The mystery that is Myanmar steadily sheds its charm to the world, attracting hordes of tourists and vacationers with its many ancient relics, landmarks and cities. The township of Amarapura is one of these centuries-old cities. The name means “City of Immortality”. Located in the township of Mandalay, Amarapura is the old capital of Myanmar for three periods from the 18th and 19th centuries during the Konbaung dynasty until Mandalay took the title in 1857. The former city is also referred to as Taungmyo, which means “southern city” in relation to Mandalay.
There are many reasons why local and foreign tourists come to the former capital, and one of them is for the township’s rich history. It was founded in 1783 by King Bodawpaya as the capital of his kingdom. In 1823, however, the succeeding king, who was the son of Bodawpaya, moved the capital to Ava. After a few years, the new king, King Tharrawaddy renamed Amarapura as capital and again in 1853 by King Mindon. Today, tourists to this township are transported to the majestic bygone years of kings and royalties knowing that this place in Mandalay used to be the country’s seat of power.
In addition to the rich history, people come to the old capital for what it is today, an enchanting tourist destination that showcases a romantic dance between modern facilities and ancient relics. A leading attraction here is the 1.2-km-long U Bein Bridge, the longest teak footbridge in the world. It is a humble, pure and very picturesque teak bridge over Taungthaman Lake built in the mid-19th century by U Bein, the town mayor. The mayor made good use of more than 1,000 unwanted teak columns from an old palace. At the end of the bridge is a stupa built by King Pagan in 1847 called Kyautawgyi Paya.
Other attractions are the Pahtodawgyi (a centuries-old stupa that was built by King Bodawpaya in 1816), Bagaya Kyaung (an ancient wooden monastery), Maha Gandhayon Kyaung (a large modern monastery), an old 1838 Chinese Temple (built during King Tharrawaddy’s rule), modern Yadanabon University and ruins of the majestic Amarapura Palace that contains a moat and the tombs of King Bodawpaya and King Bagyidaw.
Built in the 18th century, the royal palace was abandoned and dismantled for the newer palace in Mandalay. The palace bricks were taken off and reused to build the new palace. This was where U Bein got the teak columns for his footbridge. Today, only palace ruins remain and so people can only imagine how majestic the palace must have looked. In 1855, a British visitor to the ruins believed that the grounds were as wide as a quarter of a square mile. The structure was made of wood and the old terrace was about 260 feet long.
The third reason for the popularity of Amarapura is the local trade involving silk, cotton and bronze. The township is a regular day-trip tour destination for most travelers to Myanmar. Tourists purposefully come to watch how bronze is cast and how silk and cotton are weave and to make direct purchases.