What you need to know about Mandalay
Mandalay,is the second-largest city and the last royal capital of Myanmar (Burma). Located 716 km (445 mi) north of Yangon on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River, the city has a population of 1,225,553 (2014 census).
Mandalay is the economic centre of Upper Burma and considered the centre of Burmese culture. A continuing influx of Chinese immigrants, mostly from Yunnan, in the past 20 years, has reshaped the city’s ethnic makeup and increased commerce with China. Despite Naypyidaw’s recent rise, Mandalay remains Upper Burma’s main commercial, educational and health center.
Kyat and US dollar usage. The kyat (pronounced ‘chat’) is the official currency of Myanmar, abbreviated as ‘K’ or ‘MMK’ and usually placed before the numerical value (i.e. K500). Kyat come in notes (no coins) of value K50, K100, K200, K500, K1000, K5000 and K10,000.
- Mandalay features a tropical wet and dry climate (Köppen Aw), although the rain shadow of the Arakan Mountains is so powerful that the city almost qualifies as having a hot semi-arid climate (BSh). Mandalay features noticeably warmer and cooler periods of the year. Average temperatures in January, the mildest month, hovers around 21 °C or 69.8 °F while the hottest month, April, averages 31 °C or 87.8 °F. Mandalay is very hot in the months of April and May, with average high temperatures easily exceeding 35 °C or 95 °F. It is not uncommon to see high temperatures surpass 40 °C or 104 °F during these two months in the city.
- Mandalay also features wet and dry seasons of nearly equal length, with the wet season running from May through October and the dry season covering the remaining six months. The highest reliably recorded temperature in Mandalay is 48.0 °C (118.4 °F) on April 24, 1975 while the lowest is 7.6 °C (45.7 °F) on December 26, 1999. There is considerably more diurnal temperature variation in winter than in summer.
There are also a lot of Burmese Indians in Mandalay. (These are Indian people who live in Myanmar.) People in Mandalay speak the Burmese language. A lot of people also speak the Standard Chinese language.
- The general state of health care in Burma is poor. The military government spends anywhere from 0.5% to 3% of the country’s GDP on health care, consistently ranking among the lowest in the world. In 2005, the public health care system of Mandalay Region with over 7.6 million people consisted of slightly over 1000 doctors and about 2000 nurses working in 44 hospitals and 44 health clinics. Over 30 of the so-called hospitals had less than 100 beds. Although health care is nominally free, in reality, patients have to pay for medicine and treatment, even in public clinics and hospitals. Public hospitals lack many of the basic facilities and equipment.
- Nonetheless Mandalay remains the main health care center for Upper Burma as almost all of large public hospitals and private hospitals are in Mandalay. The city has ten public hospitals and one hospital specializing in traditional Burmese medicine. For a semblance of adequate health care, the well-to-do from Upper Burma go to private hospitals and clinics in Mandalay. For more advanced treatments, they have to go to Yangon or abroad. The wealthy Burmese routinely go abroad (usually Bangkok or Singapore) for treatment.
- Mandalay is the major trading and communications center for northern and central Burma. Much of Burmese external trade to China and India goes through Mandalay.
- Among the leading traditional industries are silk weaving, tapestry, jade cutting and polishing, stone and wood carving, making marble and bronze Buddha images, temple ornaments and paraphernalia, the working of gold leaves and of silver, the manufacture of matches, brewing and distilling.
- Chinese immigrants have increasingly dominated Mandalay’s economy since the imposition of sanctions by the United States and the European Union in the 1990s.
- Mandalay has the best educational facilities and institutions, after Yangon, in Burma where state spending on education is among the lowest in the world. Students in poor districts routinely drop out in middle school as schools have to rely on forced “donations” and various fees from parents for nearly everything – school maintenance to teachers’ salaries.
- Many wealthy Mandalay parents enroll their children in the city’s English language private schools for primary and secondary education and Chinese and Singaporean universities for university education. Some wealthy Chinese families also send their children to “cram schools” where students study for entrance exams into Chinese universities from 6am to 8am, then to government high schools from 9am to 3pm, and finally preparation classes for Singapore GCE O levels from 4pm to 9pm.
- For the rest of the students who cannot afford to go abroad for studies, Mandalay offers Upper Burma’s best institutions of higher education. The city’s University of Medicine, Mandalay, University of Dental Medicine, Mandalay, Mandalay Technological University and University of Computer Studies, Mandalay are among the nation’s most selective universities. The vast majority of university students in Mandalay attend liberal arts universities: Mandalay University, the oldest university in Upper Burma, and Yadanabon University.
- Mandalay is Burma’s cultural and religious center of Buddhism, having numerous monasteries and more than 700 pagodas. At the foot of Mandalay Hill sits the world’s official “Buddhist Bible”, also known as the world’s largest book, in Kuthodaw Pagoda.
- The styles of Mandalay Buddha Images and Buddha Statues were many since King Mandon, who was a devout Buddhist, and had filled Mandalay with them and through the years Mandalay Buddhist art became established as the pure art of Myanmar.
- There are 729 slabs of stone that together are inscribed with the entire Pāli canon, each housed in its own white stupa.
- The buildings inside the old Mandalay city walls, surrounded by a moat, which was repaired in recent times using prison labor, comprise the Mandalay Palace, mostly destroyed during World War II. İt is now replaced by a replica, Mandalay Prison and a military garrison, the headquarters of the Central Military Command.