If you fancy a day trip with unforgettable pagodas, a ferry ride, the world’s largest pile of bricks and the world’s second largest bell all for £5 then you’re in the right place. Of all the things to do in Mandalay a day trip to Mingun was our favourite as it was the perfect escape from the chaos of city life. Better yet, it’s just an hour down the road – well, river.
Although we only had 10 days in Myanmar, our Mingun day trip was one of our favourite days as we managed to tick off some incredible buildings which were top of our Myanmar bucket list.
We’ll not only share how to get from Mandalay to Mingun and the costs involved but what to see and do once you get there, so it’ll soon be one of your favourite days too.
HOW TO GET FROM MANDALAY TO MINGUN
Mandalay To Mingun By Car
Although you can book a tour from Mandalay to Mingun, it’s so easy to do by yourself not to mention very affordable if you’re backpacking Myanmar on a budget. There are two options – you can either hire a driver for the day or take the ferry. Travelling by ferry is arguably the most interesting as there’s not much to see if you drive from Mandalay to Mingun.
However, taking a Grab or local taxi will mean more freedom – you can arrive before the ferry crowds and stay in Mingun after they’ve left. You could also use the same driver to take you round the many other things to do in Mandalay afterwards.
A driver for the day costs around 30,000MMK (approx. £16.50) – depending on the season. Your accommodation will be able to book a driver for you, or it’s super easy to use Grab or flag one down on the street.
Mandalay To Mingun By Ferry
This is the most scenic and cheapest way to travel from Mandalay to Mingun, but there are a few tips you need to know to make the most of your day trip.
Departure: Firstly take a Grab or Tuk Tuk from Mandalay to Mingun Jetty (known as Gaw Wein Jetty.) From our hotel to the jetty cost 4,600MMK (approx. £2.30). All tourist ferries from Mandalay to Mingun leave at 9am only, so arrive by 08:30am to leave enough time to purchase tickets.
Cost: Mingun ferry tickets are 5,000MMK (approx. £2.70) per person for a return journey. They require a minimum of 6 passengers to make the journey from Mandalay to Mingun so if there are less, the 30,000MMK (approx. £16.50) fee is split between however many tourists there are. Even though we were travelling in low season we still made the minimum, so it’s unlikely you won’t have enough people wanting to travel.
Passport: You will also need to bring your passport as the ticket office take note of all passengers’ nationalities before boarding and require proof of ID for the ferry. Boarding is a fun wee game of walk the plank, complete with a makeshift bamboo handrail.
Journey Time: The journey from Mandalay to Mingun takes just over 1 hour. The return journey leaves Mingun at 12:30 sharp (and will not wait if you’re late!) This means you’ll have around 2.5 hours to explore all the things to do in Mingun however, if you would like longer you can also hire a private boat for around 30,000MMK (approx. £16.50).
Once you’ve walked the plank and made it onboard, take your pick from the various deck chairs (we headed straight for the ones under shade) and enjoy the views of local life along the Irrawaddy River.
ENTRANCE FEE FOR MINGUN, MANDALAY
The ferry from Mandalay to Mingun will then drop you 11km up the river, likely to a crowd of enterprising locals trying to sell you hats, longyis and taxi rides on a cart pulled by an ox.
You do not need a taxi to explore the Mingun attractions – all are within walking distance to each other and around a 15 minute walk from where the ferry drops you off.
However, before you can visit the exciting things to do in Mingun, you will need to buy the tourist pass. You will find the tourist desk mere minutes from the ferry drop off.
You will also see a large map and for the small fee of 5,000MMK (approx. £2.70), you will be given a sticker which acts as your entry ticket to all Mingun attractions marked on the map.
THINGS TO DO IN MINGUN, MANDALAY
Since you have made the effort to travel from Mandalay to Mingun it is understandable you’ll want to see as much as you can, but it’s essential to plan your trip so you’re not late for the return ferry. There are 5 main things to do in Mingun all of which we squeezed in as luckily they’re close together and all within walking distance.
We would’ve happily spent longer at Pahtodawgyi and Hsinbyume Pagoda as we got chatting to some very inquisitive children who made our Mandalay to Mingun day trip even more memorable.
The Giant Lions at Mingun Pagoda
One of the first things you’ll notice in Mingun when you walk up from the ferry are the remains of two giant lions (they look like giant round rocks.) At one stage these lions would’ve measured around 20metres high as they were intended to be the guards for the Mingun Pagoda.
Since their creation in 1799, there have been numerous earthquakes that have reduced the lions to the remains you can see today. Although not nearly as impressive as they once would’ve been, a photo stop here to make out the lion features are an interesting thing to do in Mingun none the less.
Visit Mingun Pagoda (Pahtodawygi)
Following the lions, you’ll soon be greeted by a towering pile of bricks, which the lions were meant to guard, this is Mingun Pagoda. The Mingun Pagoda (also referred to as Pahtodawgyi) should have measured a staggering 150m high, making it the largest in the world.
However, once King Bodawpaya began construction in 1790, he was told by astronomers that should the Mingun Pagoda ever be completed, the kingdom would end. Therefore, it only reached a third of the intended size before construction was abandoned – hence, it’s now the largest pile of bricks in the world.
