Ava - Exploring the Secret Burmese Capital
by Blake Johnson May 18, 2017
On the road to Sagaing, you should pay a visit to "Kingdom of Ava" (now known as Inwa or Innwa). Located about 20 kilometers to the south of Mandalay, Inwa is a world away from this bustling city. It is this peaceful beauty that makes its famous charming and attracts many tourists all over the world. A visit to Inwa is an interesting trip for you to discover a remarkably rural backwater studded with ruins, monasteries and temples.
History of Inwa, Myanmar
Today, Inwa is known as a sleepy rural destination; however, it was the ancient imperial capital of Burma from the 14th to 19th century. In Burmese, "Inwa" means "the Mouth of the Lake". The city was also named Yatnapura which means "the City of Gems". The first time it was set up as an imperial capital by King Thado Minbya in 1364. Throughout history, this ancient capital was rebuilt many times and ruled by varied Burmese Kings. Unfortunately, Inwa was destroyed totally by the earthquake in 1839. Just few of the former building remain at present, but it is still an attractive site. Tourists often travel to Inwa by horse cart. Also, cycling and walking are great ways to explore this quiet city easier and more flexible for village stops and interaction with local people.
The Grand Bagaya Monastery
Bagaya Monastery was constructed in the 1770s and used as a "monastic college" to educate royal people. With the material of teak wood, the monastery consists of 267 teak posts, in which the biggest post is about 18 meters high and 3 meters in circumference. The entire monastery is decorated by carved art works, floral arabesques, reliefs of birds and animals and small pillars. Bagaya Monastery also plays an important role as the place of Burmese cultural heritage including the antique architectures and sculptures. All local people can be proud of this magnificent monastery as an ancient arts museum.
Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery
Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery (known as Brick Monastery) was built in 1822 by Queen Nanmadaw Me Nu, Queen of King Bagyidaw. Among the Burmese monasteries, it is one of the greatest brick one decorated with flora and stucco. In 1839, the monastery was also destroyed by the earthquake and reconstructed in 1873 by Queen Sin Phyu Ma Shin. Maha Aungmye Bonzan is one of the best preserved monasteries in Inwa with a number of stupas and a covered in Burmese graffiti bell. Moreover, it is a great place to see the wholes Sagaing Hill and Inwa Bridge across the Irrawaddy River.
Watchtower Nan Myint
Watchtower Nan Myint is the only building remained in King Bagyidaw's palace. It was constructed in 1822 with the height of 30 meters in the north of Inwa, near Inwa Bridge for the purpose of military in the third Anglo-Burmese war. Because of the 1839 earthquake, just the lower part was remained and recovered as its original structure. The watchtower is one of the typical constructions of Burma architecture in the early 19th century. According to local history, this watchtower is the last one constructed to protect Burma's ancient capital during the war years, so it is the site preserving many historical values to explore.
Inwa Archaeological Museum
Inwa Archaeological Museum has two halls including mainly the 19th-century marble Buddha statues. An interesting highlight in this museum is the footprint of the giant 18th-century Buddha. Besides,it also stores the black-and-white photos of Ava Bridge in the past and WWII's in 1942. From the museum, you can see stunning views of sunset and surrounding stupas.
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