Photo: One of the many statues at Thanboddhay Paya.


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For a middle-of-nowhere kind of place, Monywa has some quite astonishing attractions. With what’s thought to be the world’s second tallest Buddha (indeed the second tallest statue of any description), a monastery housing more than half a million Buddha images and some of the most unusual temples we’ve seen in Burma all lying within easy tuk tuk rides away, superlatives abound in what at first sight seems a nondescript town.

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It’s only a three-hour drive away from Mandalay, slightly more from Bagan, so you’ve got to wonder why hardly any travellers make it to Monywa, pronounced with two syllables as "mon-ywa" (not three).

The second tallest statue in the world. Photo taken in or around Monywa, Burma_myanmar by Stuart McDonald.

The second tallest statue in the world. Photo: Stuart McDonald

While it’s well worth visiting on its own merits, it also serves as a convenient break on an interesting alternative back route between Bagan and Mandalay. It’s also the departure point for adventurers heading north up the Chindwin River. Chin State lies to the west and northwest and Burmese Naga territories lie upstream to the north of Homalin. The new Burmese/Indian border crossing at Tamu is not far from the upriver town of Mawlaik.

If you have your own transport, then Monywa is doable as a day trip from Mandalay. In high season in particular you may come across organised tour groups from Mandalay at the local sights. This involves an early departure from Mandalay, a stop at Bodhi Tataung and Thanboddhay Paya on the way into town, and a visit to the cave temples in the afternoon, with an early evening, arrival back in Mandalay. It would be a rather full day but just about works. We were quoted $120 for such a day trip by a ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 800 words.)

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