Beautiful Bagan, Myanmar
From Mandalay we made our way by mini bus to the ancient city of Bagan. The city is perhaps the largest tourist attraction in Myanmar and should not be missed if traveling in the country. Bagan was founded in 849 CE by King Pyinba - the first king to unify all of Myanmar. After its construction it quickly became the political and economic capital of the Pagan Kingdom. Apart from the history of the city the main draw of Bagan is the vast amount of temples and stupas that were constructed during the height of the kingdom. Between the 11th and 13th centuries over 10,000 were built on the Plain of Bagan in an area of 40 square miles. Though many have fallen to the ravages of time, over 2200 are still standing today. It's possible to visit each and every one but I would strongly advise against it. During our visit we had the luck of arriving in Bagan at the height of the dry, hot season. Daytime temps got up to 109 degrees. Respite from the heat was virtually non-existent. Luckily, the temples are much cooler inside and our hotel had air conditioning. Add in a midday break during the worst part of the day and we were geared up to go. The sheer amount of temples and stupas present dictated that we only see the highlights of the ancient city. The vast number of religious sites will give you more than enough to do during your entire stay in Bagan. However, after visiting several of them, it does become rather redundant. Many are built the same and most even look the same despite their various sizes. There are some however that hold greater importance than others. These were the ones we primarily visited during our time in Bagan. We had planned on taking a sunrise hot air balloon ride to take in the full magnitude of Bagan. Unfortunately we arrived a week too late. Around mid April, winds pick up for the summer months and make balloon flight impossible. Well, only if you value your life. Just another reason to visit Bagan and Myanmar again some day. The vastness of this ancient city and the temples therein are only rivaled by Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Because the temples are relatively spread out over the 40 square miles and the general lack of tourists in Myanmar, you don't feel as crowded as you do in Angkor. There isn't everyone and their mother jockeying for position to grab that postcard photo of the sunrise/sunset over the Plain of Bagan. We absolutely loved Bagan. Just when we were getting burned out of visiting temples this renewed our vigor.