The village of Mingun is situtated about an hour by boat from Mandalay on the Ayeyarwaddy river which is the most important river in the whole of Myanmar. It is a very interesting journey during which you can enjoy the fascinating landscapes of the river as well as observing the daily life people living along the river. The town is known for the Mingun Pagoda, which was designed to be the highest, but it has remained as the biggest pile of bricks and the largest bell of 90 tons, and the most unusual pagoda in Myatheindan. The pagoda was destroyed during an earthquake, the bell never rang and the Myatheindan Pagoda, also known as the Taj Majal of Myanmar, was constructed as the tomb of the wife of a king, but none is buried there. This pagoda is also dedicated to Mt Meru and it is the dwelling place of the celestial beings. It is a very interesting visit to check out human madness and megalomania.
To reach this monastery, it is best rent a boat which brings you there. From Mandalay you have to drive about 11 km along the Ayeyarwady River. All together the journey takes about an hour. This monastery was built by King Bodawpaya in 1790. He tried to build the tallest building existing in the world, but eventually he could not finish his construction. Currently it crumbles due to the damage caused by an earthquake.
Arriving at Mingun jetty in the Ayeyarwady River, and before reaching the monastery, you are faced with this beautiful pagoda. It stands out for its white walls, and for its waved structure, just like waves in the sea. Here you can find a large number of children who attend the monks school and clean and sweep their facilities. They play around the different floors of the pagoda. It was built for Princess Hsinbyume, hence it is also known as the Hsinbyume Pagoda.
This pagoda has the best view of Sagaing Hill on the Ayeyarwaddy River and other pagodas in the surrounding area of Sagaing Hill. The floor tiles from Soon or Ponya Shin Paya U are very pretty, as is the seated Buddha presiding over the entrance to the temple room. This is a must visit place if you're coming to Sagaing hill!
Myanmar is trying to position itself as the quintessential Buddhist country worldwide. The sheer amount of temples helps to perpetuate this view. It's not strange therefore, to extend special long-term visas for people practising meditation here, or that they have created an International Buddhist University (Sitagu International Buddhist Academy). In the centre of the university there is a curious pagoda, which unlike many others that I've seen, has offices inside it. Surrounding the stupa there are small compartments where you can find exhibitions of photographs, always with Buddhist themes.
The Myatheindan Pagoda or Hsinbyume are located in the village of Mingun in Myanmar. You can reach these locations by boat from Mandalay. This temple was supposed to be the largest in the world, but the king who commissioned it died during the construction and the work was abandoned. However, now there are a lot of monks in the temple. Most of the monks are children from the villages around the temple sent by their parents to give them an education and to feed them. The day of the little monk starts early. He takes a pot begging for food around the town because a monk can not touch money and lives a hundred percent of the generosity of the people. The peolpe give them ready dishes, rice, some meat, and monks do not get to decide what they will eat. This highlights them a little more from material concerns. They eat once a day when all the monks return to the temple and share the food that they were given. Afterwards the kids go to study religion, but also English, mathematics and philosophy.
Around Sagaing Hill, there is a very intense Buddhist activity. Besides the International Buddhist Academy Sitagu there are many temples and monasteries which is made up of thousands of Buddhist monks. But for tourists, Sagaing Hill is famous for the views it has, which combine the Ayeyarwaddy River and various temples that populate the slopes of this small mountain. You can access Sagaing Hill by public transport, taxi or even motorcycle. Once there, you have to pay a series of "tolls" that provide access to what lies ahead.
Thounzeh Umin Temple, Sagaing Hill, overlooks the back of this mountain. There are steps leading to the first part of the temple, where you can see many Buddha figures aligned forming a magnified image. Above, the temple does not offer much more, but they are interesting views, you can see a small temple where an old monk lives on a retreat in solitude. We were able to meet this monk and he's a very interesting person.
In the former Burma, now called Myanmar, when you take a trip by road from Mandalay to Monywa town, there is the temple of Thamboddhay about 15 kilometres before the town. Its construction is relatively modern since it was finished just shortly after WWII ended, but the site is quite different, picturesque, interesting and very, very nice. The colourful temple has hundreds of thousands of different sized Buddha figures and it really is a place that you don't expect after having seen the traditional temples of Bagan or Mandalay. On Siamtrails, there is a tour called Landscape and Burmese Temples in Private with which we toured. You'll love it!
Situated near the town of Monywa (Burma), when you go by road to visit the caves of Pho Wing Thaun, you pass by antique copper mines which are run by an Australian company. But today there is still some copper on the slopes, which the inhabitants of the area live from. This is a process whereby water pouring cans causes become extremely acidic. Later that water is mixed with traces of copper and by a process of heating copper residues are extracted to then be sold. Whenever it has not rained much in SIAMTRAILS you pass by this road so you can see this unusual place.
In SIAMTRAILS over the course of our program Burma Temples Landscapes and the Pho Win Taung caves we'll show you a place of worship for Buddha. It appears to have been established in these rock formations around the eleventh century when King Anawrahta of Bagan invited King Bandawa to the consecration of Shewzigon Pagoda. During his journy he discovered this hidden place and decided to turn it into a place of worship to the Buddha figure. Hundreds of Buddha statues of all sizes are hidden under the caves and the beautiful murals give us an example of the importance of this sanctuary in the past.
In Mingun which is about an hour by boat from Mandalay, there is a shrine dedicated to a monk, which is in the town's main street. It is famous because it is in the Guinness Book of Records for its wonderful memorial. He memorized over 6000 sutras and recited them all by rote, a record. The temple is very simple and in the centre there is a statue of the monk with glasses, it reminded me very much of Ghandi.
A few kilometres after Amarapura you reach the Ava Bridge, the only crossing of the Ayeyarwady River. It was built by the British during the second world war and was not repaired until 1954. At the top of this hill is Sagaing Pagoda, which boasts incredible views. The area is full of many differnt types of pagodas. You can go by car or by climbing the many steps but it is best to go by car in summer because the heat is unbearable. Once at the top you can see this pagoda, which has the best views of all of the other pagodas. Seeing the views from the top is a wonderful experience. From here you can then go to U Bein Bridge to see one of the most incredible sunsets that can be seen in Myanmar.