It’s likely you have seen the pavlova-like tiers of Hsinbyume Pagoda on social media. Now this guide will share if the famous White Pagoda near Mandalay is worth the hype as well as all the details you need to plan your own visit.
Our visit to Hsinbyume Pagoda was one of the many highlights from our Myanmar itinerary. In order for you to make the most of your visit, we have put together this detailed guide that covers how to get to Hsinbyume Pagoda, the fascinating history, entry fees and a few tips of attractions nearby.
Of all the pagodas in Bagan that we visited and temples we have seen throughout Asia, Hsinbyume Pagoda is truly unique and an experience not to be missed. Here’s all you need to know…
HOW TO GET TO HSINBYUME PAGODA
There are two ways to get to Hsinbyume Pagoda – by land or by water. The most common (and the most fun) is definitely the latter, taking the ferry 11km North from Mandalay to Mingun although you can also hire a driver for the day and drive to Mingun.
The Ferry departs daily at 9am, so arrive at the Gaw Wein Jetty (also known as Mingun Jetty) for 8:30am to leave enough time to purchase tickets.
Mingun ferry tickets are 5,000MMK (approx. £2.70) per person for a return journey. The return journey will be on the same boat which leaves Mingun at 12:30 sharp. After paying the fee you will also be asked to show your passport. The ferry staff will take note of your Nationality so do not forget your passport if you plan on taking the ferry to Hsinbyume Pagoda.
After paying the fee, it’s time to board the ferry and witness Asian health & Safety at it’s finest. You will be asked to “walk the plank” to board the ferry, complete with a bamboo pole used as a makeshift railing before finding your deck chair on the top deck. The majority of chairs are under shade but not all, so we recommend being first in queue to ensure a shaded seat.
The journey from Mandalay to Mingun takes around 1 hour. The ferry is an interesting insight into life on the Irrawaddy River or simply a way to relax in the sunshine before your climb up Hsinbyume Pagoda begins.
After a second walk the plank obstacle course you will arrive on the banks of Mingun. You will likely be introduced to many locals selling longyis and hats as well as cart rides to the pagodas. Of all the things to do in Mingun, Hsinbyume pagoda is the furthest walk from where the ferry drops you off but it is still only 15 minutes so there is no need to hop on an ox-pulled cart which is not only a waste of money but very cruel.
HSINBYUME PAGODA ENTRANCE FEE
As you walk from the ferry drop off to Hsinbyume Pagoda you will pass a tourist desk with a large map. This is where you pay the Mingun tourist pass which is 5,000MMK (approx. £2.70) per person and gives you access to not just Hsinbyume Pagoda but also Pahtodawgyi (Mingun Pagoda), Mingun Bell and Sat Taw Yar Pagoda.
All Mingun attractions are within walking distance of Hsinbyume Pagoda, so although it is incredibly beautiful bear in mind you only have from 10am until 12:30 to visit them all so plan your Mingun day trip wisely.
You will be given a sticker which proves you’ve paid the fee – no sticker, no entry. Please be a responsible traveller and pay these fees as they are vital to the local economy and upkeep of these incredible buildings.
BEST TIME TO VISIT WHITE PAGODA, MANDALAY
As we were backpacking Myanmar in April, it was offseason so we were fortunate that there were very view tourists visiting Hsinbyume pagoda when we were there. This also meant we’d the opportunity to chat with many locals who were visiting Mingun as it was a public holiday in the lead up to Thingyan water festival (The Burmese New Year.)
Had their been crowds of tourists we wouldn’t have had this memorable opportunity. Although this time of year does mean it’s incredibly hot (40+degrees) which meant visiting was a little painful on your feet due to the heat.
Remember you are limited on time so if you want to spend more time at Hsinbyume Pagoda we recommend visiting their first as soon as you step of the Mandalay to Mingun ferry. This means you won’t have to rush your visit and the ground will be cooler as it will be nearer 10am than midday.
REASONS TO VISIT HSYINBYUME PAGODA
A Fascinating History
If you have spent time in Bagan or in Asia in general you may feel “templed out” and wonder what’s so special about Hsinbyume Pagoda? A day trip here is one of the most popular things to do in Mandalay for so many reasons – firstly, the history.
Built-in 1816, the Hsinbyume Pagoda is also known as Mya Thein Tan Pagoda because one hundred thousand emeralds were used to fund the construction of this white pagoda. Mye means emerald and Thein Tan means 100,000.
Those emeralds were funded by Prince Bagyidaw who was the son of King Bodawpaya – the man responsible for the equally epic Mingun Pagoda (Pahtodawgyi). It’s around a 10 minute walk from Hsinbyume Pagoda and an absolute must-see during your time in Mingun.
The pagoda was built as a token of love from prince Bagyidaw to his first wife, Queen Hsinbyume who sadly passed away during childbirth. Her name translates to Lady of White Elephant, which inspired the unique white colour of the pagoda.
In 1836, a major earthquake hit Mingun – leaving Hsinbyume Pagoda severely damaged. In 1874 King Mindon chose to restore it, however during your visit it’s hard to believe this restoration was so long ago due to how well kept it is!
The Unique Architecture
Alongside the love story behind Hsinbyume Pagoda, there is also the unique architecture which makes it so special. On first impressions we joked that it should be nicknamed “pavlova pagoda” thanks to its tiered terraces that reminded us of our favourite dessert.
It turns out each of these seven wave-like terraces represent the seven mountain ranges surrounding Mount Meru. According to Buddhist cosmology, Mount Meru is considered the centre of the universe. On top of Mount Meru is a pagoda called Chulamanee which the top of Hsinbyume Pagoda is based on.
Surrounding the entire temple is a wall and large gate – alongside many locals selling souvenirs and a few cheeky children who made our visit even more memorable.
To Meet The Locals
As we walked up to Hsinbyume Pagoda mesmerised by the white wave-like terraces we bumped into a group of hilarious children who explained their names were Rooney, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo.
They also insisted we posed for photos as they wanted to play with our camera and even chaperoned us to the best parts of the pagoda for those sought after views and photo opportunities. They were even kind enough to fix Darren’s longyi and explain the correct way to wear it as well as ask for their own photos to be taken.
It’s because of experiences like this that we love travelling as by chatting to locals you find hidden gems and get to know a little more about the culture than you would ever learn from guidebooks or blog posts.
Although we were dubious to handover our cameras to a group of 9 year olds who could definitely run a lot faster than us had they legged it, it will still be one of our favourite memories from backpacking Myanmar and should you also meet anyone by the name of Rooney at Hsinbyume Pagoda please say Hi from us.
CAN YOU CLIMB HSINBYUME PAGODA?
Unlike most pagodas in Bagan, you can walk up Hsinbyume Pagoda. All 7 terraces are open for access and you are free to wander round each one before reaching an open platform with stairs which lead to the top of the pagoda – providing great views over Mingun and the river. At the top you will also find a shrine with a few locals lighting incense.
We have witnessed many, many bloggers and Instagram photos of people walking on the actual “waves” which looks impressive, but in reality it is incredibly dangerous. The waves are quite high and the combination of very hot, curved, centuries old brickwork doesn’t sound the safest. Not to mention the erosion these photographs cause, be a responsible traveller and stick to the footpaths and stairs.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON VISITING HSINBYUME PAGODA
For the small fee of 10,000MMK (approx. £5.50) including ferry and entry ticket, a day trip to Hsinbyume Pagoda is one of the best things to do when visiting Mandalay. We would return for the hilarious conversations with the locals and endless questions from the inquisitive children alone – the beautiful photographs and unforgettable memories from Mingun are just a bonus!