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:
Monywa is a city on the Chindwin river in northern Myanmar. 3-4 hour drive from Mandalay, it is easily reached by car or one of the many regularly running busses and vans. Dusty and busy, the city itself is not really a tourist attraction, but many interesting places can be found close by and a few days are easily spent exploring the surrounding area.
We spent 3 full days in Monywa driving around on a motorbike we rented from our hotel - King&Queen hotel. Even though the distances are not great, the roads are such that traveling between destinations can be longer than expected.
Some hotels in Mandalay may be able to arrange transport to Monywa, but when we asked at ours they send us to the Thiri Mingalar bus station. Unlike Yangon, where there is one main bus station for most routes, Mandalay has several and Thiri Mingalar is the one servicing busses going north of the city. It is a busy crummy bus station, with offices for many bus companies and no signs in English.
We entered through one of the main entrances, looking confused and wondering how we are gonna find where exactly to get tickets, when we were approached by a couple of men asking where we want to go and then pointing us in the direction of the company that goes to Monywa. There were options for an air-conditioned minibus for about $2.50 or a regular big bus without air-con for about $2, with services running all throughout the day. We decided on the minibus, even the weak air-con they usually have is better than none.
The journey from Mandalay to Monywa was around 4-5 hours, uncomfortable in the cramped minibus, but at least not too hot. We arrived in Monywa in the late afternoon and walked a little bit to the hotel - King&Queen hotel, which turned out to be quite big, with a conference centre and actually very nice, a welcome sight after the long journey.
A little side story here - because of some back issues I have, on longer trips, where sitting is involved, like bus or plane, I always have a small pillow to put on my back to make me more comfortable. It is an unusual shape - like a slice of orange, and coloured accordingly and while not expensive I have grown used to it. When we got to the hotel in Monywa I realized I had left it in the minibus and was upset thinking it was now lost. We still had our tickets so we went to the reception hoping that they could help us and maybe call the company about it. It was not easy explaining what was lost, I think in the end they just called and asked if we had left anything at all. The next morning my pillow was waiting for me at the reception, not sure if someone brought it or one the staff members went to the bus station to collect it, but it just shows how nice people are.
There are many interesting spots that can be reached from the city, but if you have limited time the definite main attractions are:
- Pho Win Mountain and Shwe Ba hill - temples carved into sandstone hills
- Thanboddhay pagoda - golden pagoda with half a million Buddha images
- Laykyun Sekkya - standing Buddha statue, which is also the third tallest statue in the world
There is limited information online about the things to do in Monywa and we used what we could get, plus our hotel had a handy map/guide brochure that added a few more spots. Surprisingly, we found a tourist information map in somewhere out of Monywa on our second day touring and visited a couple more places thanks to it.
Here is a complete list of the attractions, we visited all but the last one:
- Spirulina lake - Twin Taung
- Pho Win Mountain
- Shwe Ba hill
- Shwe Gu Ni pagoda
- Sel-Taw-Myin Pagoda / Ta Wa Gu pagoda
- Zay-Ti-Hla pagoda
- Maha-Ledi kyaung
- A Myint ancient city
- Thanboddhay pagoda
- Maha Bodhi Tahtaung - Giant Standing Buddha statue Laykyun Sekkya, Giant Reclining Buddha statue, thousand Buddha statues and more
- Sutaungpyi pagoda
- Shwezegon pagoda
- Monywa riverwalk and Monywa city center
- Stone dragon and Stone baby