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Burma 101: The town of Mandalay
This is a short introductory tour of Myanmar's King's Town, Culture Capitol - and Town of Seconds. Myanmar's second oldest college, second strongest international airfield and second strongest soccer coaches. But for Myanmar's conquerors, Mandalay and its surroundings were first-class. Innva (also known as Ava), about 30 kilometers southwards, on the east shore of the Ayeyarwady River, was once an impressive city-state, when it was the preferred residence of the Taungoo and Konbaung dictatorships, who in 1738 established another capitol in near Amarapura (the site of the famous U Bein bridge).
After the British annex the lower part of the land in 1857, the second to last Konbaung kings, Mindon, relocated his Amarapura capitol to the foot of Mandalay Hill, erected the now icons ditch and ramparts and called the town "YADAN CARBON " (the city's soccer club still carries this name).
Myanmar's new town was to support Myanmar's religious, cultural and regal traditions at a glorious era when the fame of the Conbaung vanished and the industrialized nations of Europe spun off their kingdoms in Southeast Asia. As well as his lush castle, Mindon populated the entire capital with palaces and convents and commissioned an extensive story of his empire (known in English as The Glass Palace Chronicle). 2,000 people were killed in the war.
It is surprising, therefore, that it was under regal control for only 30 years before the British ascended the Ayeyarwady River and banished Mindon's sons, Thibaw, to India. Soon after the annexation of Mandalay, the British relocated the British to Rangoon.
Following continuing bomb attacks by the Allies and the Japans during the Second World War and two major fire raids in the 80s, the castle ramparts and some places of worship are more or less all that remains of the old town - today's King's Castle is a 1989 reconstruction, and a large part of the square within the castle ramparts is used as an armies' fortification.
Foreign reporters wrestled over a "Chinese takeover" when the army regime closed business with China corporations in the fields of property, timber felling and coal mines and expanded its northerly facilities to direct this trade to Mandalay. The extent to which this booming is due to formal or informal China immigrants is the subject of some discussion, and many of Mandalay's malls, condos and properties are privately held in China.
andalay will remain a major Chinese trading platform for precious stones, jades, smart phones, motorcycles and other imports. Founded in 1925, Mandalay offers facilities for medical, dental, arts and tech. Mandalay's true strengths, however, lie in the study of religion; in parallel with Mandalay Theological College, the Phaung Daw Oo Schule on the edge of the town is the biggest monastery college in the state, with around 9,000 students from elementary, secondary, upper and higher schools and the academic world.
Though there is little modern artwork, Mandalay has flourishing tradition of bricklaying, woodcarving and metalworking for the pagoda and sacred paintings, as well as conventional paintings, textiles and jadework. This tradition goes back to the ancient artisans who erected Mindon's magnificent new castle and monastery, and visitors can see their handicrafts in the sculpted Tea Shvenandaw Monastery, the 729 slab marbles with the Pali Canon in the Kuthodaw Pagoda and the reflected sutaung pyei Pagoda mosaics on the Mandalay Hill.
And, when you ascend the mound at sundown, look out for Mandalay Central Prison in the north-west, recognisable by its treacherous semicircular faces and radially shaped huts (but lower your hopes before you visit it in person; it only has a one-star Google rating). U Ye Lwin, 66, was named by the Mandalay City Development Committee in 2016.
It is chaired by the Mandalay District, which encompasses the actual town ( "Chanayethazan Township" contains the inner city) and outskirts, as well as Amarapura. Although Mandalay is second in most respects, he is the number one covered turtle in Burma. Mandalay Zoological Garden is the only zoological garden in Myanmar where extinct wildlife lives.