Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Temples of Bagan

The main item on my agenda during our trip to Burma last year was seeing the famous temples of Bagan. Bagan was once Burma's capital (from the 9th to the 13th Centuries), and during that time over 10,000 temples were built. Over 2200 still survive today, dotted all over the plain of Bagan, in various states of repair and restoration.
Bagan is not a UNESCO site, supposedly because of the government's ham-fisted renovation efforts, which have included building a 200 foot watchtower, a golf course and rebuilding damaged buildings using modern materials without being true to the original design. It really should be, though, because it is a spectacular place: the temples are amazing.
Statue of an ascetic monk, dressed in a longyi
Nats, pre-Buddhist deities still worshipped in Burma
Floor of a temple
Temple undergoing renovation
The temples are Buddhist, and Burma is a Buddhist country, so some of them are still active places of worship. Most, though, have been long abandoned and are now only visited by tourists, both Burmese and foreign.

Interior of a temple
Small temple with placard
Most of the temples are quite dark inside, which gives a haunting feeling
Mostly destroyed temple: they are in all states of repair and disrepair
Some of the temples are still decorated with murals from long ago

Several of the larger temples are climbable, providing beautiful views of the plain of Bagan.

The climb is really steep so be careful!
The variety of temples is a little overwhelming: there are just so many temples to see, far more than even I would have the stamina for.
 I loved the details on the temples, like these embedded tiles and naga heads.

Bagan is an unmissable site, and definitely one of the top places in the region to visit. In fact, of all the ancient sites I have visited in Southeast Asia, I would say it is in the top three (along with Angkor Wat and Prambanan/Borobudur). 

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