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Bagan  (formerly Pagan)

Bagan, the country’s most classic sight, is a city of 3,000 pagodas on the Bagan Plains and is one of South East Asia’s greatest archaeological treasures. It was described by Marco Polo as ‘one of the finest sights in the world’.

Bagan has been a settlement area since the 2nd century. Bordered by the Irrawaddy River, this was Burma’s hugely wealthy, 13th century capital. Between Anawrahta’s conquest of Thaton in 1057 and Kublai Khan’s invasion in 1287 there were in excess of 13,000 temples. It was a tradition by royalty and noblemen to build temples to earn merit for the next life. The 11th to 13th century shrines, over an area of 42 sq km are the only remains of a once enormous city.

Some temples are still in use whilst others display old murals and interiors or have balconies affording stunning views on the plains below so are frequented by visitors to watch the sunset. Despite the vast amount of history and heritage Bagan has yet to make it to the list of Unesco World Heritage sites which is probably due to the fact that many of the temples and stupas have been sponsored for a rebuild rather than being renovated. The white plaques, resembling gravestones, indicate the sponsor but rather spoil the character of the stupas.

Bagan is also known for its quality lacquer ware.


Shwegugy temple

A small temple, standing on a brick plinth, built in 1131, it is an example of Bagan’s middle period of temple building. There's a steep internal staircase to the upper level where you can see the view over Bagan.

Htilominlo temple

Built in 1211 AD and standing at 50m high, it is one of the largest temples. It’s a double storied red-brick structure with plaster carvings on the arch pediments, frieze and pilaster. Inside, 4 buddhas face the cardinal points on each level.

Gubyaukgyi at Wetkgy

This 13th century temple has a spire resembling the Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya in India. It is known for its wall paintings depicting scenes from the Jatakas (life stories of Buddha).

Shwezigon Pagoda

Finished in 1087 this is the prototype for generations of pagodas. It has green glazed plaques depicting scenes from the Jatakas and is said to house important relics of Gautama Buddha – 2 bones and a copy of a tooth. A pagoda festival is held here from late October to mid November.

Ananda Temple and Monastery

Finished in 1091, one of the great temples in Bagan, it is distinguished from the rest by its whitewash and shape like a Greek cross. It has with four huge wooden standing Buddha images arranged around its interior gallery.

Sulamuni Temple

The most important temple of the late period (1170-1300), it is known as the ‘Crowning jewel’ or ‘ruby’.  It features brickwork and stone in both load-bearing areas as well as the corners. The interior was once painted with frescos, although very faint today.

Thatbyinnyu Temple

With a height of 66 meters, the Thatbyinnyu Pagoda is one of the highest monuments of Bagan. After the single storey pagoda's built during the early period like the Shwezigon pagoda, the Thatbyinnyu, built in the 12th century, is one of the first two storey structures built in Bagan.

Gu Ni Temple

A two storey red brick pagoda with internal staircase. We climbed to the first floor to watch the sunset over Bagan.

Lacquerware workshop

During the day we stopped off at a lacquerware workshop and the owner told us how the laquerware was made.