Please UNESCO, protect this area now. For those of you who haven’t heard of Bagan, it’s akin to Angkor Wat of Cambodia & Machu Picchu in Peru. It lies smack dab in the middle of Myanmar and it’s two thousand plus temples, monasteries, stupas and pagodas are begging for exploration. Really, really cool. In terms of tourism, it’s hardly been discovered but the numbers are picking up as it quickly becomes more accessible and if it’s not carefully managed it won’t be long before it’s isolation and natural state will be altered forever.
The thousands of temples cover an area the size of 40 square miles. The structures date to 1044 – so almost a thousand years old. There is the biggest, tallest, oldest, and the widest. The ones that offer the best views at sunrise and even better, the ones that are most impressive at sunset are all must sees. Some you can climb, some you can get lost in for an hour. All you must remove your shoes and somehow all are different.
We went to the biggest, tallest, oldest, greatest. We covered them all…but most impressive to us, and arguably (from our amateur but adventuresome outlook) the best were those down a lane that no one was paying attention to. It was those looked after by the woman living next door – the holder of the key and the provider of local lore, the ones which are down a nondescript lane just waiting for visitors, those worth seeing are those that are mysterious. They are the ones that one wouldn’t even bother to describe in a guidebook because they aren’t the oldest, tallest, widest or offer the best views…but they are the ones left alone. The ones in their natural state, not altered by any government official or changed by flashing lights in an attempt to add stature. They haven’t been restored by amateurs or those just trying to modernize. Those were the ones we were after.
Myanmar isn’t for everyone but if you want to see a country as it plunges into the 21st century, a country previously sheltered from the rest of the world and the world from it, then there’s a mystery, a romance, an adventure to uncover. For us Bagan was magic. We stayed for 3 days. We could have easily stayed for 3 more. One thing I’m sure of…we caught it at the perfect time.