Bagan's Beautiful Temples

According to travel agents, the top three tourist attractions in Myanmar are:

1. Shwedagon Paya in Yangon  (going there) 

2. Inle Lake (been there) 

3. Bagan...

The Bagan PlainThe Bagan Plain we couldn't miss it!  Lying on the east bank of the great Ayeyarwady River is the 28 square mile arid plain of Bagan, liberally sprinkled with the remains of over 3,000 temples, dating back to the 11th century.

Bagan GirlsBagan Girls

Time, climate and neglect have taken their toll over the years, but  earthquakes, the last in 1975, reduced many of them to piles of rubble. Since then lots of renovation and rebuilding, some of it of questionable quality, has been carried out and is still in progress.

Formerly there was a large prosperous city here, but all of the old wooden houses and shops have long since rotted away, leaving just the brick built  temple structures. Most were originally covered with ornate plaster stucco decoration on the outside, with interiors adorned with colourful murals.

Temple in MyinkabaTemple in Myinkaba

Now most of the plaster is gone and the intricate and varied warm red brick shapes of the buildings contrast with the greens of the grass and trees of the plain, especially in the warm glow of sunset.

A generous sprouting of grasses add definition.A generous sprouting of grasses add definition.

We struggled to find reasonably priced accommodation in Bagan and a lot hotels were fully booked two weeks in advance.

An acquaintance of Kjell's suggested the Crown Prince hotel in New Bagan and offered us a good discount, but it was still more than our normal budget and a fair walk away from the few restaurants.

Traditional Burmese HarpsTraditional Burmese Harps

With such a vast area to explore we found the bikes invaluable although it would have been very easy to rent some. One of the most popular forms of transport is the new electric 'e bikes', light, quiet and less sweat.  Some of the temples are tourist hot-spots, with coachloads of tour groups swarming all over them. Others are deserted and little visited.

Ananda PahtoAnanda Pahto

The main temple area is enclosed within an oblong of tarmac roads but the central area has miles of dirt tracks linking the various temple sites. One  problem is that the arid conditions produce aggressive thorny and spiky plants that are very good at puncturing inner tubes.

One of the few surviving exterior  temple reliefsOne of the few surviving exterior temple reliefs

The first day we explored Old Bagan and climbed to the top of Shwesandaw Paya, a pyramid shaped pagoda with steep steps leading up its sides, similar in design to the temples in Bangkok.

View from Shwesandaw PayaView from Shwesandaw Paya

The first day we explored Old Bagan and climbed to the top of Shwesandaw Paya, a pyramid shaped pagoda with steep steps leading up its sides, similar in design to the temples in Bangkok.

Temple sculptureTemple sculpture

The bamboo scaffolding surrounding the upper part of the stupa was an art work in itself. As we couldn't get a photo from here we cycled across to the Bagan Viewing Tower, part of the exclusive Aureum Palace Hotel which does have good views but the modern, round, brick and glass tower looks totally out of place in the middle of the archaeological zone.

The bamboo scaffoldingThe bamboo scaffolding

Heading back from there we rode through a small farming village and were approached by a lady who offered a guided tour of her village.

The mother was the star of the show, demonstrating her spinning skills and smoking habits.

Smoking never did me any harmSmoking never did me any harm
Spinning cottonSpinning cotton

Some of the temples had very well preserved murals on their inner walls. A lot of the temples have no electricity supply so our torches were useful.

Typical intricate wall muralTypical intricate wall mural

Every evening we ate at a restaurant on the banks of the river, watching the sun sink behind the hills, the fishermen casting their nets in the river and the glowing laser light piercing the sky from the top of the Lawkananda Paya. 

Sunset view over the AyeyarwadySunset view over the Ayeyarwady

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