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.
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.
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.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Bagan (Myanmar). 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. Read more about this site.