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The Last King of Burma in Mandalay​

The Royal Palace, Mandalay

The year was 1885 and the last Burmese king, King Thibaw, was standing strong. After the

British invasion, the palace was used by the colonialists as a base for troops in Mandalay and

many of the royal treasures were looted and sent back to London (many are still on display at

the Victoria and Albert Museum). But it would eventually fall out of British hands again.

 

Every global aggressor eventually must face a rising challenger. And so it was that during the

Second World War, Japanese forces captured the Royal Palace in Mandalay and used it as a

supply depot for their expansions in the region. In retaliation, the Allies bombed the compound

and most of it was burnt to the ground.

 

Only one major wooden building survived – the Shwenandaw Monastery, which is built

completely of teak and is decorated throughout with detailed and ornate carvings. The watch

tower and royal mint were also undamaged. The rest of the Royal Palace has been rebuilt from

scratch.

 

Visiting Mandalay's Royal Palace

So, almost everything you walk through from the entrance hall all the way past the throne room

and to the residences was constructed in the early 1990s. Although it is faithful to the original

design and some traditional construction techniques were used, modern materials like concrete

and corrugated iron were incorporated into the reconstructions.

 

It doesn’t take away from the experience, though, and the authorities have done a very good

job at creating a sense of what the palace would once have been like. The modern construction

materials aren’t obvious and you can easily believe you are in the original buildings. Just a

shinier version of what they would have been like if nature had not been usurped by war.

 

It doesn’t take too long to walk through the palace but it can take a long time to get in to it.

The palace grounds are massive and dominate the cityscape. They are a huge square of about

two kilometres on each side, surrounded by a 64 metre-wide moat. Only one entrance can be

used by tourists – the eastern – and it can take a long time to get to it if you happen to be on

the other side where most of the hotels are.

 

The reason for the inconvenience is because the actual restored palace takes up only a small

space in the centre of the grounds. The rest of the area is used now as a military base and big

signs and guards remind you that it’s a restricted zone. All you can do is walk down the

pathway and straight into the palace area. No wandering!

 

At least it is back in the hands of the local people again, whatever the international view of the

Myanmar military is. After the British control and then the Japanese it seems there is now

plenty of protection for this important symbol of Mandalay and Myanmar. Nobody will march

unopposed through these gates again.

 

Source: http://www.timetravelturtle.com/2013/02/royal-palace-mandalay-myanmar

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