Amarapura, just outside of Mandalay, was once a royal capital of Myanmar. While it no longer holds that title, the area is still home to many attractions and sites, and is an easy day-trip from Mandalay.
The U Bein Bridge is the biggest highlight in Amarapura. Stretching 1.2km (0.7mi) long, it's the largest teak wood bridge in the world.
The bridge is beautiful at any time of day, but is at it's most stunning at sunset. For the best photos, get off the bridge in the middle and stand in the fields to capture the bridge’s silhouette against the fiery, orange-red sky.
Local fishermen will be happy to take you out on the Taungthaman Lake by boat – for a small fee. Just know that early morning and late afternoon are the busiest time of day for local commuters.
Built to model Ananda temple in Bagan, Kyauktaqgyi Pagoda is a beautiful white Buddhist temple. Located near the U Bein bridge, it’s best known for the frescoes decorating the interior and the Buddha statue inside, which is said to be carved from a single block of marble.
Located just outside Amarapura, Weawsana Jade Pagoda is made entirely of (you guessed it) Jade. Its appearance gives it an otherworldly feel – which has been jokingly likened to kryptonite.
A beautiful Pagoda in the southern section of Amarapura, Pahtodawgyi was built in the early 1800s and modelled after the Mahazedi of Sri Lanka.
If you venture up to the highest terrace, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful panoramic view over the countryside.
Be sure to visit this five-story Buddhist monastery, which was built with the traditional tiered roofs featured in Burmese architecture.
There are over 20,000 wooden carvings in the temple, 500 images of Buddha within the grounds, and ancient manuscripts written on palm leaves within the library.
Amarapura was once the royal capital, and although the palace of the ancient city is in ruins, you can still catch a glimpse of its former splendor.
The treasury building, watch tower, and tombs of two of the kings can still be seen here today.
Mahagandayon Monastery is included on almost every tour, but I suggest you skip it. It’s a teaching monastery, and most tours will arrive in time to see all the monks and novices line up for lunch.
While it sounds like it’ll be an interesting cultural experience, it’s become too popular and ends up feeling more like visiting a zoo than a religious site.
Inwa is another popular addition to day-trips from Mandalay, but feels more like a tourist trap that anything else.
The only way around is by horse and carriage. However, these horses look unhealthy and overworked. Most stops cost additional money – on top of the carriage fee – and when you do stop, you can expect to be set on by half a dozen vendors, all trying to sell you bracelets and other trinkets.
Find out why you should hold back on those haggling skills, taste the wonders of Burmese cuisine, and watch out for late night curfews in Myanmar before you go.