Mandalay did not survive long as the “Golden City” of Buddhist teachings, but it remains an important cultural hub, with numerous splendid pagodas. Today, despite the pre-eminence of Yangon, the city has not lost its position among the Burmese as a religious centre. It is said that two-thirds of the country’s monks still make their home in the Mandalay area.
As a result of its proximity to China, Mandalay has benefited from an influx of investment and development. The city is now home to a whole array of new hotels and commercial buildings. Taking it even further along the road of progress is the upgraded airport, constructed with technical assistance from an Italian−Thai joint venture company, and designed to handle 45,000 aircraft movements a year.
In the city environs, there are several places worth visiting – all reminders of its glorious past. The three ancient capitals of Amarapura, Inwa (Ava) and Sagaing, as well as the town of Mingun, all lie within a stone’s throw of Mandalay. Among the ruins of palaces, pagodas and kyaung, the visitor can find abundant evidence of the political and religious power that belonged to Upper Burma between the 14th and 19th centuries, between the fall of Bagan and the British occupation.