If you haven’t read our first post on Myanmar, check out the map here to get oriented. As we flew into Bagan, we got a glimpse of why this is the largest temple city in the world. Over 2,200 pagodas are scattered across the plain. The sheer number is overwhelming to contemplate.
Built between the 11th and 13th centuries by kings and wealthy citizens as a way to show respect to the Buddha and to gain merit for themselves, these religious buildings were originally covered in decorative stucco and the spires were covered in gold leaf. The sight was enough to amaze even the seasoned traveler Marco Polo, who commented on them in his century’s version of a travel blog. The gold is long gone, and time and repeated earthquakes have pretty much destroyed the stucco, although enough fragments remain to give one a sense of their previous grandeur.
What is left for us to see today are the underlying brick structures, which are still quite impressive. Some are the size of a one-room house, and others are hundreds of feet per side.
A few are leaning precariously from prior earthquake damage (note the one in the right foreground), but these are in the minority and what is most notable is that so many have survived.
The local people manage to add some color to this dry and dusty landscape. We admired these sun parasols for sale by a local vendor.
On that colorful note, we will end this post. Next stop, Mandalay and the Irrawaddy River.