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Myanmar (Burma): Bagan

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Bagan | Myanmar (Burma) | Asia

[Visited: March 2006]

When the light around me started chasing away the darkness of the Burmese night, I was standing on the top of Shwesandaw Paya. The light of dawn got hints of orange, and I knew the sun was on its way. Slowly, the veil on the landscape that the night had laid over it, was lifted, and I saw spires of temples appearing all around me. All pointing up, some high, higher even than where I was standing, some much lower. As I waited, yet more elegant shadows appeared further away, and it left me breathless. Pinnacles were floating in the rust-coloured air around me, on a bed of fog and dust.

Picture of Bagan (Myanmar (Burma)): Bagan temple floating in the early morning fog

Bagan is an amazing destination in Myanmar, and certainly on a par with other great monuments of the civilization of mankind. The sheer size, more than forty square kilometres dotted with temples large and small, makes anyone in awe. But what is more, Bagan is a place that can easily be explored in many ways. Each visitor, unless in an organized tour, will have a different story to tell, because no one will visit the same temples, as there are so many to chose from. A bicycle is a great way to explore, even the sandy paths are not too difficult to negotiate, and distances are not all that big. Some temples are simple, small, but with unexpected beautiful frescoes inside; others are enormous, like Ananda Pahto, which reminds the European visitor mostly of a gigantic cathedral. While sunset was a less spectacular than expected, I was thrilled at the fantastic scene of sunrise over Bagan.

Picture of Bagan (Myanmar (Burma)): Looking inside a temple with Buddha image and frescoes at Bagan

In the 11th century, kings of Bagar started building temples, and continued to do so for more than 200 years, until Bagan was overrun by the Mongol hordes of Kublai Khan. The area had been populated much before, but the heyday of Bagan lies between the 11th and early 13th century. It is not completely clear what happened afterwards, but probably rivalry between various ethnic groups led to the Bagan area being abandoned, after which Bagan became an area better avoided for centuries. No matter how impressive Bagan is now, in its heyday, it must have been even much more grand, as most buildings and palaces of the time were built of wood and therefore did not survive.

Picture of Bagan (Myanmar (Burma)): Sunrise over Bagan: some of the thousands of temples
Picture of Bagan (Myanmar (Burma)): Sunrise over Bagan
Picture of Bagan (Myanmar (Burma)): Bagan temple appearing from the morning fog
Picture of Bagan (Myanmar (Burma)): Ananda Pahto at Bagan: the perfect temple with golden spire
Picture of Bagan (Myanmar (Burma)): Close-up of Ananda Pahto at Bagan; lions and golden tower
Picture of Bagan (Myanmar (Burma)): Bagan sunset, spires fading in the disappearing light
Picture of Bagan (Myanmar (Burma)): Light inside Ananda Pahto, Bagan
Picture of Bagan (Myanmar (Burma)): Sunrise unvealing temples of Bagan
Picture of Bagan (Myanmar (Burma)): Spires and temples of Bagan at sunrise
Picture of Bagan (Myanmar (Burma)): Bagan temple seen from below
Picture of Bagan (Myanmar (Burma)): Contours of temple before sunset at Bagan
Picture of Bagan (Myanmar (Burma)): Sheep and temple at Bagan
Picture of Bagan (Myanmar (Burma)): Shwezigon Paya is one of the major temples of Bagan

Around the World in 80 Clicks

Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Bagan (Myanmar (Burma)). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Bagan.
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