Mandalay is the second largest city (after Yangon), and a former capital of Myanmar. The city is the economic and religious hub of upper Myanmar. The
city is centre around the Royal Palace, and has wide lanes filled with bicycles and motorcycles. Mandalay is known for its millionaires, its monks (half of the country’s monks reside in Mandalay and surrounding areas), and its cultural diversity. Mandalay, the very name evokes the splendors of the Burma of old! But, most people will be surprised to learn that Mandalay is not an old city, not even a medieval one, but rather a new city that was created by King Mingdon Min of Burma in 1857 as the new capital of the kingdom of Ava. The once magnificent Royal Palace and the great Atumashi (incomparable) pagoda, King Mingdon Min’s finest creations, are modern reconstructions supervised by the ruling Military junta with the help of forced labor. Today, Mandalay lies at the end of the Lashio Road and it is, by Burmese standards, relatively prosperous as a center for trade with China and as a center for the growing trade with India. Despite the capital having been shifted to Naypyidaw, Mandalay remains by far the main commerical centre of Upper Myanmar. Mandalay is Burma’s cultural and religious centre of Buddhism, having numerous monasteries and more than 700 pagodas. At the foot of Mandalay Hill sits the world’s official “Buddhist Bible”, also known as the world’s largest book, in Kuthodaw Pagoda. There are 729 slabs of stone that together are inscribed with the entire Buddhist canon, each housed in its own white stupa. The buildings inside the old Mandalay city walls, surrounded by a moat repaired in recent times using prison labour, comprise the Mandalay Palace, mostly destroyed during World War II and now replaced by a replica.