Thanks partly to Rudyard Kipling’s evocative poem Mandalay, the name of Myanmar’s second city suggests – for many Western visitors at least – images of a bygone Asia. Arriving in Mandalay tends quickly to dispel such thoughts, however, as visitors are faced with a grid of congested streets dominated by the walls and moat of the huge military base that surrounds the old royal palace.
Despite this, it would be a shame to rush through too quickly without giving the place a chance to grow on you. There’s Mandalay Hill to climb for one thing, memorable both for its views and for the experience of joining throngs of locals doing the same. Then there are the day-trips to former Burmese capitals such as the once-mighty Inwa, now a sleepy backwater scattered with stupas that you can visit by horse and cart; Sagaing is another favourite for its hilltop pagodas.