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From the Ground: 2 Days in Mandalay

By Nicole Long and Jay Austin

If you find yourself visiting Mandalay with time for more than a typical city tour, we have a new two day itinerary that we love.  This area is known for the coffee plantations and dairy products, and this tour will take you away from the major tourist hubs and to higher altitudes with cooler temperatures.  And, who wouldn’t love taking a vintage train through the Shan Mountains?!

What you can expect from this tour:

Day 1 – Mandalay to Pyin Oo Lwin: Markets, Botanical Gardens, Thiri Myaing and Peik Chin Myaung Cave

After breakfast, leave the bustling city of Mandalay and set off on a 1 ½-hr drive through the countryside to Pyin Oo Lwin, formerly known as Maymyo. Located a good 1000m above sea level, this former British hill station is home to a range of red-brick heritage colonial buildings and provides a much-needed break from the city heat in Mandalay. Explore the town’s markets and quaint cafes, as it is known for fresh produce and delicious coffee. Head to the Botanical Gardens, founded in 1915 by a British botanist, which covers an area of more than 170 acres of land and 70 acres of water. Take your time strolling through the well-manicured gardens and learning about the indigenous plants and flora of the region. In the late afternoon, take a horse-drawn cart to the Thiri Myaing, formerly known as the Candacraig, a beautiful colonial mansion which was built in 1904 by the British Bombay Burma Timber Company. Continue on by car to the Peik Chin Myaung Cave, located about 10 miles from the city, where you can spend some time exploring. Return back to Pyin Oo Lwin for dinner before settling in for the evening.

Day 2 – Pyin Oo Lwin to Mandalay: Gokteik Train Ride

After an early breakfast, you will be transferred to the train station for your 7am train departure. This morning you will be able to sit back and enjoy the scenery as you take this local train through the countryside for approximately 2 hours. The vintage train and worn wooden benches add to the experience of riding through the beautiful Shan mountains in what feels like a bygone era. One of the major highlights of the train ride will be passing over the 1000ft river gorge on the famous Gokteik viaduct. The bridge was built in 1903 and described as an engineering marvel. You will depart the train at Naungpein where your van awaits. Have lunch at a local restaurant before heading back to Mandalay in the afternoon.

Guiding Light: Thanda Tun in Mandalay

Thanda Tun is one of Journeys Within’s newer guides in Myanmar. A little shy at first, the JW team is working to help this budding guide grow to meet her potential …


Name: Thanda Tun

Age: 31 years old

Thanda Tun is the middle child, with one brother and three sisters.

When did you begin working for Journeys Within ?

I have been with the company for two years working in Mandalay.

How did you become a guide?

I was interested in becoming a tour guide since I was a student. So I started to attend English Speaking class   as soon as I finished my eleven grade exam.When I was able to speak properly I tried to be a tour guide.

What do you like about being a guide?

Being a  tour  guide I have a chance to share our culture, tradition, way of life of our people and Buddhism with my clients. In turn I can get knowledge from them.

What is your favorite part about being a guide?

I love the way I become a teacher and educate tourists. They come from different countries, different classes etc., but all of them have to follow my instructions, my ground rules.

What is the most challenging part about being a guide?

The most challenging part about being a guide is to be knowledgeable — it can be hard to think of answers quickly when guests ask many questions.

What is your favorite thing to show guests?

My favourite part about being a guide is to let my clients know about our country and to learn about things for themselves.  I also like to improve my English more than before.

What kind of things do guests want to talk about with you?

Most of my guests ask me about political situation and ways of lives of Myanmar people. This is always very new for them.

What food / restaurants should guests try?

The gusset should have food at the restaurants which are hygienic to try new things.

What should guests coming to Mandalay know?

The guest should know how to keep an open mind when learning about the culture of the Myanmar people. Life is different here.

Most memorable JW guest?

All my guests are really friendly and they all have heart of gold. My most memorable guests are Thomas and  Mary. They are form U.S.A.