Mandalay is the second-largest city in Myanmar and situated in the hot and dry central region of the country. It is considered the cultural centre of Myanmar and was the last royal capital. Surrounded by other ancient royal capitals, including Sagaing, Ava (Inwa) and Amarapura, Mandalay also acts as a base for sightseeing trips to these places of significance. In Mandalay, visitors can watch traditional handicrafts being made, such as kalaga tapestries, marionettes, bronze items and stone and wood carvings. Mandalay also houses the most revered Buddha statue in the country, the Maha Myat Muni image. The Buddha himself is said to have breathed on to the just-finished image, giving it some of the Buddha’s power.
People believe that the image is somewhat “alive” and it is therefore treated with the utmost respect. Early each morning, monks and laypeople come to the pagoda to wash the image’s face and to make offerings of water, food, flowers, candles and incense. Another interesting sightseeing point in the city is the 230 metre Mandalay Hill, from where one has a scenic view of Mandalay and the surrounding plains, the Shan Mountains, and the Ayeyarwady River. The hill is famous as a place to view beautiful sunsets. Mandalay Palace was destroyed by fire in 1945 and has been reconstructed in recent years and its grounds can be visited. Another interesting attraction is Kuthodaw Pagoda (also called the largest book in the world), built by King Mindon after the Fifth Buddhist Council, where he decided to inscribe the entire Buddhist Canon on 729 marble slabs. Mandalay has excellent air, road and river connections to all parts of Myanmar and is the ideal base from which to explore the rest of upper Myanmar.
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