To the west of Mandalay lies the city of Monywa, situated on the Chindwin River, a major tributary of the Ayeyarwady, which is often an extension of longer cruise itineraries.

Out of town, Thanbodhay Pagoda is a vast twentieth century creation and embodies unusual features for Myanmar, somewhat reminiscent in style of the marvellous ancient Borobudur complex in Java, Indonesia. The temple is capped with hundreds of spires and houses over half a million Buddha images.

Nearby, the Bodhi Tataung is the ‘hill of a thousand Buddhas’ and dominated by the towering presence of another modern structure, the 116 metre (380 feet) tall standing Buddha, hovering above an only slightly smaller reclining Buddha.

The area does have a more ancient heritage, which can be found on the opposite side of the river at Hpo Win Daung, a complex of 942 shallow carved chambers filled with murals and Buddha images.


To the east of Mandalay, Pyin U Lwin was originally created in 1896 as the summertime capital of British rule, a cool retreat at an altitude of 1070 metres (3,510 feet) and typical in style of other former colonial hill stations found throughout European empire era Asia.

The colonial features are becoming increasingly overshadowed by modern buildings, but several former British mansions now serve as hotels and the Governors House, Purcell tower and All Saints Church still provide a flavour of the time. The best way to enhance the experience is to view the town in a horse drawn carriage.

Nearby, the colonial legacy of the Botanical Gardens, now named the National Kandawgyi Gardens, provides a beautifully maintained floral diversion with a pleasant lakeside setting, a lovely place to stroll and relax, while observing its delightful botanical features.

Nearby a forty minute trek through the forest provides a pleasant trip to Dat Taw Gyaik waterfall, set in a wooded natural amphitheatre.

To the northeast, Hsipaw is a centre for longer cultural treks around the Shan villages found among the hilly landscape, the centre of Myanmar’s tea growing.

To the north of Pyin U Lwin, the town of Mogok is the home of Myanmar’s gem industry, famed for the finds of some of world’s most remarkable rubies. As well as the copious rubies, blue sapphires and lapis lazuli are among many gems that can be procured here from local traders, providing you thoroughly understand both your precious stones and the art of bartering.


Further north, Katha is another former colonial enclave, on the banks of the upper Ayeyarwady River famous as the one-time home of British Author George Orwell and which featured in his novel ‘Burmese Days’.

The British Club House, the tennis club, and the Police commissioner’s house are among the colonial heritages left here.


Yet further north Indawgyi Lake is a serene place for travellers who don’t mind the simple life in pursuit of one of the country’s most beautiful scenic areas.

The lake is rimmed with peaceable Shan villages which enable the culturally minded visitor to connect with village life, or even to enjoy a homestay.

The lake is home to the Indawgyi Wetland Wildlife Sanctuary, an important migratory rest for the many water birds who congregate here between December and March. Trekking, kayaking, cycling, boating and fishing are among the other activities to be enjoyed here.

The lake's most iconic feature is Shwe Myitsu Pagoda, which sits isolated on the water like golden vision in a floating mystical dream. When water levels are low, in March, the usually submerged causeway to the pagoda reveals itself. At other times, the site is reachable by boat.

At the north end of the lake, another pagoda, the hilltop Shwe Taung, provides a superb view over the waters.