Discover Mandalay Palace - Mandalay
Mandalay Palace takes its name from the hill, Mandalay Hill, and is considered the last royal seat of the Konbaung dynasty, or the last monarchy of Burma. The grounds follow a traditional Burmese palace design, where a moat surrounds a walled fort with a citadel at the center, facing east. All buildings are a single storey in height, and a building or area's significance is indicated visually by the number of spires it has above it.
It was the residence of Kings Mindo and Thibaw, the last two kings of Burma. After the capture of the royal family in 1885 during the third Anglo-Burmese war, the compound was converted into a military base called Fort Dufferin by the British and remained so all throughout the British colonial era of Myanmar. Many of the treasures within were looted and sent to London, where they still reside in the Victoria and Albert museums. Worse still, it was overtaken by the Japanese during the Second World War, and so most of the grounds were tragically laid to waste after the Allied forces bombed the area. It has since been reconstructed in the 90s with more modern materials, and is now a premier destination enjoyed by both tourists and locals.
As a result of the bombing during World War 2, only one wooden building survived in the compound. The Shwenandaw Monastery is built entirely out of teak and is decorated with beautiful carvings all throughout. The watch tower and royal mint were also undamaged, and these structures remain today as a testament to the artistic vision and creativity of the Burmese. Everything else has since been rebuilt from scratch, and so most of the attractions in the palace grounds were built in the last ten to fifteen years. Just because the palace was rebuilt fairly recently does not mean that you go home with an inauthentic experience as your takeaway. The palace remains faithful to its original design, despite having been made with iron and concrete instead of mere wood, likely so that these structures will withstand the test of time. Going inside, you will still feel a sense of what the palace was like before it was ravaged by war, as the planners made painstaking efforts to hide that modern construction had been used in order to raise the palace from the ashes.
While it doesn't take too long to explore the palace, getting there can take up much of your time. The area surrounding the palace remains a military base to this day, which means that most of the grounds are off-limits to visitors. Foreigners can only enter through the east gate, and it is best accessed via motorcycle taxi. Just tell the driver to take you to the palace; everyone knows where it is, so no detailed address is needed.