Five miles northwest of central Sagaing, Kaunghmudaw Paya is a vast gilded pudding of a stupa rising 150ft high. It was built in 1636 to commemorate Inwa’s re-establishment as the royal capital. According to local tradition, the king agonised interminably over how to shape the stupa. His queen, tired of hubby’s indecisiveness, ripped open her blouse and, pointing to her breast, said: ‘Make it like this!’
Less romantic scholars claim it was actually modelled on the vast Suvarnamali Mahaceti (Ruwanwelisaya) stupa in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Local officials have petitioned Parliament to repaint it white (its original colour) – the gold was added only in 2010, reportedly on orders by General Than Shwe. Kaunghmudaw is distantly visible from Sagaing Hill and easy to spot as you drive past en route to Monywa. The surrounding area has many other stupas and is well known for silversmiths.