I am currently in Bagan, Myanmar – a country in South East Asia, bordered by China, Thailand, Laos and Bangladesh. The country was previously named Burma, however in 1989 it was changed to Myanmar. Yangon, the capital city was also renamed from Rangoon. Bagan is located in the Mandalay region and is on the list of the world’s most ancient cities. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan from the 9th to 13th century and it is said there were more than 10,000 temples, pagodas and monasteries during those times. Over the centuries the area has been hit by earthquakes and invasions of the empire which have contributed to the decrease in the number of incredible ruins. Currently more than 2,000 temples remain which makes Bagan the main tourist destination in Myanmar.
The Bagan Archaeological Zone is located around Old Bagan, consisting of Nyaung-U in the north and New Bagan in the south. It is located south-west of Mandalay, north of Yangon and lies in the vast plains in Upper Myanmar on the bend of the Irrawaddy river.
My husband, Moses, is working for Balloons Over Bagan which offers tourists magical flights over the ancient city. Contact me to book your flight in Bagan or Inle Lake – another location I will have the pleasure of visiting in the coming months.
This morning I was asked by a balloon passenger which three things I am enjoying the most so far. My response was, weather, people, culture, temples and food, oh and the massages’! Yes, I know this is more than three, hehe. I had a hard time narrowing it down to three! The weather is hot, very hot – which I am happy to escape the cold Canadian winters. This will be year six with no snow, having spent the last five winters in Tanzania, East Africa. Temperatures in Bagan range between 20 to 35 degrees celsius at the moment – you do not want to forget your sunscreen and it is very important to stay hydrated. The Burmese people are so friendly, always greeting you with a smile and their philosophy of life is one I respect. The food is so wonderful and tasty, with many flavours from Thailand, China and India. I will post a separate blog on “dining out in Bagan” – and about the local massages!
We arrived at the start of the Shwezigon Pagoda Festival which is one of the most famous pagodas in Bagan. The festival is held during Tazaungmone, the full moon of the eighth month of the Myanmar Calendar, which is either October or November. Completed in 1102, Shwezigon is one of the most alluring and religious Buddhist pagodas. It is believed to enshrine a bone and a tooth of Buddha. Pilgrims and monks in the thousands come from near and far to pray, reflect and give offerings at Shwezigon Pagoda. It was a moving experience for me to be so close and to be able to place gold leafs on the oldest Buddhist stupa in the world. For only a few kyat (the local currency in Myanmar), you can also light incense or candles, leave flowers, streamers, prayer flags or miniature umbrellas as a symbolic act of giving. This is an important virtue of the Buddhist teachings.
Like other pagoda festivals in Bagan and all around Myanmar, there are shops selling local products, puppet shows, theatrical shows, it is also a shoppers delight. Visitors and locals savor walking around the food vendors and other shops, buying souvenirs and taking in the surroundings. We visited the golden temple at dusk, when it is shining bright with luminous beauty. You will notice I am not wearing shoes in the below photo – it is a must to remove your shoes and socks before entering any temples or pagodas.
I am looking forward to the days ahead to visit the many temples and pagodas of Bagan. Keep following along for more of my adventures in Myanmar. Here are a few more photos of the temples I have explored so far.