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Mandalay was founded in 1857 as Myanmar's last royal capital. There was a prophecy for many years that a great Buddhist city would be built at the foot of Mandalay Hill on the occasion of the 2,400th jubilee of Buddhism. King Mindon of Myanmar decided to jump the gun and started creating the city in 1857. After completing the city in 1858, by dismantling the former capital of Amarapura and relocating it by elephant, he started to build several major religious sights. The city was captured by the British in the Third Anglo-Burmese War and was created into a colonial city. The city suffered greatly during World War II and was captured by the Japanese on May 2 1942. Mandalay was heavily bombed and was not liberated, by the British, until March of 1945. The palace was almost completely destroyed and not rebuilt till the 1990s.
Today Mandalay is the second largest city in Myanmar with a population just under 1 million people. It is also the religious and cultural center of Myanmar with over 700 pagodas and the home to many religious texts. The city is also starting to become a center of trade for most of northern Myanmar. Mandalay is starting to become a major gateway for trade with China. This is a great city to spend a couple of days touring the sights and watching people. Just watch out for the open air sewers!
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Mandalay has a hot and humid tropical climate. Temperatures are well above 30 degrees Celcius during the day and mostly around 20 °C at night. Temperatures from mid March to May can reach over 40 °C making this time rather unpleasant for visiting the city. This time is often called the hot dry season. From June to October is rainy season. There is massive amounts of rainfall this time of year. The best time to visit is during the cool dry season which is December to February. During this period there is still warm and pleasant weather with pleasant nights between 13 °C and 16 °C. It usually is dry and rather sunny during these months.
Internet is now widely and cheaply available in Yangon, Mandalay, and Bagan, but more limited elsewhere. However access can be slow although now unrestricted. Rates are around 300 kyat/hour in Yangon and 1,000-3,000 kyat/hour elsewhere. Some hotels, although rare, allow free access to the internet.
The government records screenshots every five minutes from PCs in Internet cafés to monitor Internet usage. If you don't want your privacy violated in this way, save your surfing for Thailand or wherever you head next.
See also International Telephone Calls
Myanmar's country code is 95.
International phone calls can be arranged at the Central Telephone & Telegraph Office at the corner of Ponsodan and Mahabandoola Streets in Yangon. International Direct Dial calls are also possible from most hotels and at many public call offices (often a phone in a shop), but they are expensive, e.g., a call to the US costs USD6–7 per min.
The MPTGSM mobile phone network is provided by the Myanmar Government's Post and Telecommunication agency. This works on the GSM900 band, so is visible to multi-band GSM phones. Roaming is available onto MPT's GSM 900 network, subject to agreements between operators; check with your operator before you leave to be sure. Unfortunately, MPT only has international roaming agreements with operators from a limited number countries and territories. Nevertheless, if your own mobile telephone can detect the MPT GSM network, then you may be able to buy a USD20 SIM card which will work for 28 days.
As of October 2014, Telenor and Ooredoo, two international companies, have entered the market. Sim cards are cheap and widely available (1500 kyats for a Telenor sim). Nevertheless, connectivity can still be limited to urban centres, Yangon and Mandalay in particular. Telenor seems to have a better connection and plans to improve nets massively in the next years. Although MPT has the widest coverage, it is also the most expensive.
International mail out of Myanmar is reportedly quite efficient, despite what some hotels might tell you.
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