Mandalay Hill

Mandalay Hill View
View from part-way up the hill, looking down on the stairway and temples below.

Mandalay Hill is perhaps the best place to start a tour of Mandalay. From its peak, you can plainly see the layout of the city. Passing betweeen the two giant chinthes at the base of the hill provides access to the covered stairway to the top, having a total of 1,729 stairs. However, as there are many landings along the way, the climb is not as strenuous as it might sound.

The hill is dotted with many small temples, and a few larger ones. About mid-way up the hill is the first large temple. Although this temple contains three bones of the Buddha, it is not particularly venerated. Apparently, this is because the bones were bought to Mandalay by the British, rather than 'true believers'.

Buddha pointing
The Shweyattaw Buddha, an unusual standing image showing Buddha pointing to the future site of Mandalay

Further up the hill is the golden Shweyttaw Buddha statue. The statue is posed in the unorthodox mode of standing and pointing to the spot where the royal palace was built. This is an allusion to a Buddhist prophecy that, according to legend, the Buddha visited Mandalay Hill and proclaimed that a center of Buddhist learning would be built at the foot of the hill 2,400 years after his death. King Mindon made the prophecy come true when he moved his capital to the base of the hill in 1861, and established a "Golden City" of Buddhist teachings.

From the top of the hill, you can see the huge square fortress with the reconstructed royal palace in its center. To the west is the Ayeyarwady River and beyond it the wide rice growing plain of the river.

The hilltop is a popular spot for tourists to watch the sunset. Several "high chairs" (if you'll pardon the expression) are provided for this purpose along the railing on the top-most level.