Amarapura: The U-Bein Bridge

Amarapura succeeded Inwa as the capital of Burma in 1783, supposedly according to the advice of the court astrologers. Today, it’s technically part of the city of Mandalay, but its leafy avenues and general small town vibe feels like a world away from the concrete structures and traffic-choked roads of the country’s cultural capital.

While the name literally means “City of Immortality,” Amarapura was the royal capital for only 70 years. In 1857, King Mindon transferred the palace buildings to Mandalay in accordance to a Buddhist prophecy. Nowadays, there’s not much to see other than some monasteries and an iconic bridge.

The U-Bein Bridge in Amarapura is one of Myanmar’s most iconic sights.
The bridge stretches 1.2 kilometers across the Taungthaman Lake.
Boats are available to take visitors across the lake.
Monks, villagers and visitors (left) use the bridge to commute back and forth across the lake. A child (right) witnesses the bustle happening as sunset approaches.
Young women enjoy the serenity of the lake’s surrounds.
Beer and cheap grub make sunset-viewing by the bridge more enjoyable.

That bridge is the U-Bein Bridge, a 1.2-kilometer teak crossing that gracefully spans the Taungthaman Lake. It’s one of Myanmar’s most-photographed spots, especially during sunset, when the flow of people walking on the planks make for an elegant foreground against the burning orange sky.

The built was built using teak wood reclaimed from a former palace in Inwa, and was named after the mayor who ordered its construction. While it’s more known for its tourist appeal, the bridge is actually a significant structure for the local villagers and monks, who use the passageway in their daily commute.

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