What an adventure climbing up to the top of the jungle covered hill to get to a deserted Pagoda that had been taken back by nature with no idea if we were even in the right place.
Finding Shwetaung Paya
We had hired a couple of bicycles that didn’t work that well and a guide who didn’t show up. After waiting 15 mins in the complete darkness outside our hotel at 4am we decided to try and give it a go by ourselves.
Head torches strapped to our foreheads (seriously there was NO light!) we started off in the direction of Shwetaung Paya in hope that we were going the right way. Passing the market sellers who were just setting up, we saw a big hill, we were close but not exactly sure where it was we were supposed to be.
At the bottom of the jungle laden hill was a man sleeping on the side of the road in some sort of shack, he was our only hope. Saying the name of the Pagoda ‘Shwetaung’ whilst making a confused face he seemed to get it, he pointed to the top of the hill, so that is where we needed to go.
Dropping our bicycles into the bushes (there was nowhere else to store them) and with headlights still on, we began to follow a pathway up the hill. As we continued up, the path became less and less clear, turning into thick, dense jungle more and more. No idea if we were about to take a wrong turn on not, Philipp luckily has a good knack for directions, and the path he choose was the right one. It was also the steepest and we had to do some elbow chops to get through the flora and fight our way through the mountain rainforest. Up to 8ft tall vegetation with heaps of spiky plants! I was sure this couldn’t be the right way, but it was also kinda exciting.
The best sunrise in Mrauk U
We made it 🙂 Just at the crack of dawn with the full moon still shining above, we arrived on top of the golden hill, welcomed by two golden statues, and a pagoda that seemed to be half taken back by nature and the surrounding vegetation.
The guide showed up with a mate at the top of the Pagoda seconds before the sun popped up, but other than that, we were alone, and it was one of the most magical sunrises I have ever seen! (Yea I know that sounds cliché and tacky but it was!)
We got a 360-degree view all around Mrauk U, overlooking mountains and hills as the sun rose over them. Even the massive complex of Shittaung Paya and Dukkanthein Paya were visible. The entire time we were watching, the sunrise was truly spectacular and mesmerising.
Beginning with a clear sky as the sun rose up, suddenly a misty magical fog also began to rise. The fog came up leaving only the tips of the hills visible. Even better, other smaller pagodas, built on top of the mountains, popped out through the thick mist.
The mix of misty fog clearing then coming back then clearing again over the hills of temples and pagodas that dotted up over the mist, plus the location of the slightly creepy forgotten pagoda that we were standing on, there was a sense of sorcery to it, I didn’t want to leave that moment! But it was already daylight and warming up and there was a full day of exploring Mrauk U to do.
Fog and mist over the hill top pagodas of Mrauk U
I highly highly recommend checking out the ‘Golden Hill’ or Shwetaung Pagoda if it’s the only thing you do in Mrauk U! It is on the highest hill in Mrauk U and although is tricky to find if you just keep going upwards through the thick vegetation you will find the spot. The sunrise from the top of this hill gives Bagan sunrises a run for their money, just magical!
If you are trying to find the pagoda on the hill, this is the name of it in Burmese writing.
Shwetaung Pagoda in Burmese
Show this to a local nearby and they will point you in the right direction.