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Mandalay the ancient royal capital

I arrived in Mandalay after a 10 hours bus night ride from Myanmar former Burma, Inle lake, despite it was just 5 in the morning the bus station was crowded.

The main first notable difference from Yangon was the thousands of motorbike all around horning and beeping all the time coming in every direction. The city is a complete polluted chaotic mess that only Burmese can manage.

Photo gallery: Mandalay the ancient royal capital

Immediately I arranged a motorbike trip and moved around Mandalay and also surrounding places using motorbike with driver. I like underline that foreigners, specially tourist, are not allowed to drive in Burma without proper authorization.

I was really happy about photos and pictures taken in Myanmar former Burma, Mandalay, I do hope I have given a clear idea and image of this reality.

Mandalay is the second largest city of Myanmar, located 716 km north of Yangon on the bank of Irrawaddy River, the city has a population of one million of Burmese.

Mandalay is considered the center of Burmese culture, but a continuing influx of Chinese immigrants, mostly from Yunnan Province, in the past twenty years, has reshaped the city’s ethnic makeup and increased commerce with China.

Burmese complain that Mandalay is becoming little more than a satellite of China; nothing remain of the old romantic idea of Mandalay described in many writings and poems.

Mandalay remains today, despite the new capital Naypyidaw, the north Myanmar main commercial, educational and health center.

On 13 February 1857 King Mindon founded Mandalay a new royal capital at the foot of Mandalay Hill in order to fulfill a prophecy on the founding, on the occasion of the 2,400th jubilee of Buddhism, a metropolis of Buddhism and culture in that precise place.

For the next 26 years, Mandalay was to be the last royal capital of the last independent Burmese kingdom before its final annexation by the British. Mandalay ceased to be the capital on 28 November 1885 when the conquering British ended the Third Anglo-Burmese War.

Mandalay would continue to be the main city of north Myanmar during the British colonial rule, but commercial and political importance had irreversibly shifted to Yangon.

The British view about the development of Mandalay and Burma was of course mainly with commercial intentions. A railway reached Mandalay in 1889, less than four years after the annexation, but the first college in Mandalay was not established until 40 years later.

Throughout the colonial period, Mandalay was special, was the center of Burmese culture and Buddhist learning; as the last royal capital was regarded by the Burmese as a primary symbol of sovereignty and identity.

Between the two World Wars, the city was the focal point in a series of nationwide protests against the British rule.

During the World War II, under Japanese occupation (1942-1945), the city suffered heavy damages. The royal palace and the citadel turned into a military depot by the Japanese, because of that was burnt to the ground by Allied bombing.

Only the walls and the watch tower survived.

The one you see today is just a replica, inside there is a prison, a military garrison, and the headquarters of the Central Military Command.

After the country gained independence from Britain in 1948, Mandalay continued to be the main cultural, educational and economic center in north Myanmar.

Regretfully today, the city attracts a fraction of students as the military government requires students to attend their local universities in order to reduce concentration of students in one single place.

During general Ne Win’s rule (1962–1988) the city’s infrastructure deteriorated a lot, today the second largest city of Myanmar is basically a town with low-rise buildings and dusty streets filled mostly with bicycles and motorbikes.

The Chinese influx accelerated after the current military government came to power in 1988. The government allowed Chinese immigrants from Yunnan and from Sichuan poured into north Myanmar ending up in Mandalay.

In the 1990s, about 250,000 to 300,000 Chinese are estimated to have migrated to Mandalay.

Today, the Chinese are believed to be about 40% of the city’s population.

Chinese festivals are now completely embedded in the city’s cultural calendar.

The Chinese are largely responsible for the economic revitalization of downtown, now rebuilt with apartment blocks, hotels and shopping malls, and returning the city to its role as trading center connecting south and north Myanmar to China and India.

Mandalay has numerous monasteries and more than 700 pagodas, at the foot of Mandalay Hill sits the world’s official “Buddhist Bible”, also known as the world’s largest book.

In Kuthodaw Pagoda there are 729 slabs of stone inscribed with the entire Buddhist canon, each housed in its own white stupa.

Inside the Sandamuni Pagoda, despite the previous one, there are more than 1774 slabs of stone.

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There are 12 comments for these photos

  • The monk and the streat really does it for me, i just love that image, nice work.

  • Really great pictures. Wouldn’t want to miss your aim with the hammer though. Ouch!

  • It was my last day in Mandalay and this busy street was really marvelous and full of inspiration for shooting.

  • I agree with the previous reaction: the third photo excels in composition, although I also like the first one. I hadn’t realized that sculpting these statues is such an industry in Mandalay.

  • Photo three is awesome, you have a lot of good stuff from asia man keep it up.

  • Love that you caught the monk in mid step as well as the colours as well as the juxtaposition of old and modern.
    I agree with the others though – the whole set is interesting.

  • I love the whole set but that last one really stands out to me.

  • Once again, a really interesting set. I love the way you have captured the peoples hands with the detail of the carved hands.

  • I love seeing those statues being made. Nice series.

  • I really like how your photos tell so much about lifestyles in other parts of our world so well. A great set altogether here. Thank you for sharing.

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