Win Sein Taw Ya – The Largest Reclining Buddha Statue in the World

Win Sein Taw Ya - The Largest Reclining Buddha Statue in the World

The Win Sein Taw Ya reclining Buddha statue near Mawlamyine isn’t the most famous pagoda in Myanmar, but it does need to be seen to be believed. At 30 meters high and 180 meters in length, Win Sein Taw Ya is a grand and truly bizarre spectacle.

We’ve all heard of the famous Reclining Buddha statue at Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand. Yet Win Sein Taw Ya is the largest reclining Buddha statue in the world. Not a bad record for an off the beaten track attraction. On our visit to Mon State in Myanmar, we had to go and visit to find out more.

Win Sein Taw Ya Reclining Buddha Statue
It’s an incredible sight when this comes in to view

Construction of the reclining Buddha statue began on 29th February 1992 by the Buddhist Monk Win Sein Taw Ya. Whilst it may look finished from the outside, work has never been completed (more on that later). With Myanmar’s chequered history it’s hard to know exactly what halted the progress. Noone is even sure why the reclining Buddha statue was even built in the first place. Sadly in 2015 at the age of 95, Win Sein Taw Ya passed away, so these are question that will go unanswered.

One thing we do know is that concerns were raised about how long the Win Sein Taw Ya Reclining Buddha could withstand nature’s elements. With that in mind, construction of a more durable reclining Buddha directly opposite commenced in 2012. Its huge rusted face stares across the plateau and it now seems abandoned. Thus development of Win Sein Taw Ya Buddha has now restarted.

Abandoned Reclining Buddha Statue
This was supposed to replace the other Buddha

Visiting the Win Sein Taw Ya Reclining Buddha Statue

On a typically hot Myanmar morning, Rose and I hired a scooter from our Mawlamyine hotel and set off south for a 20km journey down the highway towards Mudon.

Although Win Sein Taw Ya is the largest reclining Buddha statue in the world, there’s no celebratory fanfare or directions en route. The giveaway you’ve arrived is an entrance gate adorned with two huge silver birds over a blue archway. Driving up the road, to the left hand side are over 100 life size Buddhist Monk statues. Each carries alms and has a unique face, possibly based on real life monks from the area.

Win Sein Taw Ya Monks
The lifelike Buddhist Monks

Travelling across Southeast Asia, there’s no end of Buddhist statues. Every day we must have seen a dozen, even if we didn’t go looking for them. It’s easy to feel a little jaded by a new one. Yet when the Win Sein Taw Ya reclining Buddha statue came in to view, it blew us away. The sheer size of it is hard to grasp. The fact there’s no other tourists only added to the spectacle.

Parking the scooter under the shade of the only tree in the car park, we were swiftly accosted by a stray cow. Narrowly avoiding damage to ourselves and the scooter, we removed our shoes and climbed the bridge over the river to get closer.

Standing on the bridge I tried in vain to get a photo of the Win Sein Taw Ya reclining Buddha. Although it was too huge to fit in to the frame. We stood and admired it for a while, then walked up to the face.

Win Sein Taw Ya Reclining Buddha and Monks
What I didn’t know beforehand is that it’s possible to enter the reclining Buddha statue. Walking into the head, a chess board style floor in an empty room led us to a long dusty staircase. Friendly stray dogs ran up and down the steps and Rose stopped to play with them for a short time.

Staircase and stray dog
Rose always finds a stray dog to play with

At the top it looked like a building site, with rubble and bricks were everywhere and. With Rose occupied by stray dogs, I decided to walk down a second flight of stairs in the corner of the room. I was surprised when it lead me outside to the reclining Buddha’s ear. The views were staggering. Looking over the lush green hills, various Buddhist statues dot the landscape. Directly opposite is the creepy and seemingly abandoned reconstruction of Win Sein Taw Ya.

Buddha Selfie
Trying to get a selfie with the reclining Buddha

Being the only people around, I figured it was time to leave before someone appeared to expel us for trespassing. Back inside, I peered around a corner and saw a donation box with a Buddhist Monk praying. Maybe we were allowed to be there after all! Whilst leaving a donation I suddenly spotted a corridor with a diorama of statues. A group of men surrounded a tied up woman and one was in an attack position, wielding a club above her head. What was this place?

