Monywa – The hidden gem of Myanmar – Thanboddhay Pagoda

As you already know, two days are more than enough to visit all the important places in Bagan. Of course, one can choose to stay a little bit longer and explore the city and its hidden gems, but we had just a limited amount of days, which we had to use wisely. After spending two amazing days in Bagan, we headed towards our next planned destination – Monywa.

Monywa was a just a few hours stop on our way to Mandalay but if I had to do it again, I would chose to explore it at least for a day. It is such an extraordinary place and somehow a hidden treasure for Myanmar. Almost every tourist skips this unique place, as it is not so easy to reach.

How to get to Monywa

As our plan was to first stop in Bagan and to slowly make our way to Mandalay, we had to find transport that can take us first to Monywa and then bring us to Mandalay… in one day. Yes, that sounds impossible, when you are relying only on public transport. The infrastructure in Myanmar is not as developed as in the western countries. To learn more of what to expect, be sure to check out my article “10 Things to know before visiting Myanmar”.

Taking a bus was not an option for us, since the bus takes you just to the city and not to the temple site. We would have to take our luggage with us. Carrying two big bags and our hand luggage would have made the visit, simply irritating. If you travel by bus, be sure to book a night at a guest house or at a hotel so that you can leave your bags there. From there, you can find a tuk-tuk or a taxi, which can wait for you, while you are exploring the site. This can be also possible, if you make a day trip to Monywa from Mandalay.

From Bagan to Monywa

We were quite clueless in the beginning, as the receptionist at our hotel did not quite understood what we wanted to achieve. The only option for us was to hire a local driver, who can take us around, wait for us and then drive us to Mandalay. It takes approximately 3h to Monywa and then another 3h to Mandalay. The monuments that we wanted to visit were located approximately 10km out of the city.

Finding a driver in Myanmar online is somehow a standard practice, which we didn’t know. We thought that is more or less asking around and depending on the connections of the hotel. After our failure with the receptionist and a short online research, I was able to find one WhatsApp number for a person, who can organize a driver for you. In 5 min we had a driver who would come to our hotel and pick us up from there. You can also arrange a hour that is suitable for you and the price in advance.

Thanboddhay Pagoda

Once we arrived, the driver gave us some time to roam around and explore the sight. As there are not many pictures about this temple online, we didn’t know what to expect. Just that this temple is famous about the number of Buddha statues incorporated in its architecture – over 580 000! So you can imagine, why we were looking forward in seeing it.

The temple was nothing like the temples in Bagan. It resembled more or less a temple from another culture or even time. It was huge and covered with so many small ornaments in various colors, shapes and sizes. The colors on the walls of the temple had faded away over the years but you can still imagine how beautiful and bright it had to be.

Old temple

As I already mentioned, this place is often overlooked by tourists, so my boyfriend and I were the only western tourists there. Probably this was the reason, why it imprinted on me. We had enough time to see each detail – no crowds, no noise and no one pushing us to hurry up.

The best part was that the locals were not fed up with us but rather fascinated. For example – there were some school girls, which jumped at the first opportunity to take pictures with us and not with the temple itself. Cute!


The inside of the temple was incredible. It is completely decorated with Buddha statues – both small and big versions. The design of the pagoda is one of a kind in whole Myanmar. People often say that the design and looks of the temple are “too much” for westerns, but I strongly disagree. This place wakes your inner self and shows you that a person’s imagination has indeed no limits.

Thanboddhay Pagoda inside

The entrance of the Thanboddhay Pagoda is guarded by two giant elephants and not the typical lions.

Elephant guardians

And then you think that this pagoda is the craziest beauty that you have seen and there is nothing else that can surprise you… and you go around the corner…

Thanboddhay temple region

And see this …

And this ….

Thanboddhay Pagoda region

And this …

Thanboddhay Pagoda region

Were were in a constant state of exclamation and not believing what we were seeing. Was this a dream? Was there a chance that were were “walking” in somebody else’s head? In my whole life, I haven’t seen such creativity gathered in one place. I had the feeling, I was taking thousands pictures, just to capture everything that I was seeing.

And of course, we were not able to go into all of the nearby buildings as some of them were closed or were being renovated. Inside we saw thousands and thousands of picturesque statues and colorful paintings on the walls.

We could not resist goofing around a little … but just a little. In his case, goofing around means standing still and smiling. Whereas for me, it means roar like a lion (because I was surrounded by lions). If you are curious of how his normal pictures look like, make sure to read my next article on Monywa.

Tower in Monywa

In addition to this constellation, there was one tower in the middle, which was only accessible to men. Women were not allowed to climb it. There was a sign, that was explicitly prohibiting it – in English. Not a correct one, but still in English, so that there are no misunderstandings.

Females are not to climb

At that point I was so glad that I was travelling with my boyfriend. He had the privilige to go up (without his shoes on) and take some pictures. Not sure if that was such a good experience for him though, since he is not that good in not tripping…

The best part of it all was that he took my camera and was able to take some pictures for me. I can only imagine how great it might be, seeing it for yourself and not on a screen.

Thanboddhay Pagoda

But our day was far from over. We were so overwhelmed with joy and happiness of what we just experienced that we did not expect anything else that can top this experience. Well, the region of Monywa has a lot more to offer than one can imagine. We were sitting in the car on our way to the next stop and we were clueless of what was coming up.

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