Just when you think you’ve surely seen all the Buddhas in Myanmar, you visit a temple on your last day of touring that contains 500,000+ statues. The Mohnyin Thambuddhei Phya was originally constructed in 1303, but comprehensively restored in 1939. It’s in the town of Monywa and both destinations are way way off the tourist trail. This gem prides itself on being obscure and unadvertised. We were the only tourists there and got quite a few odd looks because of it. This is what Viking excels at, however. If there is something interesting that needs to be seen, it doesn’t matter how off-grid it is, we’ll find it.
Legend has it that if you place a buddha image in the temple while making a wish, the wish will come true. To aid in this pilgrim’s quest, you can purchase Buddha statues inside. I paid $0.50 for a small statue and spent the next 15 minutes looking for an empty spot to place him and wish. It was playful and a great memory. I mean, why not?
The most eloquent and journalistically sophisticated way I can describe the temple is to say I felt like I was on the Disneyland ride, “It’s A Small World.” Enjoy the photos below, with say far more than my words could ever about this place.
Lest you think we were done with Buddhas, we were next shuttled to a park that contains 10,000+ more statues. Again, with my journalistic prowess stunted by the inexplicable nature of the sight, I’ll simply say that to me it looks very much like Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C. A monk from the town of Monywa wanted to prevent the deforestation of sacred banyan trees. For every tree in the park, he installed a Buddha statue. Now pilgrims come there to worship and the trees are intact. Families, villages, pilgrims, monasteries, all can donate funds to sponsor the placement of a Buddha statue in the park.
One more, okay two more, Buddhas were on hand before heading back to the ship. These statues are the largest Buddha statues in the world (for now). They are down the street from the Buddha park. They first constructed a model of the standing Buddha to get the proportions right. You can see a fellow passenger exploring at the base of the feet. The scale is enormous. The reclining Buddha is 300 feet long, built in 1991. The position is known as the parinirvana, i.e. his death and entry into nirvana. I’m not sure why we weren’t taken up to the statues themselves and allowed to walk around, but for whatever reason we stayed down the street near the park. I can only imagine how impressive it would’ve been to explore up close.
This concludes Viking River Cruise’s Myanmar Explorer itinerary. I am publishing one final article, a love letter to Myanmar. Come back here to read the summary of a life-changing trip.
Cheers to adventure,
You’re invited to continuing with adventurer Gail Jessen on Twitter or Instagram as she makes her way around the world on a solo backpacking trip.