Mandalay was the last royal capital of the Burmese kingdom. Geographically and culturally at the core of the country, the city was established by King Mindon as a new center for the study of Buddhism, and today remains the spiritual artery of a devoutly religious nation. Mandalay is home to more than half of the total population of monks in Myanmar. The former royal capital is itself only 150 years old, but its poetic and lyrical name, immortalized in numerous books and poems, conjures up childhood images of the romance and mysticism of the Orient.
The busy, dusty streets, full of rickshaws, horse drawn carts and bicycles are bustling with activity and trade, exuding a distinctly commercial atmoshphere to the city. To the devoutly Buddhist Burmese. Mandalay is the city that truly reflects their soul. On its doorstep, the mightly irrawaddy meanders languidly past. On the far reaches of its banks, perched atop a small hillock is the ancient, whitewashed city of Sagaing, the former capital of the once independent Shan kingdom. Just south of Mandalay is another former royal capital, Amarapura, which translates to "city of immortality".