When we first arrived in Myanmar we decided to explore the slightly lesser known region southeast of Yangon. This included Mawlamyine, a former capital during the British Burma period from 1827 to 1852. Today it is home to the Mon people and is an interesting place to see local industries whose products are shipped nationally and internationally due to the town proximity to the sea.
We spent a day exploring the area around Mawlamyine and found a fantastic reclining Buddha called Win Sein Taw Ya. As we have been in Asia for a number of months now we have seen our fair share of big Buddhas. This one however was fascinating and unlike anything we have seen before.
Firstly, it’s pretty big. After its construction began in 1992 it was for a period the largest reclining Buddha in the world. Despite this it’s still unbelievably long at 560ft (170m). And why build one giant reclining Buddha when you can build two. Although it might be more accurate to say one and a half as the second one is more of a skeleton. To be completely accurate both Buddhas are still under construction. The first on the left as you walk up the valley is almost complete from the outside whilst the second on the right hand side of the valley is a concrete skeleton with a face as the only recognisable feature.
The almost complete Buddha is the main attraction for tourists however it is also a Buddhist religious site. Not only can you view it from the outside but you can also delve inside the Buddha and get lost in its incomplete concrete interior from head to toe.
Inside you must remove your shoes (as with all Buddhist temples and religious sites) and so you soon find yourself stumbling through the dusty shadows of this massive sculpture. Inside are detailed life size displays of Buddhist history and events. These colourful sculptural scenes show traumatic images from a hell like place through to joyous festivities to well known Buddhist stories. I think the pictures speak for themselves as to how odd and unique this place is.
Interestingly while we were visiting we did see people working on both sculptures. They were also asking for donations to fund future work on the project. At the back of the main Buddha a lone man swept the floor slowly making piles of dirt to clear. He pointed us towards giant unfinished holes saying, in broken English, that there were good views. It was strange to see such a small amount of people working on such a large project. It was also clear that the finished sections were already showing signs of disrepair. It would be an amazing attraction and pilgrimage site if it is ever completed however it does seem that it may be a never ending task.
Entrance Fee: Free
Etiquette: As with most buddhist religious sites you are expected to dress conservatively. Women in particular should cover your legs with either trousers or a long skirt and wear a t-shirt rather than a strappy top.
Time required: 1-2 hours