Mandalay & Northern Shan
Mandalay was the former capital of Burma before the British moved it to Rangoon and has a long history of exotic rulers and colourful Burmese empires. At its heart of the old royal palace, which dates from the 1850s, but just outside of the city you find Ava, Amarapura and Sagaing which are all former capitals. Mandalay is known for its cottage industries such as kalaga tapestries and gold-leaf which had a history in supplying the Royal Court with the techniques still in use today. Mandalay is usually use as a starting point for a luxury cruise along the Irrawaddy, but in many ways, Mandalay always seems to be far better that you expect (Bagan is always what people think of then travelling to Burma). A cycle around Ava is possibly one of the best experiences you can do in Burma, and for that reason, this area is always worth including on a tour of Burma. To the east of Mandalay you find the remote, off-the-beaten track charm of Northern Shan where you can stay at the colonial hill-station of Pyin-Oo-Lwin (Maymyo) and Hsipaw.