MANDALAY – Visitors are still restricted from touring the Mandalay Palace compound, and the gardens of Mya Nan San Kyaw Royal Palace, the home of the last king of Burma Thibaw, have been reclaimed by nature.
The Mandalay Palace was built in 1857 by King Mindon of the Konbaung Dynasty, a line of kings that ruled from Burma 1752 to 1885. Their reign ended when the British colonial forces dethroned and exiled King Thibaw, heir of King Mindon, and sent him to India in the 19th century.
The palace compound sports gardens, a royal lake and the tombs of King Mindon and his three wives.
It was largely destroyed by aerial bombardment during World War II, leaving only the moat and the palace walls remaining.
In late 1980s, the palace and royal buildings were reconstructed and named “Mya Nan San Kyaw,” or the “Golden Palace.” After the reconstruction, in order to attract visitors, the military government ran a small cruise along the moat and displayed a small aircraft, a military tank and an old steam engine. But the plane and tank are rusting, and the moat tours only lasted a few months.
Since the military made an army base inside the palace compound and restricted the free movement of the visitors to the palace and its gardens, locals were reluctant to go, although it was a popular spot for the few foreign tourists that came to the region.
As the number of visitors interests declined, the maintenance to royal gardens was neglected and the gardens were eventually abandoned.
“Before, people brought their children to visit the palace to learn history and to the gardens to have fun. But since there has been no maintenance, the gardens are in bad shape and no one wants to visit them,” said Hsu Nget, a Mandalay historian.
“It would be good to repair the gardens because Mandalay has very few recreation area for families and friends to hang out, and it is important to get people to visit the palace for the next generation to learn history,” he added.