A Trip to Pyay from Yangon, Myanmar

 

I had visited Pyay from Yangon for two days during the monsoon season of 2017.

 

How to get there

Pyay is located in Bago Division, 286 km north-west of Yangon and it takes about 6 hours to drive from Yangon to Pyay. Pyay is situated on the way from Yangon to Pathein in Ayerwaddy Division, Bagan in Mandalay Division and Sittwe and Thandwe in Rakhine Stat. And therefore, to save time, some visitors visit Pyay when they are travelling to Pathein or Bagan or Rakhine State. There are several buses leaving from Aung Min Ga Lar Highway Bus Station in Yangon to Pyay and buses take about 7 hours to arrive to Pyay. There is also a train running between Pyay Central Station and Yangon. The Yangon-Bagan train also passes by Pyay but this train only stops for about 3 minutes at Shwedagar Station which is 4 miles away from Pyay Centre at 22pm. Now, you can buy bus tickets online. For train tickets, it is easier to buy at the stations because tickets are usually sold on the same day and sometimes, few hours before departure. However, there are some online travel agents providing online train tickets booking.

Two or three days should be enough to visit Pyay and its environs – Sri Ksetra (Thayay-Khit-Taya)  and Akauk Taung unless you want to spend more time. One day for Sri Ksetra, one day for Akauk Taung and one for Pyay. When I went there, I made it with two days. I left Yangon early in the morning of Saturday and arrived late on Sunday night. I gave one afternoon for Sri Ksetra and next morning to Akauk Taung. I visited Pyay during the evening and Shwedaung on the way back to Yangon.

 

Brief history of Pyay

Pyay (Prome that is how British called or ‘Pyee’ that is how locals call) was built by the British Irrawaddy Flotilla Company in the late 19th century as a port town for cargo ships between Upper Myanmar and Lower Myanmar. Akaut Taung (Akauk = Custom and Taung = Hill) was used as taxation points for boats and ships.

 

Where to visit

1. Shwe San Daw Pagoda

This pagoda is one of the well-known stupas in Myanmar. It is located on a hill at the centre of the town and it provides a good view over the town and Ayerwaddy river.

 

2. Sel Htet Gyi Pagoda (Sel Htet = 10 storey )

As its name goes, this massive sitting Buddha is 10 storey high and located right beside Shwe San Daw Pagoda. It is the best to view the sitting Buddha from Shwe San Daw.

 

3. Shwe Bhone Thar Mu Ni Pagoda

The pagoda is located on the other bank of Ayerwaddy river just across  Nawaday Bridge. Since it is on the way to Akauk Taung, you can visit while going to Akauk Taung.

 

4. Shwe Myat Mhan Pagoda (Shwe = Golden, Myat Mhan = Spectacles)

This 20 metre high sitting Buddha wearing big golden spectacles is located in Shwedaung, a town 18km south of Pyay, on the highway to Yangon. It is believed that paying homage and praying at this Buddha could cure the disease especially eye diseases. The current spectacles are the third one and the first was donated during Kong Baung ear (18th-19th century). But the first spectacles were stolen and the locals donated the second one. The third was donated by British officer and his wife when the wife was suffering from eye problems. It was said that her eye problem got cure after donating the spectacles.

 

5. Akauk Taung (Custom Hill)

Akauk Taung is located in Htone Bo (Tonbo), a town 2 hour drive from Pyay. Akauk Taung is well-known for more than 300 Buddha images curved into the wall of the river cliff. It was said that the custom officers and boatmen curved those Buddha images while they were stopping at the hill. It is the best to take a boat ride to get the amazing view of the Buddha images and the cliff. There is a monastery at the top of the cliff and there is a stair case with 367 steps from the river bank. It’s worth the climb as you can see the beautiful view of the river and the plain from the top. The monastery also provides visitors with free vegan lunch.

 

6. Sri Ksetra (Thayay-Khit-Taya)

The ancient Pyu city of Sri Ksetra is located 5 miles east of Pyay. Pyu Kingdom included Han Linn, Beikthano and Sri Ksetra, and Sri Ksetra was the largest among three. Pyu Kingdom was prosperous for over a thousand year between BC 200 and AD 900. All three cities were brick walled and moated. Sri Ksetra was the largest walled city in South-East Asia at that time. Pyu people had already mastered water control, brickmaking and iron-work. Regarding architecture, Baw Baw Gyi stupa is the earliest Buddhist monument in Myanmar. You can see the unique conical style at Baw Baw Gyi, Paya Gyi and Payamar stupas and they are dated back to 6-7th century. Be Be Gu, Laymyethnar, Phayahtaung pagodas were one of elaborated architectural style of Pyu ear and prototypes for the hollow temples of Bagan. One of the characteristics of Pyu is the burial practice of funeral urns in which the skeleton remains and ashes were kept buried both inside and outside of the structure. The ornaments and utensils of the dead people were buried together. According to the social status, terracotta, stone and bronze burial urns were used. Theravada Buddhism flourished in Pyu ear and so did Mahayana Buddhism and Hinduism. They also believed in Dvarapala or Guardian Spirit (Dvara = door, pala = spirit in Pali Language) and its images were found at the city wall and doors of the religious monuments. Even after Pyu era, Dvarapala images were found at the entrances of religious monuments. Another strange belief was in iron nails. It was believed that the magical power of large iron nails set up on the city wall could prevent the enemies and drive the evil spirits. The culture artifacts are displayed at Sri Ksetra Archaeological museum. The cities of Pyu Kingdom – Han Linn, Beikthano and Sri Ksetra are the first site in Myanmar being inscribed on the World Heritage List in June 2014.

 

Where to stay

Pyay has 2-3 star hotels to budget guest houses.

     50-60 USD price range

          Lucky Dragon Hotel – near the Ayerwaddy river bank

          Hotel 3D

     30-40 USD price range

          Smile Motel

          Nawaday Hotel

          Golden Dragon Hotel

          Golden Guest Hotel

          Greenland Villa Resort

          Sweet Golden Land Hotel

     10-20 USD price range

          Sweet Guest House

          Pan Gaba Guest House

          Shwe Thiha Guest House

          Myat Noe Thu Guest House

          Hong Kong Thu Guest House

          Swe Mon Chit Guest House

          Mingalarbar Guest House

 

What to eat

When you are in Pyay, you should try famous food of Pyay, Pyay style Rice Salad and Kyet Thout San. Rice Salad is the popular food in Myanmar but Pyay Rice Salad has different ingredients. Pyay Daw Oo Rice Salad is famous and if you couldn’t make to Daw Oo restaurant, you can get Pyay Rice Salad at other restaurants and food shops. Kyet Thout San is the Mon style chicken soup.

Shwedaung noodle is another famous noodle in Myanmar. Worth trying Osaka Shwedaung noodle restaurant on the highway between Shwedaung and Pyay.

Go to the food shops lined up at the Ayerawaddy river bank. Try different fried snacks, chicken, fish, salad, soup, etc. Sit down at a small table with stools at the river bank and enjoy your evening with snacks and drinks.

Also pay a visit to the night market which is located on Bogyoke Street to taste local snacks and dishes.

Other well-known restaurants are:

San Francisco – for Chinese food

Aunty Moe – for Burmese food

Sate Kan Thar Teashop

Pyi Garden – for Western food

 

How to get around

Pyay is a small town and you can get around with bicycle or motorbikes.  You can also hire tuk tuk, taxi or private car. You can hire them from your hotel or guest house or ask them where you can get them.

 

I hope this article helps you planning your next trip to Pyay. Thank you very much.

 

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