Bagan (Pagan) is, in many ways, one of the most remarkable religious cities in the world. Although today, Bagan’s glory days may be over, what remains are incredibly fantastic temple ruins, definitely one of the most amazing sights in Myanmar and a genuine wonder of the world.
Covering an area of about 40 square km are approximately 2300 identifiable pagodas, monasteries, ordination halls, libraries, and caves of all shapes and sizes (largely built over a period of 250 years between the 11th & 13th centuries). Bagan was reputedly founded by King Tamodaritt in 108 AD but scholars now largely agree that the foundation of Bagan was more probably started in 1044 by King Anawrahtta. The conquest of the Mon kingdom in 1057 was a turning point in Bagan’s history, and marked the start of the extraordinary building era (see above) as the southern school of Buddhism was introduced by the Mon people and many skilled artists & architects were Imported from India. In 1287, Kublai Khan’s forces invaded Bagan but it remained as an important centre of Buddhist faith well into mid 14th century, when its decline to what remains today began. What Marco Polo will have seen in 13th century is certainly more dramatic than what can be seen today, but much of the glory of Bagan still remains.
There is much to be enjoyed in Bagan, whether you choose the comfort of a drive around the thousands of ruins by car or prefer to explore in a more leisurely fashion using either a horse drawn cart or bicycle. Whichever method of transport you settle on be sure to choose a favorite temple to sit beside and experience an unforgettable Bagan sunset, or perhaps relax over a cool drink by the bank of great Irrawaddy River. If you base yourself at Bagan for several days you will be able to experience many day trips to see the surrounding wonders such as Mount Poppa, home to the famous Nat Spirits or the archaeological site in Salay – not as imposing as Bagan but certainly worth a visit.
The best time to go: from July to March, when it is not so hot