Monywa is a town on the Chindwin river located in the dry zone of Central Burma West of Mandalay. Although the area is little visited by foreign tourists, the town and surroundings host a number of unique sites.
The valley surrounding Monywa is dotted with farms, glittering pagodas and small villages. The rural area is mainly involved in agriculture, with crops as beans, palm sugar and cotton. West of the Chindwin river is a large copper mine.
The markets in town sell locally produced food, fruit, handicrafts and textiles and are an excellent place to try some of the local dishes. Local people get around on motorbikes, bicycles and trishaws.
Monywa loosely translates to “Miss pancake town”. According to legend the town got its name after a Prince visited the village where he met a woman who fried pancakes. After he married her, the town was named Monywa.
To do & see in Monywa
Monywa is best known for two Buddhist monasteries located near each other South East of town.
The Thanboddhay temple is one of the most colorful an ornate temples in Burma. Every inch of the main building is covered with images of the Buddha. It is said that the temple houses a total of more than 580,000 images.
Giant Monywa Buddhas
Nearby is the Maha Bodhi Ta Htaung monastery, known for its two enormous images of the Buddha on the hill. The 90 meter long reclining Buddha and the 116 meter high standing Buddha are among the largest in the world.
The Ledi Kyaung monastery founded in 1886 is located in the North East of town. Built by one of Burma’s best known Buddhist scholars, it houses 806 stone slabs inscribed with Buddhist texts.
The 14th century Shwe Gu Ni Pagoda on Kyaukka road about 15 kilometers East of Monywa houses a large Buddha in the Bhumisparsha mudra, calling the Earth to witness. The image is covered with a thick layer of gold foil, applied by Buddhist devotees. Local people believe that one wish can be fulfilled at this temple by praying to the image.
Other attractions near Monywa
Kyaukkar is a small village about 15 kilometers East of Monywa known for its lacquer ware products. Visitors can visit workshops where the black and gold lacquer ware is made. The Kyaukkar and Bagan lacquer ware are the most famous in the country. On Twin Taung hill near Budalin, North of Monywa lies an extinct volcano with a lake in its crater. The weeds from the waters are used to produce dietary supplements. After a climb to the top of the volcano visitors will have great views of the natural surroundings.
How to get to Monywa
The quickest and most comfortable way to get to Monywa is by air. The towns airport, Monywa airport is located on Route 71, North of Monywa. Asian Wings Airways offers daily flights from Mandalay. The flight departs at 12.40 pm and takes around 25 minutes. Fares start at US$ 67. Air Bagan offers twice weekly flights from Yangon to Monywa (via Mandalay). Other nearby airports are Mandalay and Bagan (Nyaung U airport), that are both well connected to Monywa overland.
A slower alternative is to take a bus from Mandalay. The 135 kilometer trip takes around 4 hours and costs 2,500 Kyat per person. The train to Monywa leaves Mandalay at 5.15 am and takes about 5 hours. Tickets are US$ 5 for ordinary, US$ 9 for upper class.
The 150 kilometer trip from Bagan to Monywa can be made by bus or chartered taxi. The bus from Nyaung U (Bagan) to Monywa takes about 3½ hours, tickets cost 3,500 Kyat per person. A taxi will take 2½ to 3 hours.