The other main city that most people visit is Mandalay, sitting on the banks of the Irrawaddy River to the north of the country. It is not particularly old having been founded in 1857 and suffered great damage during the Second World War. It is a modern, bustling place with a large Chinese population and is an excellent place to purchase local gem stones if you are looking for a traditional souvenir.
The city is still dominated by the old Royal Palace, a vast complex of pavilions, temples and stores surrounded by a huge rectangular moat and system of walls. It was bombed flat during the second World War but was rebuilt and is still a base of the Burmese Military it is not possible to visit, but a walk around a part of its defenses gives a good idea as to its vast scale.
One of the most popular places to visit is the Mahamuni Paya, a Buddhist temple with a two metre tall statue of Buddha at its heart. Over the years pilgrims and worshippers have added gold leaf to the statue meaning that it mow has a layer of over 15 cm of pure gold covering it! Its a place to go to savour the atmosphere as well as to look at the statue and associated carvings.
Perhaps the best carving is to be found at Shwe In Bin Kyaung, a monastery dating to 1895 and carved almost exclusively out of teak. The nearby U Bein bridge is another superb wooden construction, it being the oldest, and for many years, oldest wooden bridge in the world. It runs for over 1.2 km and dates from c.1850.
Most visitors to Mandalay will head down to the banks of the river for a boat trip to Mingun. This complex of Buddhist shrines, temples and pagodas centres on the vast unfinished pagoda of Pahtodawgyi.