If MONYWA is on tourist itineraries at all, then it’s generally because it makes a useful stopping-off point on the route between Bagan and Mandalay. The town itself has few specific sights other than its market and a couple of sizeable pagodas, but there are enough attractions close by to keep you busy for a day or two; it is also a hub for trips on the Chindwin River.
Only a handful of foreigners travel each year on the Chindwin River north of Monywa, but it offers the chance to see some beautiful scenery and meet people who have had little or no contact with tourists. Several of the villages along the river are, in theory at least, open to foreigners, including (from south to north) Mawlaik (Kalay), Homalin, Thamanthi and Khamti. Since there are airports at both Homalin and Khamti (although the latter sees few flight arrivals), and since travel upriver from Monywa was not allowed at the time of research, the best option is to fly up from Mandalay or Monywa, then take a series of boats downstream to Monywa. Each of the villages mentioned has at least one guesthouse that accepts foreigners.
It’s important to check on the current permit requirements before setting out (see Getting around), but whatever the case, expect to be greeted by police officers and immigration officials surprised to find foreigners passing through. It will take at least a week to travel down from Khamti to Monywa.
Completed in 1958, Thanboddhay Paya is 11km from Monywa, in the direction of Mandalay, and contains a huge number of Buddha images. The area known as Bodhi Tataung, 8km further east, best visited in the afternoon as the light is better, has two gigantic Buddhas – one standing and one reclining – both of which can be entered.