Maha Bodhi Tataung

Top choice

Buddhist Monument

in Monywa

If you're a fan of garden gnomes, you're going to love this place! The name of this vast hillside buddha-rama translates as '1000 buddhas'. In reality there's probably many more than that. However, for most visitors, only two of them really count and they are among the most surreal sights in Myanmar.

Opened in 2008, the glimmering 424ft standing buddha is supposedly the second-tallest in the world. Inside the multistorey torso, seemingly interminable stairways link painted galleries. Many lower ones depict gruesome scenes from the hell that awaits all of us who are more sinner than saint… The statue has 31 storeys, said to represent the 31 planes of existence, though access beyond the 25th floor is generally blocked to most people (get back down the stairs to hell!).

Lower down the hillside lounges a slightly smaller but still enormous 312ft reclining buddha. It's hardly refined and the dark interior contains poorly maintained tableaux. Entry is through the right buttock.

Two other massive statues – one is a seated buddha and the other a sleeping one – have been under construction for some years now. Perhaps the workmen have got lost inside the belly of one of the others?

If you're feeling inspired, the site hosts many other minor fascinations, including a whole garden of identical (though now very weathered) sitting buddhas under concrete parasols, and the gilded 430ft stupa Aung Setkya Paya, which has lovely views from its upper rim, reached via an inner passageway.

Note that both giant buddhas face west, so for the best light plan a visit in the late afternoon. Carry your sandals to save your feet from the gravel on connecting roads.

It's located 13 miles southeast of Monywa (and 5 miles east of Thanboddhay, which you'll pass on the way there).