Monywa, our preferred place in Myanmar
Having still almost one week left for Myanmar after visiting Bagan, we decided to make a detour before going to Mandalay. We had a look on the internet and found Monywa being recommended as the perfect stop between Bagan and Mandalay. It was the best decision we could make as it soon became our favorite spot in the country – no tourist around, no people speaking English, just smiling faces, happy to see us around.
Monywa in itself it is not a very nice city, but it has 2 amazing places nearby. A local tuk-tuk driver, with whom we agreed on the price using signs and smiles, took us to visit them.
Thanbodday Pagoda, built in 1939, put a big smile on our face from the moment we approached it. It gives a Disneyland-like feeling on the outside, being nicely colored in pink, blue, yellow… with white elephants at the entrance and other cartoon-like figurines as small statues or as details of the exterior walls. It is big and imposing like a king’s palace, but creates a sensation of a childhood tale. Every inch of the structure, exterior as well as interior, is covered with more than 500 000 Buddha images. In addition, we felt like the most important stars as locals were queuing to take photos with us (I guess we were the only tourists they’ve seen in years).
The next stop was Bodhi Tataung where the first question that comes to one’s mind is why would anyone build apparently the 3rd highest statue in the world (116 m) in the middle of nowhere? 2 giant Buddha statues (one reclining and one standing) can be immediately observed as you approach the area. As you get closer and upper, hundreds of other small statues surround the place in neat rows under the trees. And a 3rd giant Buddha in lotus position is under construction…just surrealistic.
But what we enjoyed most is the dinner. As we were coming down from the giant Buddhas, our driver was waiting for us in a local restaurant, asked us if we were hungry (used the sign of taking food to the mouth while having a questioning expression) and invited us to sit down. The menu? Chicken curry! In addition to it and the traditional rice, the owner brought us many plates with all kinds of salads, sauces, vegetables, dessert…it was a real delicious feast, while trying to communicate with our driver (already friend) using signs. We found out that he was 39, had 4 daughters, was sad for not having a son, liked beer and curry…a simple, but friendly, always smiling guy! He safely took us back took the hotel afterwards! What a simple, but happy day!