Bagan, the capital of Myanmar’s first dynasty, was built by King Anawrahta in 1044. It is located about 193 km south of Mandalay. There are over 2000 temples and stupas spreading in 42 square kilometers of desert like plain on the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River. All those red bricks and stucco religious monuments were built during 11th to 13th century. The magnificent temple architecture, incredibly fine mural or frescos paintings, brilliant stucco carvings, and the most elegant Buddha images, all are telling motifs of the sublime culture of the ancient Bagan dynasties.
In its heydays, in the two centuries from 1057 and until the Mongol forces of Kublai Khan overran and destroyed most of it in 1287, more than 13,000 temples and other religious structures had been built around Bagan. You will not be able to cover even a small percentage of what is left, but during your stay you will be able to visit some of the best and most famous ones. Among pagodas and temples worth visiting are Shwezigon Pagoda, a prototype of later Myanmar stupas, Wetkyi-in Gubyaukkyi Temple with fine mural paintings of Jataka scenes, Ananda Temple, Dhammayangyi, a massive temple with the finest brickwork, Manuha Temple with gigantic Buddha images, a captive king’s impression of life in prison, Nanpaya, with the finest stone carvings, Thatbyinnyu, the highest of Bagan temples, and Bupaya Pagoda on the brink of majestic Ayeyarwaddy River, Lawkahteikpan temple with mural paintings and ink inscriptions; and in the evening, sunset from your riverbank hotel.
Further exploration of Bagan, visit to the local market in Nyaung U and one of the many workshop that make the famous Bagan laquerware and if time permits before lunch, a few pagodas and temples left over from the day before.