After a splendid first-day in Phowintaung caves close to Monywa, the second day I will be exploring the most famous attractions of the city itself, as there are plenty of things to do in Monywa. Once again, I rented the same motorbike at the same place because I had filled enough gas for this same day and more…
I’m not so nervous with the fact of riding a motorbike alone anymore. The first thing I visit is Thanboddhay Paya. After seeing so many temples in Myanmar and in Southeast Asia, it’s amazing how this one is still able to impress. I dare to say it is different from any other I have ever seen with a different architectural style. Tha’s why paying it a visit is one of the things to do in Monywa.
The pagoda is surrounded by other magnificent buildings that attract me with their color palette and the fact that they look influenced by European architecture. The pagoda itself looks split in two. One side is under renovations, painted in bright ravishing colors. Those are different from what I usually see in the country: bright orange catches the eye. The other side still shows how the time and weather can dissolve colors and transform them into light dreamy tones. I confess I like this side the most. I love the color palette and how old each structure looks. So, I would have to say that I prefer the side without renovations, and I’m glad I was able to see it like that, in case they paint everything new.
The inside is no less impressive. The walls are covered with Buddha statues. Some as big as a hand, and others as big as your neck can stretch to look up. I was overwhelmed by the quantity of Buddhas inside this temple. I couldn’t avoid walking around with jaw dropped to each corner I cross that reveals more and more statues. This must be one of the places with the biggest number of Buddhas statues where I have been…
The temple itself isn’t that big, but there are a lot more other buildings and temples around the main one. I spent a long time here and I haven’t seen every structure inside the big complex of wonderful architecture. Besides enjoying the peace and silence, I need to get back to the road, not before trying to climb a tower with a great view of the temple from several meters high. What is my surprise when I find out that women can’t go up. There is a sign stating it just before the staircase starts. Myanmar still has this kind of thing that I honestly don’t understand. It is not the first religious place where I realize that women can’t go to certain places that men can…
Off I go to the huge, or ginormous, complex of Buddha statues a few kilometers away. Definitely one of the most important things to do in Monywa, mainly for locals. Here, you will find giant Buddha statues in all possible positions: reclining Buddha, sitting Buddha, lying Buddha, standing Buddha, and even a sleeping Buddha, or whatever. This last one was a first for me. The huge statue is lying across the floor and I can only notice it because of the fully decorated feet. I eventually end up seeing its nose. I didn’t visit this Buddha statue. I would be walking on it.
I start at the very bottom of the complex, at the first golden construction I see, the Aung Sakkya Pagoda, and go all the way up until the standing Buddha that can be seen kilometers away. The pagoda where I first stop is actually a very nice visit as you can climb all the way to the top and walk around it. If it weren’t some kids to show me the way in, I would miss it. The view is graceful, and the company of three little cute kids too. They followed me during my visit to this Monywa pagoda with smiles. I ended up taking them some pictures- they are happy when I show the final result back to them- and giving them some treats as a way to thank.
Don’t give kids in Myanmar money, you will not be teaching them any good.
I proceed with my visit to the complex walking through the staircases that connect the major part of the area. Next is a huge laying Buddha, but I have seen similar in Bago. You can go inside from the back, but it is not that interesting. Around there are many locals selling souvenirs, mainly. Next is the standing Buddha: Laykyun Setkyar, the third tallest Buddha statue in the world. The massive statue is so high like I have never seen before. I need to lean on my neck as much as I can to be able to contemplate the whole thing. This place seems like a major religious place to visit. There are many Burmese, but not even one foreigner, besides me.
The statue is not finished yet, as per January 2010, you can clearly see it as you walk in the back that is still not painted in Gold. The statue has 28 floors. Yes, as massive as that! And I went up to them all!!! The way up took me too long, but I thought I would be rewarded at the end with a magnificent view of the surrounding area. It didn’t happen. I don’t know if that is due to the unfinished statue, or if even when finished you will not be allowed any view to the outside.
Each floor is differently decorated. Some have some really creepy decorations… It is not worth to go all the way up, I can tell by experience. At some point, you have seen so many Buddhas that you don’t look at the next one anymore. So, just go up until the floor where the non-working elevator is and from there you can have a very pleasant view of the site. I mean, the elevator doesn’t work on the way up, but on the 23rd floor, you can go down on it but will have to wait in line as there are many other people with the same wish and the lift doesn’t carry that much weight at once. I’m sure this is a way more important thing to do in Monywa for locals and Buddhists than for foreigners.
Behind this statue, you can see a line of Monk statues, so long that there is no way to see where does it start. I followed the line of monks for a while but then gave up on the monk chase. There are too many and I’m so very tired of my previous climb to the standing Buddha.
I go all the way back down and ride my motorbike as the sun goes down. I know sunset time will not take much longer. But, before leaving, I remember to have ridden some blog talking about 1000 Buddhas statues. Not that I haven’t seen enough Buddhas for one day, but as I’m here, I don’t want to miss much of it as I am already missing a visit to the sitting Buddha that appears not finished.
There it is! A huge area with more and more Buddhas. As many as you can see before losing sight. All the statues look exactly the same, perfectly aligned at the same measured distance from each other. Why did they cover such a big area with Buddhas I have no idea, but I can only see how huge the area is as I climb a little watching tower in the middle of the Buddha’s field. I’m sure it would be a great spot for sunset watching.
I can’t stay any longer as this place is still a bit far from the city center and I want to reach is before sunset.
I spent about 3 hours just around this place, and I haven’t seen it all. It is really huge, so don’t expect many more things to do in Monywa in one day than I mentioned above. It was an exhausting day, but I fully enjoyed it!
See my video about this day: