Monywa is a new name for the curious travellers. It is a small city located between Mandalay and Bagan. If you travel between Bagan and Mandalay and want to explore a whole new place, just spend a day in Monywa. The city has beautiful religious relics which never been appeared on any mainstream travel magazine.
1. About Monywa
Monywa is the name of the largest city in Sagaing region. The city is famous for its temple complex carved into Hpo Win Daung limestone and Shwebataung cave. The relics were built little by little from the 16th century to the present.
2. Best time to visit
The city is also known as Myanmar’s dry valley because of the hot, dry climate all year round. With the highest summer temperature of 38 degrees in April, hot and humid summers lasting from April to July. The cool dry season lasts from December to February, the weather is cooler, fluctuating at 21 degree. With personal experience, Monywa should be avoided to visit in the summer because the weather is very hot.
3. Get to Monywa
Monywa is 138km north of Mandalay, you can travel by private car if taking the package tour or by bus as suggestions below:
Non air-conditioned bus from Mandalay to Monywa runs from 26th street near 90th street. One way route costs 3500 kyat with 3 hours of travel, including mid-way breaks.
Non air-conditioned bus departs from the new central Bagan bus station to Monywa at 10:30 and 12:30, with a cost of 5,000 kyat and 3 to 4 hours of travel. There is another bus leaving from the old Bagan bus station for 7500 kyat at 10:00.
If you go to Bagan from Monywa you can take a speedboat from Pakoku port but the boat takes quite a long time (2 hours) and is quite tired if the weather is hot. In return, you can watch the magnificent Bagan appear on the river, which is really an interesting experience.
4. Hotels in Monywa
There are not many high-quality hotel options in Monywa. The hotel I have used is Win Unity. This is a 4-star resort with swimming pool and traditional Burmese house very charming. They have 2 guest areas: an old-style resort with a beautiful garden and campus, and a worse quality modern house. The hotel has adequate water and air conditioning systems. Room amenities are quite good.
5. What to visit at Monywa
You can go around Monywa by tuk tuk or moto taxi with prices depending on your ability to discuss with the driver and use my itinerary below:
It takes 45 minutes by car from Mandalay to Sagaing, visiting U Min Thoneze and Soon-U-Ponnya-Shin temples. In which U Min Thonze Pagoda has 45 Buddha statues symbolizing 45 years old Buddha. The temple is located on a hill, so you have to get there by tuk tuk.
Then move to Thetkyathida monastery, which is a unique monastery where there are only nuns practice. At 11:00, they began to announce the meal time of the nuns. The ideal time to visit the monastery is 10:15 to 10:30. While attending lunch, do not talk, keep quiet to show respect to nuns.
Then have lunch at local restaurant. Food in Sagaing is not much, so must accept the quality of food is not too high.
Afternoon visit Thanboddhay temple, this is a large and magnificent temple with thousands of Buddha statues of all sizes. The pagoda is inlaid with gold and has meticulous interior decoration.
Then visit Bodhi-Tahtaung Temple: garden of 1,000 Buddha statues with 1000 Bodhi trees.
Before returning to the hotel, you can visit the Reclining Buddha Temple: The Buddha image is at the top, you must climb the stairs to reach the top.
09:00 am on the way to visit Mount Shwe Ba. This is a temple complex built by a very rich man named Shwe Ba. Many temples are located on a dark limestone mountain in the Hindu style.
Then visit Po Win Taung Temple, this is a temple complex carved directly into the cave, limestone cliffs from the 19th century are very beautiful and unique.
After leaving Po Win Taung, on the way to Bagan by Pakkoku party, 30 minutes before arrival, you can watch Bagan from afar. Traveling by road takes 30 minutes.
6. Some notes
Prepare personal belongings adequately, especially cash because banks and ATMs are not easy to find in Monywa.
Drink plenty of water, apply sunscreen and cover your body with long-sleeved clothing.
Do not tease monkeys, they can bite you.
Bring mosquito repellent spray and electrolyte water when dehydration.