Photo: Spectacular sunset views from Mandalay Hill.

Mandalay Hill

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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.





Crowning the summit is Sutaungpyi Pagoda, one of Burma’s major Buddhist pilgrim destinations. Legend has it that the Buddha himself climbed to the top and prophesied that in the year of 2400, a great religious city would lay at the hill’s base. Losing no chance to prove his greatness, King Mindon dismantled the ancient capital city of Amarapura in 1857—2400 on the Burmese calendar—and reassembled it as said great city.

The main entrance. Photo taken in or around Mandalay Hill, Mandalay, Burma_myanmar by Mark Ord.

The main entrance. Photo: Mark Ord

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.

Devotees at Sutaungpyi Pagoda, a key Buddhist pilgrimage site. Photo taken in or around Mandalay Hill, Mandalay, Burma_myanmar by Mark Ord.

Devotees at Sutaungpyi Pagoda, a key Buddhist pilgrimage site. Photo: Mark Ord

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 ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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How to get there
The main steps start between the Chinthe statues on 10th Street though there are shorter but steeper routes on the north and west sides. Road access is also on 10th Street and taxis are available to take you to the summit. For a return trip from a downtown hotel we were quoted 10,000 kyat by taxi.

Location map for Mandalay Hill

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