Bagan and Its Surroundings
The capital of the First Myanmar Empire, Bagan is a city on the bank of Irrawaddy River that is filled with thousands of ancient pagodas and shrines. Today, there are over 2200 pagodas scattered over 42 km sq. throughout the city. In every direction you look, you will see all sizes of Pagodas that comes with different historical tales. However, taking a toll of time, man, and nature, many monuments have been destroyed but some were rebuilt to look like it once did in the past. One can experience to the evolution of architecture from the changes of the pagoda in different eras.
One of the oldest pagodas in Bagan is Bupaya, which was built during the 3rd century with its distinctive dome shape which is different from most pagodas in Bagan. Lying beside the Irrawaddy River, Bupaya is a beautiful place to visit during both sunset or sunrise. Another distinctive pagoda is the Shwezigon Pagoda, which was built in the 11th century in order to enshrine one of the four replicas of Buddha tooth from Kandy, Sri Lanka. The stupa’s graceful bell shape became a common prototype used for most of the stupas throughout Myanmar.
The beautiful Ananda Pagoda is an 11th century masterpiece that was built by King Kyansithar. The perfect proportions represent the stylistic end of early Bagan going into the beginning of the middle period. Each stupa on the sides of the pagoda all have ever-changing faces depending on the area you stand. Another early period temple that is of interest to people is the Gubyaukgyi Temple for its well-preserved murals inside. These 11th century mural paintings inside the pagoda are lit dimmly by small windows.
The majestic Dhamayangyi Temple has the largest base of all the pagodas in Bagan. This temple was built by King Narathu in the 12th century, and has four main entrances leading to the outer corridors of the temple. For unknown reasons, the interior of the pagoda has been blocked. Sadly, the top of the temple crumbled due to an earthquake in 1975 and the upper portion was left unfinished. The tallest pagoda in Bagan is Thatpaenyu Pagoda, which rises up to 61 meters. Due to its height the temple soars the skies of Bagan, making it visible from different areas of the Bagan plains.
One of the first examples of architecture from the late period of Bagan is the Sulamani Temple, which is characterized by the use of smaller bricks, allowing for the perfection of its arches. Some says that the stucco work is the best in Bagan. Inside the temple, mural paintings from the 18th century is still preserved. Another Pagoda that is similar to Sulamani is Htilominlo Pagoda. There are two layers on this temple, with four Buddha stupas on each floor. This temple is greatly worshipped by the leaders of the country to give them good blessings due to its history.
Bagan is a beautiful city that is filled with thousands of pagodas throughout the city. Exploring this magical land by bikes or horse-carts is an experience of a lifetime. As Bagan is the most important destination in Myanmar, it also has beautiful culture and traditions such as lacquerware, which is decorative articles, made out of bamboo, coated with lacquer. Whether you bike around or ride a balloon over the city, Bagan is a must visit destination for a taste of historic attractions and ancient traditions.
An extinct volcano, “Mount Popa” is the highest landmark in the central zone, reaching a height of 1518 meters. Located just 2 hours from Bagan by car, it is a perfect half day excursion trip while visiting Bagan. Established as one of the three national park, Popa Mountain Park is now a verdant and green area with monkeys living among humans. As the volcano last erupted 2500 years ago, the soil is fertile for the trees and plant life in this area, and thus defining itself as “Oasis of the Desert”. Once you get to the base of the Mount Popa cliff, you have to walk up a total of seven hundred steps to reach the peak. Even though it can be tiring, the charming landscapes that awaits on the peak will relax your mind and body.
On the bank of Irrawaddy river lies a city named Salay which was developed as the spiral effect of Bagan’s influence moving southward along the Irrawaddy River. The British established a base here during their colonization, where they built several old colonial buildings. Aside from the old colonial buildings, Yokesone monastery is one of the oldest surviving wooden monasteries, which is now transformed into an archeological museum of the town.
A town near Bagan, Pakokku is most known for its cheroot industry, which also happens to be one of best area for cheroot in Myanmar. The town itself doesn’t have much to see other than the remains of Pakhangyi, which is an old town with old city walls, the archaeological museum and an old wooden monastery with 254 teak pillars. There is also the largest wooden monastery in Myanmar built with 332 teak pillars.
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