Backpacking Southeast Asia Eighth Stop: Mandalay, Myanmar

Last Updated on January 14, 2021 by Tina

After spending two days in Inle Lake, I took the night bus to Mandalay. It was a minibus and there were only less than 10 passengers, I included. And I was the only foreigner again. The trip was faster than I expected. We left Inle Lake at 6:00 PM and I was told that we’ll arrive in Mandalay at 3:00 AM. But we arrived there two and a half hours earlier.

I emailed the hostel Ostello Bello Mandalay before leaving Inle and asked them if I could stay at the reception hall until check-in time as I’m arriving at 3:00 AM. They told me that I can and was told that I can do an early check-in with the half price of the room and breakfast is included already. Because it was only 12:30 AM when I arrived there, I was told that if I checked-in at that time, I will have to pay full. So I waited and took a nap on the sofa in the lobby area until it was 3:00 AM, then I checked-in. If you’re planning to do something like this in the future, put on insect repellant before you take a nap. The mosquitoes feasted on me while I was sleeping.

Day 1

After having breakfast at the hostel, I brought my clothes to a laundry shop. They were doing laundry at the hostel but they charge per piece of clothing. I found one that charges by weight, it was way cheaper. From the laundry shop, I booked a Grab bike to Mandalay Palace. It is the last royal palace built by the last Burmese monarchy. There I explored the halls and climbed the watchtower.

Mandalay Palace

From Mandalay Palace, I passed by a post office near the entrance of the palace. Went there to buy and send postcards for me and my friend. After that, I walked to Mandalay Hill. It wasn’t too sunny so it was a nice walk. There were restaurants near the hill. I had lunch first because I need the energy to climb the hill. The climb to the top takes around 40 minutes, mostly on a covered concrete staircase. But you have to do it barefoot, from the bottom to the top. At the top are the Sutaungpyei Pagoda and a panoramic view of Mandalay- the moat surrounding the Mandalay Palace, the temples and pagodas, Irrawaddy River, the buildings, the hills and mountain ranges.

From Mandalay Hill, I walked to Sandamuni Pagoda, then to Kuthodaw Pagoda. You can read about these pagodas, as well as the other places I visited in Mandalay in my post Places to Visit in Myanmar.

The Sandamuni Pagoda, as viewed from the top of Mandalay Hill
Kuthodaw Pagoda

After the visit to the pagodas, I booked a Grab bike to take me back to the hostel. The driver offered to take me on a tour outside Mandalay the following day for MMK 20000. I thought it was a reasonable price so I agreed.

Related Post: Postcards From My Southeast Asia Backpacking Trip

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Day 2

We started the tour really early. The driver picked me up at the hostel at 4:00 AM and took me to Mahamuni Buddha Temple to witness the face-washing ceremony. After that, we went to U-Bein Bridge to watch the sunrise. U-Bein Bridge is a wooden footbridge located in Amarapura and is believed to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world. I wanted to visit the bridge in the afternoon but my guide told me it gets super crowded in the afternoon, and he was right. When my friend went there the following month, he went in the afternoon and it was indeed super crowded.

U bein bridge

From the bridge, we visited the ancient cities around Mandalay- Sagaing, and Inwa. In Sagaing, we went to Sagaing Hill where you have a breathtaking view of the lush, green hills and the many white, silver, and gold-colored pagodas and monasteries in the area. We also visited a monastic school and a Buddhist academy. In Inwa, we visited old temples, pagodas, and monasteries and also checked out Inwa Fort.

Sagaing Hill view

My guide also took me to Jade Pagoda and he let me watch the bathing of snakes at Snake Pagoda. Our last stop was the Dee Dote Waterfalls, which is more than a one-hour motorbike drive from Mandalay. There are rock pools in the swimming area and when I went there I had the whole place to myself. Too bad I wasn’t able to reach the main falls because there were no signs so when I saw a rock pool I assumed it was the main fall already.

Related post: Myanmar Travel Guide for Solo Travelers

My guide took me to so many places that day; I had a great time. He even let me experience eating in local tea shops and let me try local foods. If you want to do the tour with him too, you can contact him on Facebook: mrzaw.mandalay or send him an e-mail at His mobile number is 09796519466. I’ll write a separate post to give details about the tour with him so watch out for it.

Local teashop

We finished the tour around 3:00 PM already. I was again super tired that day so I just stayed at the hostel after the tour and in the evening I went out to look for cheesecake. I had one at Nova Coffee Shop. The cake was good but I think you need to know that they charge 5% government tax and 5% service charge there.


As mentioned in my earlier posts, my challenge during the trip was to try to live on a US$ 20 per day budget. The official currency of Myanmar is the Myanmar Kyat (MMK). The conversion rate is MMK 1510 for US$ 1. Just to be consistent with my earlier posts, I’ll be using the conversion rate of Php 52 for US$ 1 for this post because it was the conversion rate for Php to US$ when I was on the trip.

Day 1

Early check-in- US$ 4

One bed in 8 bed mixed dormitory- US$ 7.06 (Php 367.02)

Laundry- US$ 2.65 (MMK 4000)

Grab bike to Mandalay Palace- US$ 1.13 (MMK 1700)

Ticket to Mandalay Palace- US$ 6.62 (MMK 10000)

Stamps + postcards- US$ 1.46 (MMK 2200)

Water- US$ 0.33 (MMK 500)

Lunch (Chicken curry + coke)- US$ 2.38 (MMK 3600)

Dinner- US$ 2.98 (MMK 4500)

Grab bike to hostel- US$ 1.19 (MMK 1800)

Day 1 Total: US$ 29.8

Day 2

One bed in 8 bed mixed dormitory- US$ 7.06 (Php 367.02)

Tour- US$ 13.24 (MMK 20000)

Breakfast- US$ 1.85 (MMK 2800)

Snacks- US$ 0.99 (MMK 1500)

Lunch- US$ 1.85 (MMK 2800)

Cheesecake + coke- US$ 3.28 (MMK 4950)

Grab to Nova Restaurant- US$ 1.06 (MMK 1600)

Grab to Ostello- US$ 0.86 (MMK 1300)

Day 2 Total: US$ 30.19

As with my previous stops, I failed the challenge in Mandalay again. Stay tuned for my next post for the details of my trip to Bagan. If you have any questions regarding this trip, feel free to leave a comment. Subscribe to my blog if you don’t want to miss any of my posts. And please follow my Facebook page @iwentanyways and like my Instagram accounts @iwentanyways and @tnadeperalta for updates. You can also check out my backpacking highlights in my IG @tnadeperalta.

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