Bagan, also spelled Pagan, on the banks of the Ayerwaddy River, is home to the largest area of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins in the world – many dating to the 11th and 12th centuries. The shape and construction of each building is highly significant in Buddhism with each component part taking on spiritual meaning.
Bagan became a central powerbase of the mid 9th century King Anawratha who unified Burma under Theravada Buddhism. At one time, it's estimated that more than 13,000 temples and stupas once stood on this 42 sq km plain in central Myanmar, and Marco Polo once described Bagan as a "gilded city alive with tinkling bells and the swishing sounds of monks' robes". Today, approximately 2,200 remain today.
- For an unparalleled view of the Bagan plain, you can take a hot air balloon ride at sunrise through a company called Balloons Over Bagan.
- It is also possible to rent a horse cart, along with a driver, for around $5 USD per day.
- Travelling around on a rented bicycle is quite easy (you do not have to compete with much vehicular traffic on the roads) and economical (approximately $1.25 USD or half a day). In the morning, before it gets hot, is a particularly pleasant tie to do this. People rise late in Burma, so travelling forth at 8 AM or so really emphasizes the sense of Bagan as "abondoned." Later in the day, particularly during the warm season, it may be uncomfortable to do this.
- Ananda. Bagan's holiest temple, built by the third king, Kyan-zit-tha in 1091. Ananda comes from the Pali word ‘anantapannya’, which means ‘boundless wisdom’. The temple houses four Buddhas facing the cardinal directions, which represent the four Buddhas who have attained Nirvana. The fifth, Maitreya, is yet to appear.