Myanmar / Burma Travel Update
Since I was there, the situation in Myanmar/Burma has changed a lot. In February 2021, a military coup sparked widespread civil unrest and armed conflict.
The U.S. State Department currently advises: "Do not travel to Burma due to civil unrest and armed conflict." You can find their full travel advisory and security alerts here. And you can find the British Foreign Office's travel advice for Myanmar / Burma here.
Thatbyinnyu Temple is the tallest of the pagodas in Bagan, rising up the equivalent of about 21 stories. And being close to both Ananda Temple and Old Bagan, it’s one of the easiest to visit.
Despite its prominence on the skyline and close proximity to the famous Ananda Temple and Old Bagan, there’s much about Thatbyinnyu Temple that remains a mystery.
It’s believed to have been built during the 12th century, but there aren’t the tell-tale inscriptions of the type at many other pagodas that would confirm it. And much of the interior has been whitewashed, covering over most of the original paintings and frescoes.
From a distance, Thatbyinnyu Temple looks quite different from most of the other pagodas in Bagan.
It’s taller, for one, but it’s also boxy. That boxiness isn’t just a result of the aesthetic choices of its builders. A distinctive feature of Thatbyinnyu Temple is that its main Buddha isn’t facing the main entrance hall on the ground hall, as it is with the other major temples in Bagan. Instead, it’s up a flight of stairs in an upper-story shrine. But if you were hoping to see it, you’re out of luck–access to the upper level has been closed for some time.1
The name, sometimes written as That Byin Nyu, is derived from Sabannu, or the “the Omniscient One,” referring to The Buddha.
Photos of Thatbyinnyu Temple
What to Know Before You Go
The upper level is closed, so you can’t see the main shrine. And you can’t climb the outside to take advantage of the views from the extra height.
As with many Burmese names, it has been transliterated multiple ways. You’ll also see it written as That Byin Nyu
- Donald M. Stadtner, Ancient Pagan: Buddhist Plain of Merit (Bangkok: River Books, 2013). [↩]