When traveling to Myanmar, one of the most popular stops for tourists is Mandalay. Mandalay is the second-largest city in Myanmar, with a little bit more than a million people living in the city. It was founded in 1857 and was the royal capital of Myanmar. The city lies at the River Irrawaddy, north of the current capital of Burma, Yangon.
This city is not only popular for its strategic destination (close to Bagan and Inle Lake) but also for its variety of temples and pagodas. People, who visit Mandalay are also keen on exploring its surroundings in short, one-day trips. The cities around Mandalay (Inwa, Amarapura, Sagaing, Mingun) are easily reachable and have rich variety of sights.
While visiting Mandalay, we also explored the nearby cities and in this article I will be sharing our experience and tipps with you. Starting with Sagaing!
Sagaing is the capital of the Sagaing Region in Myanmar. It is around 20 km south-west away from Mandalay and lies on the opposite side of the river. If you want to know more on how to get there, you can check my article on „Hsinbyume Pagoda Mingun – The white temple of Myanmar“. There you can find a few possible travel ways, which are applicable for the whole Mandalay region.
The Sagaing Region is not only known for its great number of hills but as well of being one of the Buddhist Centers in Myanmar. It has around 600 pagodas situated on its hills. For more history on Sagaing you can check this link.
We booked one trip with a local organization and they took us to the two most visited places on the Sagaing Hills – U Min Thonze Caves and Soon U Ponya Shin Paya. There is also the possibility to visit the Thidagu World Buddhist University (also known as Sitagu International Buddhist Academy) but you are not allowed to go in. Therefore, we decided to skip it and go straight to the ones that were open for tourists.
While being the smart decision then, now I do regret not taking the time to go and see the building upclose, even if it was for 5min. So, if you have the time and you are interested in walking around buildings and marvel their architecture, do not skip this sight!
U Min Thonze Caves
You might be confused when you hear „Caves“… well, to be honest, so did I. I mean what do caves have to do with a temple? You only understand this once you are there and see it with you own eyes! This temple is built in one of the Sagaing hills and when you walk into it resembles a cave hall.
It is believed that this tempel was possibly built in the 14th century and reconstructed around 1847. In the past it was known as „Sagaing-myo kuthodaw-umin-gu-hpaya“, meaning The Work of Royal Merit: the Tunnel-Cave Pagoda. However, nowadays it adapted the name „30 Caves Temple“, in reference to the 30 semicircular gallery entrances.
But the 30 entrances are not the most unique feature of this temple. Once you go in, then the magic happens… At once you are standing in front of 45 gold images of Buddha! Everything is shining due to the reflections of the sunlight in the small mirrors, placed strategically on the walls. In addition to this, everything is painted in light green-mint color.
However, this temple not only great on the inside but as well on the outside. The upper part is easily accessible. You can just walk the path on the side of the temple to reach it. From there the view is simply breathtaking.
Soon Oo Pon Nya Shin Pagoda
In close proximity to the U Min Thonze Temple, you can find also one of the most famous pagodas on the Sagaing Hill – Soon Oo Pon Nya Shin Pagoda. It is also known as the Ponnya Shin and is located on the top of the Nga Hpar (Frog Hill).
When you go outside to the patios, you cannot help but notice the colorful tiles on the floor. And of course, the giant golden pagoda in the middle. You can walk around freely through all the patios and take it all in. There is a wonderful view and cute tiled banks, on which you can rest or wait for the sunset.
I hope you enjoyed my short article on Sagaing. If you have any tipps or comments, make sure to leave them below or write me a message!