Beautiful, Bold Bagan

In the central region of Mandalay in Myanmar the ancient city of Bagan can now be visited. For many years Myanmar was of course a closed, secretive country, but since the governmental changes it is now accepting many tourists each year. The city of Bagan has been here since the ninth century and during the height of its powers between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, up to ten thousand temples, monasteries and pagodas were built here. Over the years many have fallen into ruin and many more disappeared altogether. However two thousand two hundred and twenty nine remain, making this one of the most fascinating places to visit in all of Southeast Asia.

Flying into Bagan in the early morning provides magnificent views of the temples, peering through the mist shrouded greenery. This is a very lush area and the whole city is full of green trees and shrubs. The spires of the stupas pierce the sky at every turn. It is an astonishing landscape. The rich red soil contrasts beautifully with the greenery and the stone work of the temples.

Bagan is unfortunately in an earthquake zone, these have been responsible for much of the damage. The last major one was in 1975 when more temples were damaged including the well known Bupaya which was all but destroyed. The military was called into action and during the 1990s many of the damaged buildings were restored. The work was not done in a satisfactory manner, modern materials were used and the troops paid little attention to original architecture. This drew widespread condemnation and is probably responsible for the city not receiving UNESCO World Heritage Site status, despite many overtures from the Myanmar government.

It is sad that this has not been rectified, it is a marvelous city and still worthy of a place on anyone’s tour itinerary. One third of a million people visited Myanmar last year and the vast majority of these included Bagan on their trip. Myanmar is the fastest growing holiday destination in Southeast Asia and Bagan, is one of its biggest draws. Situated as it is in the dry zone of the country it enjoys year long, good weather. The temperature remains high, at over 30º C all year round. Though between February and May it is exce[ptionally hot at over 35ºC.

The city is perfectly placed to visit on your Myanmar holiday. 430 miles to the north of Yangon and 180 miles South of the glorious city of Mandalay it offers a perfectly stopping off point if traveling between the two cities. The city is a truly wonderful site for travelers to see the perfect examples of the two main temple design styles. The stupa style is a tall spire which generally contains relic or a body. The hollow temple style, known as Gu, are used for meditation and worship.

Bagan is totally unique, no other city in the region offers the visitor so many temples and so much cultural history. It rivals Angkor Wat in its religious and cultural significance.

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