Bagan has always been synonymous with Burma for me. The vivid imagery of hundreds of mystical pagodas rising out of vast misty plains or silhouetted against a gloriously golden sky has beckoned me for as long as I can remember.
The reality however was unexpectedly mixed. The temples are stunning from afar. Close up, the mystique gets eroded somewhat, and you begin to understand why a few zealously restored and pressure cleaned facades have kept this unique heritage ensemble off the UNESCO list.
Roughly 2300 surviving temples, stupas and shrines dot some 16 square miles (40sq km) of verdant Irrawaddy plains. The numbers were said to have been closer to 10,000 once! Most constructed at the peak of the Bagan empire between 10CE to 12CE, when much of South East Asia came under its purview.
Originally founded by King Thamudarit in the 2nd century, Bagan – then known as Pagan – grew into a fortified town under King Pyinbya in 850…
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