My journey to Monywa was full of interesting sites as we drove through rural landscapes of Myanmar. As I gazed out of the window, I saw farmers tending fields followed by stretches of almost desert-like plains with glittering pagoda spires in the distance. This was not my typical vacation drive in the US by any means, in Myanmar the landscape itself seems to have been built begging to be looked at.
My stay in Monywa can be described in one word if no other…colour. The scenery in and around the town featured every colour of the rainbow. The clothing, buildings, food and literally everything else seemed to be bathed in vibrant and elaborate colour. My tour of Monywa led me to Thanboddhe Pagoda to stare in awe at this marvellous structure as the sun set.
The inside was even more spectacular than the outside with elaborate and drenched in an array of colours. The artwork was organised neatly in patterns, with symmetrical lines to accent the walls and ceilings. The statue of Buddha here was especially interesting as it was flanked on both sides by impressive gold told topped mini towers with red and white stripes.The Thanboddhe Pagoda is an enormous place that boasts almost six hundred thousand statues of Buddha in many different sizes. This unique place has something new to offer every time you visit.
My tour took me 16 km to the east of Monywa to the tiny village of Kyaukkar, where the third Burmese empire began in the 18th century. Kyaukkar is also home of the Shweguni temple, home of the 14th century image of Buddha, famous for its heavily gilded eyes. Seeing these ancient structures made me wonder how Myanmar has stayed off the regular tourist trail, with so many hidden treasures dating back to centuries gone by. Following my time at temple, my guide took me to the village of Kyaukkar where he told me was one of the best places in the country to purchase Burmese style plain lacquer ware. Unlike the intricate lacquer ware on offer in Mandalay, the kind that can be found in Kyaukkar is much more practical for every day use. To see so much on offer was incredible, definitely a worthwhile trip for the avid bargain hunter.
The caves at Hpo Win Daung had some incredible art and beautiful views from the cave entrance of the surrounding countryside. The caves were composed of sandstone, which I found rather interesting compared with the other caves I had seen during my time in Myanmar. I arrived at the caves by ferry crossing to the other side of Chindwin River and that gave me a chance to see the hustle and bustle of the ferry port of Nyaungbin village and a bustling local market, Monywa is definitely one of those rare, larger than life places that had to be seen to be believed!
Monywa, 23 September 2010