travel in Mandalay and a lot of fun.
As per legend Lord Buddha said that a great city would be founded at the foot of Mandalay Hill and King Mindon made this legend a reality in 1859.
Mandalay is the most Burmese of Burma’s cities and center of art and craft. It is a majestic and magnificent town with many architectural jewels.
The Royal Palace was burnt during World War II. Only the original foundations and a model in the museum can be seen. Climb up Mandalay Hill to get a view overlooking the palace, Mandalay and the countryside with its numerous pagodas and see the colossal Buddha on the top. Take a trishaw to Kuthodaw Pagoda. Each of the 729 temples here shelter a marble slab inscribed with Buddhist scriptures. The central Pagoda is the “world’s biggest book” with all its inscribed slabs of scriptures. In front of it is Sandamuni Pagoda which also has a large collection of inscribed slabs perhaps a way the monks found to protect the faith. The ruins of Atumashi Kyaung
(incomparable monastery) lie at the base of Mandalay Hill as does Kyanktawagyi Pagoda. The Mahamumi Pagoda is second in importance only to Shewdagaon and noted for its Buddha image covered in thick gold leaf. The main Pagoda is surrounded by rooms containing statues of legendary warriors where Devotees rub their bodies to be cured of afflictions. Just outside the pagoda are streets where Buddha image makers are busy at work. You too can buy one to carry back.
The Zegyo Market in the center of Mandalay comes alive at night. Close by is a cluster of good places to eat serving snacks, ice cream or a full meal. So stop anytime to snack or drink some sugar cane juice.
Mandalay is a center for silk and cotton weaving, marble carving bronze and silver crafts and kalaga tapestries woven by the women. Burmese lacquerware is beautiful. You cannot leave without shopping for yourself and for gifts. Burmese “pigeon blood "red rubies are exquisite and definitely recommended. In April Thingyan (water festival) welcomes Burmese New Year. The full Moon of Kason Lunar month is celebrated in different pagodas in April/May. So join the celebrations.