As a Southeast Asian history teacher, visiting Inwa was surreal. The city formerly known as the Court of Ava was the capital of the Burmese Kingdom from the 14th to 19th centuries. This was the capital of Burma during the first Anglo-Burmese War when the British East India Company invaded Burma. One of the reasons for invasion was the British’s fear of French influence over the Court of Ava.
The city was abandoned because of devastating earthquakes in 1838, so much of the city was destroyed. Today, you can visit some of the ruins most notably the watchtower, Bagaya Teak Monastery, Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery, Lay Htet Gyi, Yadana Hsimi Pagodas, Lawka Tharahpu Pagoda, Daw Gyan Pagoda Complex, and “Baby Bagan.”
The watchtower is all the remains of the Ava Palace built in the 19th century under King Bagyidaw.
Bagaya Teak Monastery
The royals used to be educated at this monastic college. Today, the teak feels rickety under your feet as you step, but it’s easy to appreciate the carving details.
Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery
The monastery was destroyed by the earthquake in 1838, but was rebuilt by a Queen of King Mindon in 1873. The Monastery is fairly massive and is notable because it’s constructed on concrete rather than the traditional teak. Because of its good condition, the monastery is fun to explore and imagine the life of the royals and monks of the 19th century.
Lay Htet Gyi Pagoda
This pagoda was built in 963 and destroyed by a fire in 1020. Today, there ruins can be fully explored. I climbed through piles of stones and marveled at the destruction of such a massive structure.
Yadana Hsimi Pagodas
This group of stupas was one of my favorites in Inwa. I visited them towards the end of the day so there was the soft light above the remnants of the stupas and multi-colored buddha.
Lawka Tharahpu Pagoda
There is a set of white and gold pagodas right next to the Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery, so this is an easy site to visit.
Daw Gyan Pagoda Complex
A set of ancient, fairly well-maintained pagodas.
I cannot find the name of these pagodas and did not take a photo of the sign, but there are a string of pagodas somewhat similar to those in Bagan. There were cows on a grassy hill right by the pagodas when I visited.
If you plan on visiting Inwa and are looking for a driver, I highly recommend the driver I took. His name is Kyaw Kyaw, and his number is +95-09952089715. I paid 17,000 kyat to spend the day visiting Sagaing Hill and Inwa and an additional 3,000 kyat to see all of Inwa (because I loved it so much). He can speak English fairly well, but also let me practice by Burmese!