Named for ‘omniscience’, Bagan’s highest temple is built of two boxy white-coloured storeys, each with three diminishing terraces rimmed with spires and leading to a gold-tipped sikhara (corncob-like temple finial), 207ft high. Its monumental size and looming height make it a classic example of Bagan’s middle period. Built in 1144 by Alaungsithu, the temple has terraces encircled by indentations for 539 Jataka (stories from the Buddha’s past lives).
Plaques were never added, leading some scholars to surmise that the monument was never consecrated. Visitors are barred from climbing Thatbyinnyu’s inner passages. There are some original murals near the western entrance.
A couple of hundred yards south you can climb up onto the southeastern corner of the old city wall. The small ‘tally zedi (stupa)’ just northeast of Thatbyinnyu Pahto was built using one brick for every 10,000 bricks used in constructing the main temple.