- Explore the colonial heritage of one of South East Asia’s most impressive capitals
- Enjoy the sunset at awe-inspiring Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon
- Visit Bagan and get stunning with its spectacular massive ancient temples
- Leisure at the most p...
Bagan, one of the richest archaeological sites of South East Asia, was the capital of Bagan kingdom (First Myanmar Empire) between 9th to 13th centuries. This ancient city is located on the eastern bank of the Irrewady River, in the Mandalay Region of Myanmar. Bagan Kingdom was the first kingdom that unified the regions that would later constitute modern Myanmar. During the kingdom's height between the 11th and 13th centuries, over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the Bagan plains alone, of which the remains of over 2,200 temples and pagodas still survive to the present day. Riding balloons over the plans of Bagan and seeing the beautiful sunrise among the crowded ancient pagodas is wonderful. Mt.Popa, an extinct volcano, is 50km southeast of Bagan. It is a natural watch tower to see the stunning view of the surrounding plans. Salay, a colorful old religious center, is 1.5hours drive from Bagan. The famous ancient monastery "Yoke-Sone-Kyaung” is the symbol of Salay and famous for its spectacular woodcarvings.
Ananda is one of the finest, largest, best preserved and most revered of all Bagan temples. Thought to have been built between 1090 and 1105 by King Kyanzittha, this perfectly proportioned temple heralds the stylistic end of the early Bagan period and the beginning of the middle period.
It was built by King Anawyathar who was the founder of Bagan Dansty in 1044AD. It is believed to enshrine a bone and tooth of Gautama Buddha. The Shwezigon Pagoda is one of the oldest and most impressive monuments of Bagan. Most noticeable is the huge gold plated pagoda glimmering in the sun.
With a height of just over 60 meters, the Thatbyinnyu Pagoda is one of the highest monuments of Bagan. The majestic pagoda, towering above other nearby temples and pagodas is visible from much of the Bagan plains. After the single storey pagodas built during the early period like the Shwezigon pagoda, the Thatbyinnyu is one of the first two storey structures built in Bagan.
Visible from all parts of Bagan, this massive, walled, 12th-century temple is infamous for its mysterious, bricked-up inner passageways and cruel history. It’s said that King Narathu built the temple to atone for his sins: he smothered his father and brother to death and executed one of his wives, an Indian princess, for practising Hindu rituals.
This temple with five doorways is known as the Crowning Jewel and was constructed around 1181 by Narapatisithu. It is one of Bagan’s most attractive temples, with lush grounds behind the surrounding walls. It’s a prime example of later, more sophisticated temple styles, with better internal lighting.
It is named after Manuha, the Mon king from Thaton, who was held captive here by King Anawrahta. In the front of the building are three seated Buddha Images; in the back is a huge reclining buddha. All seem too large for their enclosures – supposedly representing the stress and discomfort the king had to endure.
Built by Alaungsithu in 1131, is an example of Bagan’s middle period of temple building, a transition in architectural style from the dark and cloistered to the airy and light. Its name means ‘Great Golden Cave’ and its corn-cob sikhara is a scaled-down version of the one at Ananda.
Standing 197ft tall, Gawdawpalin is one of the largest and most imposing Bagan temples, although by no means the most inspiring, with its modernised altar and tile floors inside. Built during the reign of Narapatisithu and finished under that of Nantaungmya, it’s considered the crowning achievement of the late Bagan period.
Gubyaukgyi (Great Painted Cave Temple) sees a lot of visitors who are drawn by the well-preserved, richly colored paintings inside. These are thought to date from the temple’s original construction in 1113, when Kyanzittha’s son Rajakumar built it following his father’s death. In Indian style, the monument consists of a large vestibule attached to a smaller antechamber.
At the height of Bagan’s power, boats from the Mon region, Rakhaing (Arakan) and even Sri Lanka would anchor by this riverside pagoda with its distinctive elongated cylindrical dome. Built in 1059 by Anawrahta, it is still used as a place of worship and is thought to house an important Buddha tooth replica. There are lots of benches for wide-open views of the Ayeyarwady River.
It is the former entrance of the original palace site. The gate is the best-preserved remains of the 9th-century wall, and the only gate still standing. Traces of old stucco can still be seen on the arched gateway and on either side are two niches, home not to Buddha images but to nat who guard the gate and are treated with profound respect by locals.
This shrine is said to have been used as Manuha’s prison, although there is little evidence supporting the legend. In this story the shrine was originally Hindu, and captors thought using it as a prison would be easier than converting it to a Buddhist temple. It’s worth visiting for its interior masonry work – sandstone block facings over a brick core, certainly some of Bagan’s finest detailed sculpture.
Unlike any other Bagan temple, this monument is modelled after the famous Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya, India, which commemorates the spot where the Buddha attained enlightenment. Built during the reign of Nantaungmya in 1215, the temple’s unusual pyramidal spire is richly coated in niches enclosing seated Buddha figures, rising from a square block.
It is home to fine pieces of Bagan (reclining Buddha Images, original images, inscribed stones and mural re-creations) and an unexpected room of modern-art renderings of the temples. Other curiosities include a room of 55 kinds of women's hair knots, models of major temples with architectural details and a model of an 11th-century village.
Although officially credited to Kyanzittha, this cave temple may actually date back to Anawrahta. Built into a cliff face 270yd southwest of Shwezigon, the long, dimly lit corridors are decorated with frescoes, some of which are thought to have been painted by Bagan’s Tartar invaders during the Mongol occupation after 1287.
This complex of three interconnected shrines is worth seeing for its 13th-century murals. It was abandoned shortly before construction was completed. Each square cubicle is topped by a fat sikhara; a similar structure appears only at Salay. The design is remarkably like Khmer Buddhist ruins in Thailand
This elegant and well-preserved temple was built by Kyanzittha. The main buddha image is twice life-size and shelters under the hood of a huge naga (dragon serpent). This reflects the legend that in 1192 Kyanzittha built the temple on the spot where he was sheltered while fleeing from his angry brother and predecessor Sawlu.
Mingalazedi Paya (Blessing Stupa) represents the final flowering of Bagan’s architectural outburst, as displayed in its enormous bell-like dome and the beautiful glazed Jataka tiles around each terrace. Although many of the 1061 original tiles have been damaged or stolen, there are still 561 left (in various states of decay).
Following the sacking of Thaton, King Anawrahta is said to have carted off some 30 elephant-loads of Buddhist scriptures in 1058 and built this library to house them. The square design follows the basic early Bagan cave temple plan, perfect for the preservation of light-sensitive palm-leaf scriptures. It’s notable for the perforated stone windows, each carved from single stone slabs, and the plaster carvings on the roof, which imitate Myanmar woodcarvings.
This small vihara (sanctuary or chapel) features some detailed 18th-century murals bursting with bright red and green, showing details of everyday life from the Bagan period. In the southeast corner, you can see a boat depicted with Portuguese figures engaged in trade. Built in 1137, the temple’s name means ‘Ananda Brick Monastery’.
Named after the woman who supposedly sponsored its construction, this typical late-Bagan brick monastery is thought to have been built in 1204. A stupa to the north and cave to the south are also ascribed to Somingyi. Many brick monasteries in Bagan were single-block structures; Somingyi is unique in that it has monastic cells clustered around a courtyard.
The Bagan-era village of Salay is rooted in the 12th and 13th centuries, when Bagan’s influence spread. It remains an active religious center, with something like 50 monasteries shared among the fewer than 10,000 residents. It is well-known for its 19th-century wooden monasteries and some select Bagan-era shrines, and British colonial buildings.