Cycling Tour: West Mandalay

  • Start 23rd St at 86th St
  • End Ayarwaddy River View Hotel
  • Length 2.2 miles; one to three hours

While pedalling Mandalay's web of tree-shaded back lanes, you'll pass unvisited monasteries and have ample chances for random encounters and real-life insights. Do keep in mind that even on backstreets, you may have unsettling close encounters with motor vehicles.

On a quiet day, turning off bustling, canalside 86th St can feel as though you've suddenly entered a village. If 23rd St is flooded beyond the boxy redbrick-towered Christ Cathedral, substitute the parallel street a block further south passing some colonial-era government buildings. Briefly follow 87th St. Opposite the large, spired, very pink St Michael's Catholic Church, turn west again, zigzagging through residential alleys to 88th St. West of the T-junction, 25th St sports a few remnant timber and bamboo-weave homes, and one of Mandalay’s workshops for turning sugar cane into jaggery. Visit grand Eindawya Paya then veer west off shady 89th St just before a crocodile bridge representing Ngamoe Yeik, the faithful servant of tragic Burmese-chronicle hero Min Nandar.

Take the narrow east–west lane between old monastery residences, some wooden, others colonial-style with pillar-mouldings. After Khin Makantaik monastery, wind past Asumtaik and Sakutaik monasteries and spot a house-workshop that creates Mayuwe rice-puff snack-bars in big sweet-smelling woks.

Where 91st St makes a short dog-leg, a mirror-mosaic colonnade leads into Chanthaya Paya – here the most precious buddha image supposedly dates to the reign of Indian emperor Ashoka. Chanthaya's golden stupa looks particularly photogenic in the afternoon light reflecting in lake-like Thinga Yarsar Canal. The best viewpoints are across a long teak footbridge which could be touted as Mandalay's own mini U-Bein Bridge were it not for the putrid smell of decomposing trash.

Sweep around the big, impressively colourful new Jin Taw Yan Chinese Temple emerging on to Strand Rd, where the Ayeyarwady riverside includes a series of boat berths with fascinating cargo.

Enjoy riverside scenes with a cheap chilled beer at Cafe YMH, a meal and show at Mya Nandar or a panoramic rooftop cocktail at Ayarwaddy River View Hotel.