The hilltops of Sagaing, rising from the west bank of the Irrawady, are collectively one of the region’s most arresting sights. Countless whitewashed monasteries topped with golden spires are clustered in the area – structures that are remnants of an era when the country was in turmoil.
Following the fall of the Bagan Empire in the 12th century, Sagaing emerged as the capital of one of the kingdoms in the region. The glory was short-lived as the capital was moved to nearby Inwa 50 years later. Today, it’s largely a spiritual town with thousands of monasteries serving as home to monks and daily receiving hundreds of pilgrims.
The most prominent of these temples is the Sone Oo Pone Nya Shin. The temple, perched on top of the Nga Pha Hill, overlooks a gorgeous view of the hills and the river snaking through the plain below. The pagoda itself greets visitors with a large image of Buddha inside a hall filled with turquoise glass mosaic.
A few minutes’ drive north is the U Min Thonze, a cave temple filled with 45 Buddha images lined in a crescent-shaped shrine, creating perhaps Sagaing’s most distinctive image.