U Bein Bridge is one of the icons in the area around Mandalay. It is the longest teak bridge anywhere in the world. It measures 1.2km in length. A walk from one side to the other is a nice way to spend an hour or more. You can choose to walk across the bridge to the Taungthaman village on the other side, and wander through the village before returning. In the village you will find the Kyauktawgyi Pagoda
When to visit
For photographic reasons and to avoid the heat of the day the best time for visiting is either early morning or early evening. These are also the times when the locals and monks are making their way to & from market, when farmers are herding their ducks or when fishermen head out in their boats. Given the choice the evening and the often spectacular sunsets is the time to go – but be warned you are likely to meet plenty of travellers with exactly the same idea.
Where is it
The bridge is located in the ancient city of Amarapura which is a 20 minute drive from Mandalay city itself. The easiest way to get there is with a driver or a hired taxi.
Once there you will find no shortage of stalls selling drinks, food and tourist knick-nacks. There is also strong competition to get the tourists to go on a boat ride to view the bridge from below.
People sometimes combine the U Bein bridge with a visit to the Maha ganda yone monastery. Here the 1000 or so monks eat once a day and it has become a bit of a zoo with tourists turn into amateur paparazzi sticking cameras into monk’s faces and barging over each other for the best angle. The mass grouping of monks is considered to be quite a sight, the rudeness of tourists means you have to make your own decision if this is for you.
Of course not every sunset is a spectacular one – on the day we visited an evening storm came through and rather than beautiful silhouettes against an orange setting sun, we got driving rain and had to join the other running for shelter.