Bagan: A sea of ​​temples in ancient Burma

Bagan: A sea of ​​temples in ancient Burma

Bagan was the capital of the Burmese empire. He dazzled Marco Polo and still has a unique splendor. Its more than 4000 temples, more than 2000 in the archaeological site, are a sufficient reason to travel to the country of pagodas and the friendliest people in the world.

For something UNESCO has just included it in its World Heritage list.

Some history

Marco Polo was the first western traveler ecstatic to the wonders of Bagan. «They shine like a thousand fires,» he said of the pagodas and stupas of the plain, which then added more than 13,000. And they form one of the most beautiful paintings in the world.

Seven hundred years later, the description is still accurate. Today, the number of temples has been reduced to the third part, but it still represents an impressive figure: 4446 temples distributed in 42 square kilometers.

Most temples can be visited, although the effort to travel them is usually limited to the main ones.

Among them, the eldest of all, the Dhammayangyi Pahto, built in the twelfth century by a king who wanted to achieve sufficient merit to compensate that he had killed his father, his brother and his wife.

The situation of Bagan, next to the river Ayeryarwady, the fluvial artery of the country; Its relatively warm and dry climate, the fertility of its soils and the proximity of a sacred place for centuries, Mount Popa, made Bagan the capital of the most important Burmese kingdom.

King Anawratha, in the eleventh century, was the main driver of the wonders of Bagan, then called Pyu Gam.

Archaeological site

To walk through Bagan, today, it is best to enter the archaeological site through the door closest to the Ananda temple, considered by the first British travelers «Burmese Westminter Abbey» and characterized by its pointed golden stupa.

Ananda is one of the few temples that still keeps Buddha sculptures inside.

In general, the interiors of Bagan temples do not host ornamental riches. The spaces designed to stimulate meditation stand out.

Sometimes there are altars for nats, nature spirits, and places to pray before the protective symbols of the day of the week in which one was born.

Sunset time

The wonders of Bagan shine with special force when the sun goes down.

Seeing sunset on this plain full of temples, which rise above a red earth and seem hidden among the tropical vegetation, is to attend a prodigious spectacle, one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world.

As an observatory it is convenient to choose the top of a temple that is not crowded with tourists. Buledi Temple, for example, could be a good option.

The visit

To tour Bagan, it is best to use, first, the services of a horse-drawn buggy meet next to the Ananda temple and travel with it the main roads of the enclosure.

Then, you can rent a bicycle, the most advisable way to move in this wonderful plain.

Climb Mount Popa

This mountain was a sacred place for the Burmese already before the first Bagan stupa rose and continues to be. It is an extinct volcano, whose summit reaches 1500 meters high.

Its greatest singularity lies in the verticality of its walls, which define what may be the most representative icon of the country, the silhouette of the mountain crowned by a monastery that is accessed after climbing 777 steps.

The top is the home of the nats, the spirits of the mountain, according to tradition.

How to move

The archaeological site where most of the temples of ancient Bagan are located requires a ticket to enter, which comes to cost about € 15 and allows unlimited access for 5 days.

Within the enclosure, you can walk, rent a bicycle, a mountain bike, an electric motorcycle or a horse carriage.

The horse carriage ride to watch sunset from the top of a temple costs around € 15 per person.

When to go

The most recommended time is from November to March, when temperatures are not high and there is practically no rainfall in the rest of the country.

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