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Monywa, at the heart of Chindwin Valley

The northwestern city of Monywa lies on the eastern bank of Chindwin River, with approximate 300,000 inhabitants, mostly Burmese. This little visited town is located 136km (100miles) northwest of Mandalay and probably founded during Bagan period. Monywa is a thriving business town, which economy relies on agricultural related products and industrialized foodstuffs. On the other hands, Monywa serves as the gateway to the entire western Chindwin and Ayerwaddy rivers, and pave a passage to Indian border across Chin Hills, enabling the town as a sub-hub to trade with central Myanmar and India. The road to Monywa from Mandalay or Monywa to the tobacco producing town of Pakokku, adjacent to 11th century Bagan, pass through a semi desert land, bean, pea and garlic farms, typical Burmese backwater villages, and dotted glittering stupas – an interesting drive to see the peoples and their lifestyle.


Thanboddhay Temple

Thanboddhay is an awesome place, which has been linked to the Borobodur temple of Indonesia. Monyin Sayadaw built this magnificent temple in 1939 without taking any engineering advices; the stunning temple architecture and its vibrant colors draws much interest to the visitors. The temple compound is guard by two white elephants, a deviation from the usual Leograph as in the many of Buddhist shrines. The temple is topped by a central stupa that is surrounded by a forest of smaller stupas laid upon the multi-level terraces in the form of multi-layer realms that encircled the mythical Mt Meru – the center of universe in Buddhist cosmology. The temple walls inside, the pyramidal pillars on the outside, every terrace and corner contain seated Buddha images in niches that claims a total of 582,357 images – that’s over half a million!

Boddhi Tataung

A big area where some big monuments stood, Boddhi Tataung is about 4-km east of Thanboddhay, where 90-m hollowed reclining Buddha image and 132m standing Buddha image perched on top of Po Kaung Hills, overlooking the panoramic views to the Chindwin valley and a good spot for catching sunset. The nearby Aung Setkya stupa rises 130m, and the watchtower build with Toddy tree trunks provides some good views of the gigantic monuments in the west and little Buddhas under the Bodhi trees numbering over 9000 and still counting to 10,000.

Ledi Kyaung

This monastery (Kyaung in Burmese) is dated from 1886 and founded by renowned Pali Scholar Ledi Sayadaw to house 806 inscribed stone slabs to record the commentaries of Buddha.

Kyaukkar Village

Kyaukkar village actually lies 16km (10miles) east of Monywa, on a tree-arched road that leads to Shwebo, where the third Burmese empire kick-start in 18th century. Although many tourists sought after the trendy Bagan lacqureware, Kyaukkar is the best place to hunt for more typical Burmese style plain lacquerware, which is more practical for daily use. The much revered Shweguni temple, which housed 14th century Buddha image where the eyes of Buddha were heavily gilded, reflecting the major health issue of the region, is worth visiting. Normally, Kyaukkar is excluded from the itinerary unless requested.

Po Win Daung Caves

Po Win Daung caves is located 25km west of Monywa, on the western bank of Chindwin River and accessible either by direct road over new Monywa bridge or more enjoyable ferry crossing to the other side of Chindwin River and take a local jeep. The latter option is better to see the busy bustling ferry port of Nyaungbin village and an interesting local market, which should be visited in the morning. Then the road passes through some remote villages and the enormous copper mine before it gets hilly. Then, you’ll be driving through a reserved dry forest. Po Win Daung is a sprawling place, and the trails lead you to the numerous sandstone caves where the images inside were carved out from the living rock and the walls and ceilings were covered with bright mural paintings of geometrical patterns in 3D as well as those of ancient Buddhist stories (Jatakas). Most of the artifacts found here are dated the period between 14 and 18th centuries but no one know for sure about its history. Po Win Daung is a well worth a visit.