What we say:
Comparable to Yangon's Shwedagon, Pyay's Shwesandaw pagoda glitters over the town a short few minutes stroll from the riverbank. Photogenic from the surrounds, it also delivers on excellent views from its summit.
While Shwesandaw has an entrance at each of its cardinal points, we preferred the approach from the west, walking in from the river, between the bustling coffee shops, then the residential area and then reaching the base of the quite sleepy western staircase, flanked by its enormous guardians. As you make your way up there are a couple of levels you can exit at for photos, but the main attraction here is the top level.
As you do your circuit around the stupa, watch for the gigantic seated Buddha facing back to Shwesandaw (it really is huge -- you won't miss it) but also the small details like fragrant flowers looped over offerings around the stupa's base.
It is said that the two relics of the Buddha interred here are a hair and tooth and these make Shwesandaw a very popular pilgrimage site and while we were lucky and had the site almost to ourselves on both visits, it can apparently get extremely busy.
While there is a fee for a camera, the kiosk was unattended when we visited and nobody came chasing us around the stupa.
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