Visiting the 100-year-old Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar

Close up view of Chauk Htat Gyi Buddha Image
Close up view of Chauk Htat Gyi Buddha Image – photo by Grace

Of the thousands of pagodas and temples in Myanmar,  Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda (also spelled Chauk Htet Gyi) stands out because of its famous huge reclining Buddha. The pagoda is located on Shwe Gone Dine Road, Bahan Township, in the North of Yangon.

The site is probably the second most popular tourist site in Yangon after the Shwedagon Pagoda. Chauk Htat Gyi means “great six layers” in Burmese  – so the pagoda in name and size surpasses the nearby Ngar Htat Gyi Pagoda which is the five layers pagoda!

In the land of gilded golden pagodas, many Buddhist religious sites can be seen glinting from afar, but unlike others, Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda is less visible and you could easily pass the place if you didn’t know it was there. Although positioned on high land, most parts of the building are covered with trees.

The reclining Buddha image took 8 years to complete. Originally facing North-West and actually in a seated posture, the design was changed after initial construction issues. The original patron/donor U Bo Thar had an ambition to make it a world-famous landmark, but since the original work in 1907, successive damage and construction problems led to a change of approach. In 1953, Sar U Thwin took charge, enlarging the Buddha image, reconstructing in a reclining posture facing East. The site’s sacred relics and precious gems are installed inside the Buddha head and cushion under the arm.

Indoor view of the reclining Buddha image at Chauk Htat Gyi
The reclining Buddha Chauk Htat Gyi is the best known large image in Yangon – photo by Grace

The Buddha image we can see today is almost 66m long and 17m high, and there are 108 auspicious signs displayed for visitors. The Buddha image is housed under the large metal roof and well maintained.

There is a visitors’ car park right in front of archway to the building. Shoes must be taken off before entering the portico or just left in your car which is the better option! Every day at least 500 people visit the pagoda including many visitors from overseas. Even so, the place is calm, and full of pleasant people coming to practice meditation, to wipe away stress and brighten the inner peace.

Man praying at Chaunk Htat Gyi
Buddhists praying and meditating in front of Chauk Htat Gyi Buddha Image – photo by Grace

This simple and harmonious pagoda is surrounded by several Buddhist monasteries. Most tourists don’t go around the compound, but there is actually much more to see than the one huge reclining Buddha. Behind the Buddha head, there is a place where you could see Ngar HtAt Gyi Pagoda gateway clearly and the view of Shwedagon pagoda from far. If you’re a photographer don’t miss it!

There is a long hallway near the car park with many souvenir shops and exhibits. In the shops you can buy wooden hand-made gifts, traditional bags, puppet toys, and some lacquer wares. A popular item to bring back home as gift from Myanmar is a wooden catapult!

For public transportation, the bus lines to Chauk Htet Gyi include: No. 34, 38, 48, 50, 174, 235, 245 and 255. To avoid going in the wrong direction, check the signs first or ask people around the bus stop. The bus fare only costs MMK 200 but most of the time will be crowded. By taxi it should be between MMK 2500 to MMK 3500 depend on how far it away you start from.

The best time to visit the pagoda is between 2 to 4 pm in the afternoon.