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The Forgotten Temples of Bagan, Myanmar

submitted on 4 October 2023 by

Introduction: Bagan's Lost Temples Beckon Like a Fever Dream

Picture this, my fellow traveler: you awake from a fever dream, heart pounding like the drums of war, with visions of ancient temple spires piercing the veil of the unknown. And where do these ethereal images lead you? To the lost and forgotten temples of Bagan, Myanmar, of course.A land that teems with mystery, intrigue, and the promise of hidden treasure. A place where you brave the torrid sun, the relentless march of heat-seeking insects, and the diabolical crafts of local bootleggers who ply their wares at every corner. Yes, that's right. Bagan, Myanmar, is the destination for the intrepid traveler who craves both adventure and enlightenment.

Bagan: A Brief History of a Long-Forgotten Empire

Once upon a time, in a realm far, far away, the ancient city of Bagan stood as the proud capital of the Pagan Empire. From the 9th to the 13th century, this enigmatic empire ruled over much of modern-day Myanmar, amassing a staggering collection of over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas, and monasteries.But alas, all good things must come to an end. The Mongols, with their hordes of savage horsemen and fabled archers, descended upon Bagan like a swarm of locusts. They laid waste to the city, and the Pagan Empire fell into ruin, leaving behind an eerie and desolate landscape.Today, the remnants of this once-mighty empire still stand, their crumbling spires and moss-covered walls a testament to the ephemeral nature of human achievement. Over 2,000 temples and pagodas now litter the 26-square-mile plain around Bagan, and it is here, my friends, that we shall embark upon our journey into the heart of darkness.

How to Get There: A Test of Ingenuity and Determination

Getting to Bagan is no walk in the park, but fear not, for I shall guide you through this treacherous terrain. The easiest way to reach the forgotten temples is by plane, with a few local airlines offering daily flights from Yangon and Mandalay. But where's the fun in that?No, the true traveler seeks the path less beaten. If you're in the mood for a true adventure, hop aboard a rickety, overcrowded train from either Yangon or Mandalay. These locomotive contraptions, relics of a bygone age, will rattle and shake you to your core, providing a visceral experience unlike any other.And if you're feeling particularly daring, why not make the voyage to Bagan by boat? The Irrawaddy River, a treacherous serpent of a waterway, offers a scenic route through the heart of Myanmar. Be warned, though, for this journey is not for the faint of heart. The boats are cramped, the conditions are poor, and the schedules are, shall we say, flexible.

Exploring the Temples: A Journey Through Time and Space

Upon arrival in Bagan, you'll be faced with a dizzying array of ancient temples and pagodas, each with its own unique story to tell. It's an overwhelming sight, to be sure. But fear not, for I shall guide you through this labyrinth of stone and history. Here are a few key temples that simply must be seen:
  • Ananda Temple: This magnificent structure, built in 1105 AD, is a must-see for any traveler. With its glistening golden spire, intricate carvings, and four colossal statues of Buddha, the Ananda Temple is a true testament to the artistic and architectural prowess of the Pagan Empire.

  • Shwesandaw Pagoda: Also known as the "Sunrise Temple," this towering pagoda offers one of the best vantage points in all of Bagan. Climb the steep steps to the top, and you'll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the surrounding plains, the perfect spot to watch the sun rise or set over this otherworldly landscape.

  • Thatbyinnyu Temple: Standing at an impressive 200 feet, the Thatbyinnyu Temple is the tallest in Bagan. Completed in 1144 AD, this impressive structure offers a glimpse into the religious and architectural achievements of the Pagan Empire. Venture inside, and you'll be greeted by a labyrinth of narrow passages and dizzying stairways, perfect for exploring.

Tips for the Intrepid Temple Explorer

As you embark on your journey through the forgotten temples of Bagan, here are a few tips to help you make the most of your experience:
  • Bring plenty of water: The sun is relentless in Bagan, and dehydration is a constant threat. Be sure to pack plenty of water to keep you going during your temple explorations.

  • Dress appropriately: Remember that these temples are sacred sites, and it's important to dress modestly. Keep your shoulders and knees covered, and be prepared to remove your shoes before entering each temple.

  • Hire a guide: While it's certainly possible to explore the temples on your own, hiring a knowledgeable local guide can help you gain a much deeper understanding of the history and significance of these ancient structures.

  • Respect the temples: Finally, it's important to treat these centuries-old temples with the respect they deserve. Refrain from climbing on fragile structures, and always follow any posted guidelines or restrictions.
And with that, my fellow adventurers, I leave you to brave the forgotten temples of Bagan. May your journey be filled with wonder, enlightenment, and a touch of madness.
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