Tunnel with ancient Buddha statues in Kothaung Paya temple in Mrauk-U city, Rakhine state, Myanmar.

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Kothaung Paya

Top choice in Rakhine State

One of Mrauk U’s star attractions, Kothaung Paya is also the area's largest temple. It was built in 1553 by King Minbin’s son, King Mintaikkha, to outdo his dad’s Shittaung by 10,000 images (Kothaung means ‘Shrine of 90,000 Images’). Kothaung Paya is located a mile or so east of the palace; follow the road directly north of the market, veering left on the much smaller road before the bridge.

Much of Kothaung Paya was found in fragments. Legends vary – that lightning or an earthquake destroyed it in 1776, that jewel-seekers overturned walls, or that it was built with inferior stones by a superstitious king bent on beating a six-month deadline. Regardless, the structure as it looks today is the result of a rather heavy-handed 1996 reconstruction. Recalling Borobudur in Indonesia, the exterior is coated with bell-like stone stupas. The 90,000 images in question line the outer passageway, the entrances to which are guarded by grimacing ogres. Stairways lead to a top terrace, once dotted with 108 stupas.

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