Bagan (formerly known as Pagan) is, essentially, magnificent. This huge, wonderfully preserved ancient city is arguably the most amazing sight in the whole of Asia. With over 2,200 temples and pagodas spread over an area of 40 square kilometres, Bagan is also one of the largest archaeological sites in the world and a tentative world heritage site. Bagan is a must-see on your tour of Myanmar.
Bagan was already a thriving city-state of the Pyu Kingdom by the year 850, when Europe was in the dark ages. In 1044 the Bamar King Anawrahta came to the throne and converted to Buddhism. In 1057, the king demanded that the Mon King Manuha give him their ‘Tripitaka’, the holy canon of Theravada Buddhism. When he refused, King Anawrahta conquered the Mon kingdom, taking Manuha prisoner. The Bamar and Mon cultures merged into the First Burmese Empire and the golden age of Bagan was set in motion. Skilled architects from around the Buddhist world arrived and over the next two and a half centuries some 4,400 pagodas, ordination halls, monasteries and libraries were built of brick, wood and sandstone. It said that so many trees were felled to fire the brick kilns that the local environment was permanently altered.
The great traveller Marco Polo visited Bagan and said in his book; ‘The towers are built of fine stone, and one has been covered with gold a finger thick, so that the tower appears to be of solid gold. Another is covered with silver in a similar manner and appears to be made of solid silver. The King of Mien Guo (As Myanmar was called by the Chinese) caused these towers to be built as a monument to his magnificence and for the benefit of his soul. They make one of the finest sights in the world, being exquisitely finished, splendid and costly. When illuminated by the sun they are especially brilliant and can be seen from the great distance’.
The Golden Age ended in 1287 when Kublai Khan’s forces invaded Bagan. The city declined and for centuries the area was all but deserted, thought by the people of Myanmar to be haunted by spirits. Myanmar people re-occupied the area during the British colonial period and much renovation and reconstruction work has been completed over the past century. Those gold-covered towers mentioned by Marco Polo are still there, as brilliant as ever and a sunset over Bagan is an experience you will never forget.
Highlights. (In alphabetical order).
Dhammayan Gyi Pagoda.
After killing his wife, the daughter of an Indian Emperor, the evil King was assassinated in 1170. Some say by agents of the Emperor, but others say by angry builders as revenge for his cruelty. Following the King’s death the inner passageway of the temple was filled with brick and rubble.
Shwe Gu Gyi Temple.
Nyaung U Market.
Mr Myanmar Travel highly recommends taking a balloon ride over Bagan to see the ancient city from a unique perspective. Bagan is acknowledged as being one of the premier ballooning spots in the world. If you have ever thought of taking a balloon ride, this is most definitely the place! The balloon trips are extremely popular so we recommend you book with us at least 6 weeks in advance.