Published/Last edited or updated: 25th September, 2016
A 240-metre hill covered in spires and pagodas juts out into the sky northeast of Mandalay Palace, offering an all-encompassing 360-degree viewpoint of the town and beyond. Monks from all around the city join photographers, worshippers, courting couples and sunset tourists on top of Mandalay Hill every afternoon.
The locals will tell you that the 45-minute, barefoot climb up the covered stairways is good for the health and soul. We're not so sure. The main route begins at the pair of giant lion statues on 10th Street, opposite a small carpark and row of tea shops. These mythical lions, called Chinthes, guard many temple entrances and are also considered to protect your kyat; hence their image is imprinted on Burmese bank notes.
From here steps proceed in a series of short sections up the hill, broken up by concrete landings surrounded by stall placements. When we visited most of these were vacant, with more stray dogs than vendors, and the flights of stairs follow no logical, continuous route so each time we had to ask where the next set was.
Because—in theory at least—the entire hill is a sacred monument, you’ll have to remove your shoes at the lion statues. Though various Buddhist and nat shrines dot the route, it is in reality a series of semi-derelict snack bars and tourist tat stalls linked by filthy paths and stairs covered in dog excrement. Wooded slopes on either side double as garbage tips. It's not a delightful place for a stroll and the constant changing in direction of the staircases is infuriating.
Near the top is a larger carpark and busier souvenir stands which are reached—by smarter people—by way of a winding sealed road and from where a lift (if it’s working), takes you the last stretch to the summit itself. If you’ve driven up yourself, there’s a 500 kyat parking fee, while there’s an additional 1,000 kyat entry fee regardless of how you get here. (We wouldn’t recommend trying to ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 700 words.)
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
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