An act of merit-making by General Than Shwe and his wife, this 321ft-tall golden pagoda – 1ft smaller than Yangon’s Shwedagon Paya – is impressive from afar (especially when illuminated at night), but up close betrays its hasty construction with poor finishing. Nevertheless, the vast interior is lined with some vivid carved-stone murals depicting the life and legend of Buddha and key scenes from Myanmar’s Buddhist history. The pagoda sits on a vast, featureless terrace and the whole thing lacks atmosphere.
At the foot of the pagoda’s east side is a covered, open-sided enclosure where some rare white elephants stand chained and munching bamboo. Along with these beautiful creatures (admittedly more dusky pink than white), there’s also a regular pair of grey elephants. Between 10am and 4pm the elephants are unchained and disappear from public view to roam the grazing ground to the rear.
At the time of research much-needed renovations were taking place.