This small market town on the Chindwin River, a half-day’s journey west of Mandalay, is the springboard for a trio of wonderful sights that often prove the unexpected highlights of trips around the Mandalay region. The oldest, 14 miles (23km) west, is the Pho Win Taung cave complex, where nearly 500 chambers have been hollowed from a low limestone hill. Many enclose Buddha images, with arched ceilings and walls plastered in murals.
Thanboddhay, southeast of Monywa, is the site of an extravagantly decorated temple, while nearby Bodhi Tataung, a hilltop religious complex is dominated by two colossal Buddha statues: one reclining, one standing. Both are hollow and may be entered by means of narrow staircases, which wind to openings revealing spectacular views over the countryside of the Chindwin Valley.