Built as the residence for King Mindon and the Burmese aristocracy, Mandalay Palace is protected by walls and a moat more than 2km long on each side. After the British took the city they used it as a fort, and most of the huge site is still an off-limits military base. The palace complex itself is right at the centre (daily 7.30am–4.30pm; $10 Mandalay ticket), although the wooden buildings all burnt down towards the end of World War II. What you see today is a 1990s reconstruction.

Foreigners can only enter the walls through the east gate and are not allowed to deviate from the straight road to the centre. The best way to get an overview of the palace is by climbing the 130 steps of the helter-skelter-like watchtower in the southeast of the palace area. The iron roofs of the forty or so timber buildings that make up the palace may look inauthentic, but were actually specified that way by King Mindon. Generally though, the buildings, reminiscent of a film set, are impressive from a distance but less so when examined up close.

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