Calling Rose over, we walked down the corridor to be greeted by a large satanic statue. With huge horns and a pitchfork, he was impaling a man through the head. His face contorted in pain with blood dripping all over his body. We’d clearly entered some form of Buddhist Hell. There are a few such dioramas scattered across Southeast Asia, but the size of this felt like a Buddhist Hell theme park. At every turn, another corridor revealed a scene more morbid and brutal than the last.

Buddhist Hell figures

Buddhist Hell

Elephant Trampling Man

It transpired that in the body of Win Sein Taw Ya, there are four floors of Buddhist Hell. All are in various states of development. Some contain beautifully painted statues and bold colours. Others are nothing more than concrete figures, with detailed features yet to be added. It is actually these figures that are the most disconcerting. Expressionless, but somehow writhing in pain.

Creepiest Photo
The figures without paint are some of the creepiest

Scary Statue

At the feet of the reclining Buddha we came across a group of construction workers climbing scaffold without harnesses and using cutting metal with angle grinders. Sparks were flying everywhere and it only seemed a matter of time before we got injured. As is typical of the Myanmar people, they waved and smiled, not phased that random westerners had walked on to their building site. We’d already walked bare footed through rubble avoiding sharp objects. It really did feel like time to go. We navigated our way back through the maze like construction of the reclining Buddha.

Scaffold Construction
No health and safety here!
Abandoned Corridor
One of the many abandoned corridors inside the reclining Buddha

How to get to Win Sein Taw Ya Reclining Buddha

The easiest way to get to Win Sein Taw Ya reclining Buddha is to hire a scooter in Mawlamyine. Your accommodation should be able to assist with this. We stayed at Breeze Guesthouse in Mawlamyine and the cost of hiring a scooter for the day was 12,000 Kyatt ($8 USD). Even if you aren’t staying at Breeze Guesthouse, I recommend paying them a visit. They offer numerous tours of Mawlamyine and the surrounding area.

Another option is to hire a tuk tuk driver, but the cost of that will be open to negotiation. I prefer not to hire a driver if I can help it. They often agree how long you can spend somewhere but then want to leave early or ask for more money later on. This can be deeply frustrating.

There may be a bus from Mawlamyine heading in the direction of Mudon, but check with your accommodation. Local transport in Myanmar doesn’t always have a set timetable. If you do manage to catch a bus, you will need to walk 15 minutes from the highway entrance and past the Buddhist Monks statues to reach the reclining Buddha statue itself.

How much does it cost to visit Win Sein Taw Ya Reclining Buddha Statue?

It is free to visit, but I recommend you leave a donation to help with construction. The donation box is inside the Buddha and a sign tells you how much your donation is worth. E.g. 1000 Kyatt will buy a ceramic sheet, 5000 Kyatt will buy a bag of sand.

Donations board
A list of what your donation will be spent on

Is there a dress code for Win Sein Taw Ya Reclining Buddha Statue?

As with any Buddhist temple, it’s a requirement that visitors remove their shoes. Also, keep shoulders and legs above the knee covered.

How long does it take to visit Win Sein Taw Ya Reclining Buddha Statue?

You will need at least an hour, but I recommend two as there’s so much to explore inside the reclining Buddha statue. You can also climb the hills in the surrounding area to see other statues and pagodas.

It takes half an hour to get to Win Sein Taw Ya on a scooter from Mawlamyine, so the entire visit will take at least half a day.

Reclining Buddha Myanmar
I had to take a panorama to fit this in to frame

Essential Items for Your Trip to Myanmar

It’s always useful to have a guide that helps you plan your travels. The Lonely Planet Guide to Myanmar (Burma) is ideal. Also available as Kindle.

The Rough Guide to Myanmar (Burma) is also an exceptional travel planner. Also available as Kindle.

I have taken one of these across the world. This power strip is essential for international travel. It charges multiple items at once and takes any kind of international plug. Perfect if you’re in a hostel dorm with limited plug sockets or have a lot of tech to charge.

You’ll need sun cream to fight against Myanmar’s scorching sun. I recommend an eco friendly reef sun cream. This means if you also use it to go swimming, you won’t be harming the underwater environment and animals. You won’t get burned either!

Save the environment and stay hydrated with a bottle that filters your water. This is ideal for travelling overseas where people don’t have the luxury of potable tap water. It will mean you don’t get sick or use a lot of non-recyclable plastic.

Get the best value accommodation in Myanmar here:


Win Sein Taw Ya - The Largest Reclining Buddha Statue in the World

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