There is Plenty to See in the Mandalay Hill Area
The area on and around Mandalay Hill has Buddhist sites that the first-time visitor to Mandalay simply must see. The fact that these sites are close to one another, makes spending a day exploring the Mandalay hill area, a relatively easy undertaking.
The 240-meter tall hill has been a popular pilgrimage site for Myanmar’s Buddhists for over 200 years. At the top of the hill is Sutaunpyei Pagoda. There are four covered walkways on the north, south, south-east and west sides of the hill that allow visitors and the devout to climb the gentle incline of the hill.
There are lots of food and refreshments stands along the way. There is also a road that visitors can use to reach the top of the hill. Two huge stone ‘chinthes’ flank the southern walkway entrance, these are lion-like statues that symbolically stand guard to protect the hill.
The top of the hill is also a popular destination for tourists and devotees alike to go to enjoy the views at sunset.
Kyauk Tan Gyi Pagoda
The Kyauk Tan Gyi Pagoda is at the top of Mindhama Hill, north of Mandalay hill near the airport. The entrance to the pagoda is via a stairway decorated with the heads of ‘Nagas’, a giant serpent-like being that is a part of both of Buddhist and Hindu legends. The serpent’s long, sinuous bodies serve as the railings for the staircase.
The ornately-gilded walls of the pagoda contain the largest marble Buddha image in Myanmar. The Buddha image weighs over 600 tons and is made from a single piece of white marble. The image is over 11.2 meters tall and over 7.3 meters in width.
The Buddha image is enclosed in a glass case that protects it from temperature fluctuations. The grounds around the pagoda are open daily from 6 AM to 8 PM and admission is free.
At the foot of the hill lies Khutodaw Pagoda. The center-piece of the pagoda is a large Buddhist stupa. The graceful and gilded 57-meter tall stupa overlooks the ‘Kyauksa gu’ that cover the grounds of the pagoda.
‘Kyauksa gu’ are smaller shrines, each housing a marble slab inscribed in the Pali language. Each slab represents a single page of the Tipitaka, the guiding principles of Therevada Buddhism. There are 729 of these shrines on the Pagoda grounds, meaning that the pagoda actually is the world’s largest book.
The slabs were all originally written in gold ink, but in the course of restoration work in 1892, the gold letters were replaced with black ink, which made the slabs easier to read.
The pagoda is open from 8 AM to 8 PM. The entrance fee is covered under the Archaeological Zone Pass.