Inwa: From Royal to Rural

Further south of Sagaing is Inwa, perhaps the most famous of Myanmar’s former royal capitals. The town was the country’s capital for six centuries before it was abandoned in 1839, following a series of earthquakes.

It’s our next stop after Sagaing. With three of my companions from the hostel, we eat our lunch at a riverside diner, then cross the river on a motorboat to reach the town. At first glance, little remains of the grandeur of the place when it was in its heyday. Inwa feels much like a peaceful backwater with dirt roads lined by trees and fields. Numerous horse carts ply the routes, and though most of them are carrying foreigners taking the popular circuit of exploring the sights, the town as a whole still feels decidedly rural, like a town left behind as progress occurred elsewhere.

Exploring Inwa by horse cart is popular among tourists.
The Bagaya Kyaung is a monastery constructed in 1834 using 267 teak posts.
Thick walls guard the Maha Aungmye Bonzan, a stucco-covered brick temple built in 1822.
The tower of King Bagyidaw’s palace is the only remaining structure left after an earthquake in 1838.
Brick stupas are clumped together under the shade at the Yedanasimi Paya.

Exploring the town further, we see the remains of an ancient city. We first stop by the Yedanasimi Paya, a small compound of three brick stupas and three sitting Buddha images.

Further west of the main road leads to another fork. At the end of the left turn lies Inwa’s most popular structure, the Bagaya Kyaung. Built in 1834, this teak monastery remains a living one, with monks and pilgrims constantly flowing through its halls. The structure is constructed entirely using teak wood, and is supported on 267 posts, with designs that show examples of ancient Burmese art.

At the center of a large field is the Nyan Mint watchtower, which is all that is left of King Bagyidaw’s palace after an earthquake in 1838, only the lower part was left but it was restored as its original structure. The view above is supposedly great, though visitors cannot climb it due to the sorry state of the structure’s stairs.

Near the river jetty, before we cross back to Mandalay, we stop at the Maha Aungmye Bonzan Kyaung, a well-preserved brick monastery dating back to 1818. The structure features the popular style of the period, with a multi-tiered roof and stucco decorations similar to wooden monasteries built during that time.

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