U Bein Bridge

Stunning

What we say: 4 stars

Mandalay and its surrounding ancient cities have an abundance of attractions and sunset views, but if you only had time for one sight while in Mandalay, it would have to be U Bein Bridge.

The rickety bridge passes as a commuter super highway

Commuter super-highway.

Outside Mandalay’s city centre, and stretching across Taungthaman Lake, U Bein Bridge leads the way to the former Burmese capital city of Amarapura. The ageing bridge stretches 1.2 kilometres to the other shore, making it the longest teak bridge in the world. Mayor U Bein is credited for the creation of the bridge in the 1850s, using scavenged teak pilings from the discarded palace of Amarapura when they moved the capital to Mandalay.

The bridge in itself is only as exciting as the shakiness of its planks; it will sway, perhaps uncomfortably, as other people walk along it. Many portions of the bridge have no handrails and some planks lay quite unattached to the structure, but strategic spots have been reinforced with cement to keep it safe and usable. During the dry season, the water level drops dramatically, allowing you to meander under the bridge and through small crop fields planted by farmers taking advantage of the rich soil. During wet season, the water level can reach the top of the bridge, and in some years has even covered the walkway.

The sunset draws the most attention to U Bein, when the sun slips behind hills and trees with vast farmlands and spires in the foreground; this is one of the most photogenic locations in all of Myanmar. Fishermen and other boat owners offer boat rides around and through the bridge, allowing two to four people on board for 6,000-10,000 kyat, depending on the number of people. Hire one of these boats at the entrance of the bridge, or at its mid-point, allowing you to walk across the bridge and then boat back to shore.

The sunset also draws the locals. Monasteries and restaurants on both sides of the bridge mean a constant stream of monks, couples and commuters crossing the bridge by foot and bicycle. It’s not uncommon for foreigners to be approached by monks and locals and asked to pose for photos — they will likely be happy to return a pose and make some conversation.

Getting to the bridge a little before sunset is a great idea, as it gives you time to explore its shores. A souvenir market offers marionette puppets, wood carvings, local jade jewellery and art, and is yet to charge extortionate rates. On the Amarapura side of the bridge, Taunthaman village has restaurants to recharge at after your walk over and exploration of Kyauktawgyi Paya. This paya was built in the same manner as the Bagan temples, but has a Tibetan-styled roof.

The bridge is on its way out of Mandalay, which means you will have to get a taxi or motorbike to reach it. It should be roughly 3,000 kyat for a taxi on its own, or if you take an ancient city day tour, U Bein bridge should be your final stop.

More details
How to get there: The bridge is on its way out of Mandalay, which means you will have to get a taxi or motorbike to reach it. It should be roughly 3,000 kyat for a taxi on its own, or if you take an ancient city day tour, U Bein bridge should be your final stop.
Last updated: 14th September, 2014

About the author:
Once called a nebula of good energy, Christopher wasn't impressed by where his institutional learning took him and blames travel and wonderfully eccentric people for where he is today: Burma (Myanmar).
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