Thanboddhay Pagoda

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The riotously colorful Thanboddhay Pagoda is a temple unlike any other in Myanmar. The brainchild of a local abbott named Moe­hnyin Sayadaw, it was built in the 1930s as a monument to the 512,028 souls who are believed to have achieved Buddhahood in the era of Gautama – a concept artistically expressed in a multitude of Buddha figures, both large and small. Every inch of the building’s exterior is festooned with statues, along with the pillars, niches, walls, and ceilings inside, which are smothered in vibrantly painted and gilded stucco. The pagoda’s distinctive roof is layered with rows of small gilded stupas, and the temple itself is flanked by 30­ft­ (9­m­) high obelisks covered in tiny Buddha statues.

The somewhat kitsch theme- park effect is further enhanced  by the pastel­colored monks’ cells, the large masonry fruits seen around the complex, the pair of large white concrete elephants standing guard at the main entrance, and the Arlin Nga Sint, a lofty watchtower built in the form of a snake. Men (but not women) may climb this tower via a spiral staircase for a bird’s­eye view over the complex.

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