This article is part of our adventure in Monywa:
- Monywa - how to get there and why
- Monywa day 1: volcano lake, 1000 cave temples, city carved in a hill
- Monywa day 2: big golden Buddha, 5 pagodas and 1 monastery
- Monywa day 3: ancient city, 500000+ tiny Buddhas and several giant ones
Here is a video showing most of the sights we visited:
This one was mentioned in the hotel brochure, there was a marker for A Myint ancient city on Google maps, along with some interesting photos and positive reviews, and even being a bit farther away (~30 km) we decided to give it a go.
Two main roads could get us there from Monywa - one was the main "highway", the road from Mandalay, or there was an option for another road, unnamed, but still showing in the online maps and the brochure map. The second one looked like it can be more scenic, closer to the river and passing through the countryside. However, knowing the roads around Monywa were not that great we were a bit skeptical, unsure about its condition.
After some discussion we decided to take a risk and go the scenic way. That was a mistake, such a mistake, as I am writing this my body still shakes with the memory of the two hours spent getting to A Myint. The road, and use the word "road" here very loosely, first started as an acceptable dirt road which we, wrongly, took as a good sign. Then there were several sections where maintenance was being done and we had to go around on narrow sandy paths, trying not to get stuck or fall over. Our hope that after the works the condition of the road will improve was in vain as at some point it became something akin to an offroad challenge path - dusty, sandy, with huge holes and narrow passes, uneven all the way. It was really scenic, alright - small villages, green vegetable gardens and fields, the river crawling on the horizon, but the last 10-15 km took us more than an hour to overcome and we were exhausted in the end.
Finally, we reached our destination. Much like Bagan, but on a smaller scale there used to be a lively city on that spot near the river - one can imagine the ports and boats coming and going, carrying trade from far away lands, but with time the city disappeared, leaving behind only the stone and brick temples to slowly crumble away.
No other tourists in sight, we had the place to ourselves, there is a main temple complex with a lot of single temples scattered around the, nowadays, small village of A Myint, with overgrown stupas seen in peoples yards. A lone sign marks the spot where the old city moat was, the big dimple in the landscape still visible.
We left the ancient site and went back on the road to Monywa - this time the main one from Mandalay.
This 14th century pagoda complex renovated in 1939 is nothing short of impressive with gilded spires along the roof and the whole interior and exterior - each pillar and spire, each tower, the walls, inside and out, the ceiling - covered in miniature Buddha images adding up to half a million in number.
Maha Bodhi Tahtaung - Giant Standing Buddha statue Laykyun Sekkya, Giant Reclining Buddha statue, thousand Buddha statues and more
Maha Bodhi Tahtaung means "a thousand Buddha statues" and is the name of the whole area which encircles several enormous statues and many many small ones. It is a big Buddhist complex which we traveled on motorbike, but can also be walked as there are roads connecting all of the separate sites.
The Giant Standing Buddha is located on top of a hill looking west. It is the third tallest statue in the world at 115 m and as can be expected - very impressive. Best time to visit is in the late afternoon when the sun is in perfect position for taking good photos. The statue is hollow inside and the 31 floors it contains represent the 31 planes of existence, each painted in colourful murals with graphic images depicting Buddhist hell. One can climb up the steep uneven stairs, but all the way to the top was not opened to the public when we visited and there are no windows on the lower levels to give better view of the area. There was an elevator, but if ever it had worked before, it looked like it was abandoned some time ago.
A little further down the hill is another smaller, but still huge Buddha statue - this one reclining and long 95 m. A giant sitting Buddha is still under construction further down.
Another huge Buddha statue is laying at the foot of the hill - we could not find any information about it, it is a bit to the side, but as all others worth a look.
Walking through the Buddha "forest" is an experience in itself - thousands of Buddha statues sitting under metal parasols, row after row. We saw a bunch of newly looking statues waiting to be added to the field.
After a long day of sightseeing, the Monywa riverwalk is a nice way to relax - going along the river next to Strand Rd, one can watch the lazy river flow, with the many boats carrying cargo and passengers.
Just make sure to have mosquito repellent!
A clock tower marks the city center, it is near Shwezegon pagoda and the night food market.
Those were all the places that we visited and all the things to do we could find online, in the hotel brochure and on the unexpected tourist information spot in the middle of nowhere. With one exception:
This was one of the attractions marked on the hotel brochure. It is marked as being on a turn off somewhere along the Mandalay - Monywa road. Online we found only one mention of it, but no directions, and nothing else. We tried to ask the hotel staff, but they seemed even more confused than us - people in rural places are rarely avid tourists.
According to the brochure it is a temple with a stone naturally shaped as a dragon and another site close by with a stone shaped like a baby. Coming from Mandalay to Monywa there should be a sign on the road at the turn off. If you are in the area, here is the brochure information, let us know in the comments if you find it.
This was our experience of Monywa, it is not as popular as other places in Myanmar, but away from the tourist crowds it is definitely worth a longer visit.