Amarapura was the capital of Burma from 1783–1823 and again from 1841–1857, after which King Mindon moved the seat of power 11km north to the newly founded Mandalay. Set around Lake Taungthaman, it’s a pleasant place with several sizeable monasteries including Mahaganayon Kyaung, where tour buses arrive each morning so that visitors can watch the monks eat lunch. It’s a pretty intrusive experience and one that many travellers prefer to skip.
The main reason to visit Amarapura is for U Bein’s Bridge – at 1.2km, the longest teak bridge in the world. In theory you need to have a ticket to cross, but nobody seems to check it. The bridge gets particularly busy at sunset, both with locals (including large numbers of monks) and tourists, many of the latter hiring boats in order to get views of the sun setting behind the bridge. At the far end is a pagoda, Kyauktawgyi Paya, built in 1847 and said to be based on Ananda Pahto in Bagan. The bridge is arguably more atmospheric – and certainly has fewer tourists – at dawn.