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Mandalay Hill

Mandalay Hill is Myanmar’s most holy summit. It is recommended to visit early in the morning or for sunset when it is cooler and the views are at their best. Those concerned about the climb up the hill (a total of 1, 729 steps) will be relieved to hear that visitors can take either an escalator or elevator to the top. For those who opt to walk, on the way up the southern stairs there are plenty of opportunities to have a rest and browse the stalls selling flowers, miniatures, umbrellas and refreshments. Alternatively, one may wish to take the quieter but steeper stairs up the north (passed young couples whispering sweet nothings) or the west (passed lethargic monks.)

According to popular legend, Gautama Buddha once visited the region and from the Mandalay Hill Pagoda, pointed down at the empty plain and prophesied that one day a great city would be constructed there. Halfway up the hill there is a large Standing Buddha depicting this moment. Further up you will find the Mandalay Hill Pagoda Sutaungpyi, built by King Anawrahta of the Bagan Dynasty and just beyond this the Two Great Snakes Pagoda (Mwe-gyi-nhe kaung). Legend has it that two gigantic snakes used to regularly slither up to the Sutaungpyi Pagoda to pay homage to Buddha. When they died, they became the guardians of the hill.

Towards the top of Mandalay Hill there is a statue of an ogress. This is Sandhamukhi who became indoctrinated by the teaching of Buddha and as an expression of love and gratitude cut of her breasts to give to him. Alas, the Lord Buddha was compelled to decline the gift, as it was against his teachings to accept raw flesh. He was grateful nonetheless, blessing Sandhamukh, and it is believed that she was reincarnated as Mindon Min, the penultimate king of Burma who established Mandalay as the country’s capital.

At the north end of the terrace at the top of the hill there are two plaques commemorating the capture of Mandalay Hill by the Prince of Wales Gurkha Rifles in March 1945. The victory followed weeks of brutal house to house fighting against the heavily garrisoned Japanese. The ejection of the Japanese from the city and in particular Mandalay Hill was one of the most significant turning points in the battle against the Japanese in Myanmar.

On the terrace at the Mandalay Hill temple you will likely be met by students and young monks eager to practise their English. If you are a native speaker, you may well find that a small crowd gathers around you, sitting cross-legged and hanging on your every word. Thankfully they are charming and respectful enough that this should not spoil your time at Mandalay Hill but enrich it.

You can have a look here to find out about hotels at and around Mandalay Hill, and on these pages you can find out more about Sampan Travel and our Suggested Journeys.

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