Monywa is situated on the banks of the Chindwin River 136 kilometres west of Mandalay. Because of the industry that surrounds the town, it has a more dynamic feel than other regional centres in Myanmar: its riverfront is enjoyable to amble down; it has some lively markets; and its main street (between the clock tower and the Bogyoke Aung San statue) comes alive after dark, with a vibrant atmosphere and numerous food stalls and beer stations. Bear in mind, however, that this is small-town Myanmar, and places close early.
There are a few ATMs in Monywa that take foreign cards, including a KBZ bank ATM on the main street between the clock tower and the statue.
There are a number of points of interest in the surrounding area, all needing a taxi or pick up to reach. Turning off the road to Mandalay south east of town is the spectacularly colourful and uniquely styled Thanboddhay Pagoda (Thambuddhei Paya), which houses over 500,000 Buddha images and features many hundreds of golden spires (K3000 entry fee).
There is a colourful watchtower on the monastery site which offers views of the pagoda and surrounding plains.
Further down the same side road is the Bodhi Tataung Laykyun Sekkya standing Buddha statue; at 116 metres, it is the second tallest statue in the world (and second tallest Buddha). It is located at the back of a large religious site with bodhi trees, gardens containing hundreds of sitting Buddhas, and a huge reclining Buddha lying in front of the Laykyun Sekkya.
The interior of the main structure features depictions of Buddhist teachings, including some alarming images of depravity and the punishment of evil-doers, plus some propaganda photos of the generals who were in power when it was completed in 2008. You can climb several floors – although the interior is not yet completed to the top.
The Hpo Win Daung caves (also variously spelt as Hpowindaung, Powintaung and Po Win Taung) can be found 25 kilometers west of Monywa, on the western bank of the Chindwin River. The 947 caves that make up the complex were built between the 14th and 18th centuries, and contain ornate mural paintings and hundreds of Buddha statues.
The Hpo Win Daung Festival takes place here in November at the caves, and is Monywa’s biggest festival of the year. To find out more, go to festivals in Myanmar.
Also near Monywa is the Ledi Kyaungteik monastery, in which Buddhist scriptures have been inscribed on 806 stone slabs and Kyaukka village, known for its unique style of lacquerware.
For a wider selection of photos from Monywa and its surrounding area, go to our Flickr photo set.
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Tuesday 30 September