Although one of the most epic pile of bricks you will ever see and without a doubt one of the best things to do in Mingun. There are 4 sides to the pagoda, you can enter the main one (recognisable by the white archway and vendors outside) to find a small room with shrines.
As a tip, we found the back of Mingun Pagoda the most impressive as it’s here you will see the giant crack left by an earthquake in 1839. Better yet, there were no vendors or other tourists here – just us!
You used to be able to walk up to the roof of the Pahtodawgyi – after seeing the numerous cracks we have no idea how this was ever allowed nor we would’ve been brave enough to attempt it.
The walk around the pagoda was fearful enough – the stones were SUPER hot. Like all religious sites, you are asked to remove your shoes so you will be exploring Pahtodawgyi barefoot. Despite all the temples in Bagan that we hopped around the floor here was the hottest we’ve ever experienced, we literally hopped from one shaded spot to the next and only managed to pose for two photos as our toes were that toasty!
Admire Hsinbyume Pagoda (The White Pagoda)
Arguably the majority of visitors travel from Mandalay to Mingun for Hsinbyume Pagoda. Although Pahtodawgyi is impressive, Hsinbyume Pagoda is incredibly unique and like no other temple or pagoda we have seen in Asia. We also feel its popularity is partially due to Instagram as it’s a frequent favourite on our feeds due to it’s wave-like terraces and vibrant white colour.
It is only a 15 minute walk from Mingun pagoda and immediately you will be mesmerised by the dazzling white exterior. Hsinbyume Pagoda also has a fascinating history and was built as a token of love by the son of Bodawpaya (who built Mingun Pagoda) for his wife Queen Hsinbyume. She passed away during childbirth, so the pagoda is named in her honour with Hsinbyume translating to white elephant queen in Burmese.
We wrote an entire Hsinbyume Pagoda guide as it was one of our most memorable experiences from backpacking Myanmar and a definite highlight from our Mandalay day trip. This was mainly because we met with some hilarious children who were on school holidays for Thingyan festival who taught Darren how to tie his Longyi properly and conducted an entire photoshoot with us which had us in fits of laughter.
Climb Inside Mingun Bell
On route to Hsinbyume Pagoda from Mingun Pagoda you will pass the famous Mingun Bell. One of the most popular things to do in Mingun is to make a little detour to here and strike the bell three times for good luck.
This bell weighs an astonishing 90 tons and was originally intended to top the magnificent stupa of Mingun Pagoda, had it ever been completed. For years Mingun Bell won the title of The World’s Largest Bell, before China claimed the record in 2000.
As well as striking the bell for luck, you can actually go inside – during our visit we counted nearly 10 locals inside as it’s around 16ft high and 11ft wide.
Buy Souvenirs at Mingun Markets
As soon as you exit the Mandalay to Mingun ferry you will be stopped by locals selling their wares, however there are also numerous market stalls throughout Mingun and outside the main pagodas. We love local markets and to be honest, although vendors can become irritating (especially if there’s only a handful of tourists like the day we went) it’s part of Mingun’s charm.
We particularly recall seeing incredible artwork in Mingun not far from Hsinbyume Pagoda. There were also numerous stalls selling hand painted hats, longyis and shoes as well as the usual snacks and drinks.
Although the most popular things to do in Mingun are dictated by its incredible pagodas, a stroll round the markets are guaranteed to inspire a purchase or two not to mention boost local economy and offer the opportunity to chat with friendly locals.
Climb The Stairs to Sat Taw Yar Pagoda
As we waited for the Mingun ferry, we waited at a nearby café overlooking the river. We noticed two giant lion-like structures (Chinthei) through the trees so finished up our drinks and wandered over. Located right on the bank of Irrawaddy River, Sat Taw Yar Pagoda is not quite as impressive as its neighbours but a worthy stop as you wait for the boat.
Built in 1881, the striking white terraces will remind you of Hsinbyume pagoda and once up the steps you will be treated to beautiful views over the river. Although not one of the most popular things to do in Mingun, it’s a refreshing break from the busy tourist spots and the perfect way to end your day trip from Mandalay.
WHAT TO BRING ON YOUR MINGUN DAY TRIP
When travelling from Mandalay to Mingun there are a few essentials we recommend you bring to ensure a stress-free day trip:
As mentioned, the seats on the Mandalay to Mingun ferry are not all under shade and unlike our Inle Lake boat tour which we found chilly, it was super sunny onboard. We had to borrow suncream on the return journey as our seats were in the sunshine and our suncream in our hotel room. There is also limited shade whilst walking round the pagodas so suncream is essential.
Slip On Shoes
This may sound obvious, but sandals or flip flops are easiest as no shoes are allowed in these religious sites. Time is limited so make sure you have shoes you can quickly slip on and off (and also don’t like every other pair of black flip flops to avoid them being mixed up!)
Again, it may sound obvious but its too easy to rely on card and forget cash. We found it particularly tricky when backpacking Myanmar as ATMs would often run out of cash so ensure you’re well prepared for the ferry & tourist tickets as well as any souvenir purchases at the Mingun markets.
LOTS of water
As mentioned, it was crazy hot on the ferry and hopping round the Mingun pagoda so to avoid paying for (overpriced) plastic water bottles remember to bring a reusable one with you.
We are not entirely sure why this is essential as you won’t cross any borders travelling from Mandalay to Mingun but you need to show your passport to board the ferry as proof of ID and nationality.