The amazing Bodhi Tataung standing Buddha image, Laykyun Sethyar, towers 130 metres above the surrounding countryside. There’s some debate, but the consensus seems to have China’s Spring Temple statue -- also a standing Buddha -- as the world’s tallest statue, with Monywa’s effort weighing in second. Not bad for little Monywa!
On a low hill on a plain to the east of town, it can be seen from most of Monywa, which fortunately compensates for the huge open-cast copper mine to the west, which can also be seen from any part of town with a view. The site is some 20 kilometres southeast of town, with Thanboddhay Monastery and its 500,000-plus Buddha images being found around half way, so it makes sense to visit the two on the same trip out.
The main entrance to the site, indicated by a pair of huge white elephants, has one of the Burmese special seated Buddha gardens (see also Hpa-an’s Lumbini), with row upon row of perfectly aligned and approximately life-sized images set in an expansive grove of trees.
You’ll then arrive in a main carpark area with tea shops and souvenir/Buddhist paraphernalia stands.
In front of you, with the standing image to the rear, is another large statue -- this time a reclining Buddha -- plus giant lions guarding the entrance to a huge gold-coloured stupa. You can then either walk the short distance up the hill to the main images or take a moto-taxi for 1,000 kyat, bearing in mind that the multi-storey Buddha has no lifts. Otherwise there’s no entrance fee.
Each floor has mural-covered walls depicting dire warnings of what happens if you go astray. Burning in the fires of hell, crows pecking out your liver, what looks like spontaneous combustion or demons throwing you off clifftops – the usual kind of thing. Unlike other hollow Buddhas we’ve been to, this one is clean and tidy and images fresh -- it was only opened in 2008.
It’s reasonably well lit though windows are set high in the walls, so you don’t have views as you go higher than the three base-floor terraces. We calculated at least 26 floors but at present only the lower 16 (up to the midriff) are open to visitors. Note that the doors close at 17:00.
At its feet, the 95-metre reclining Buddha, also hollow, contains some equally gruesome depictions, with the doorway being situated to the rear, in the left buttock. It’s a bit older and not so well maintained. There are plenty more images, shrines and viewpoints to explore if you have the time. Note both Buddhas face west, so are better visited in the afternoon.
Bodhi Tataung is extremely popular with local tourists but you’re unlikely to see a foreign face here except the occasional high season group tour from Mandalay. Count around 45 minutes by tuk tuk or moto from town, or 30 minutes by taxi. Your hotel or guesthouse will call you a driver. Going rates when we visited were about 15,000 for a tuk tuk or 35,000 for a taxi. This is for a return journey and includes waiting time, plus a stop at Thanboddhay Paya.
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.