Mandalay is the second largest city after Yangoon with a population of over half a million. It doesn’t look like a city, more like a big village. There’s no skyline, and there are still some dirt roads. The city and its surroundings have a lot to offer to the traveller. It is also the jump-off point for Bagan and Lugu Lake or the North of the country. It is more Burmese than Yangoon and the people are very nice too.
Mandalay was founded by King Mindon in 1857 and previously called Yadanatin. The Irrawady lies to the west of the former royal capital and the hazy Shan hills stand to the east. King Mindon was determined to ensure that his city became the capital of the Buddhist world and the Fifth Buddhist Synod was held in Mandalay in 1879. Today, despite the absence of the monarchy, Mandalay retains some inhabitants who still use the formal language of the Royal Court and their manners are said to be the most polished in all of Myanamar.
Because of its royal past, the city is also a centre for crafts, dance and music. The city is an important river port, the start of the overland route to China and a big market centre for the surrounding area.