Tour to Bagan discovering thousands of ancient temples and simple local life

October 7 2014 

Trip to Bagan in central Myanmar, an ancient city known for hosting some 4,000 temples dating back to times between 9th and 13th centuries AD distributed over a wide valley having an especially picturesque landscape. But Bagan (also known as Pagan) is not only archeology: visiting the local fruit and vegetable market, you can immerse yuorself in the simple life of local people, while you can learn more about arts&crafts touring the family-run business around the city.

Market in Bagan

The trip to Bagan starts visiting the local fruit and vegetable market , where local people sells agricultural products of all kinds, many of which are unknown to westerns (or at least unusual), such as parts of bamboo displayed in photo above.
Market in Myanmar Market in Burma
The stalls of fruit and vegetables in Bagan market, Myanmar.
Murraya sawdust Thanaka cream
At the market in Bagan there are numerous stalls selling trunks of some trees, such as Murraya (shrub belonging to the family Rutaceae) and lemon, which sawdust is applied to the face and arms in order to freshen and perfume the skin . The name of this real beauty cream is Thanaka and in Myanmar is used routinely by most women and occasionally by men.
How to make a cup with bamboo Bamboo handicrafts
Resin used for Panyun Laquer ware handicrafts
The assembled object is then "painted" with the waterproof resin mixed with some ash (top left photo), dried for some time in rooms with controlled humidity, before repeating the process for as many as 7 times. The last layer of lacquer may contain a colored pigment, while a subsequent meticulous work of engraving allows to decorate the handicraft as desired. In the upper right photo, the complete process for the production of a glass, starting from the base in bamboo, until obtaining the final product through the various stages of lacquering (the whole process, including the time for drying between a lacquering and the next, lasts up to 6-8 months).
Panyun art Handicrafts in Bagan (Myanmar)
The objects produced with the technique of Panyun can also be very large and complex, taking many months of work. A chest of drawers like the photo on the right, can cost as much as US$ 2,000.
Sand painting
Painting over sand

Another popular art in Bagan is the sand painting. A thin layer of glue is uniformly spread on a tissue, before sand is evenly applied. Once dry, the side with sand is painted as desidered.
pagoda of Shwezigon
The tour to Bagan, continues visiting the beautiful pagoda of Shwezigon, which is actually in Nyaung U, and known to be almost entirely gold-plated.
Shwezigon Buddist temple

Photo of Shwezigon Pagoda. The Pagoda of Shwezigon was built in the 11th century AD and contains some relics of the Buddha (it is believed that the central stupa contains a tooth and a front's bone of the Buddha).
Small temple
In addition to the central stupa, the complex of Shwezigon Pagoda, contains several small buildings and temples with the image of the Buddha, where the faithful come to pray.

More photos of the Buddhist monastery of Shwezigon Paya, with the statues around the stupa and the faithful who offers flowers.
Nyaung U
Shwezigon Paya
Still other images of Shwezigon Paya in Bagan, with its large central stupa (top right) and the buildings that surround it.
Shwezigon pagoda
Picture of Shwezigon Paya.
Temple in Bagan How to dress in a temple
Bagan is best known for hosting, within a broad valley, about 4000 temples built between the 9th and 13th centuries AD, of which about 2200 are still in excellent conditions. A sign warns visitors, especially tourists, to dress respectfully ("No Spaghetti Blouse") and to walk barefoot only (no shoes, no socks) when walking in or around the temple. In this regard, during a tour in Bagan (as in other cities of Myanmar) it is advisable to bring a pair of light sandals, thereby making it easier and faster to get in and out of temples.
Climbing on a temple
Many temples of Bagan are accessible to the public and is allowed to climb up to the upper terraces, usually through steep steps. Access is strictly barefoot, therefore is best to avoid visiting during the hottest hours of the day, unless it is cloudy.
Temples in Bagan Bagan temples
Bagan (Myanmar) Bagan (Burma)

The view from the top repays the effort to climb the stairs barefoot, as anywhere, in any direction, there are hundreds of temples of varying heights, that come out picturesquely from the vegetation.
Htilominlo temple
The temples that can be visited during a trip to Bagan are numerous, but having only one day, I focus on better-known ones. This photo is from Htilominlo temple, a 46 meters high structure dated back to the 13th century AD.
Temple of Htilominlo Htilominlo Bagan
Buddha statue

Photo of Htilominlo Temple. The Htilominlo Temple in Bagan has a courtyard through which huge Buddha statues are visible at each cardinal point.
The statues and bas-reliefs on the exterior façade of the Temple of Htilominlo.
Myanmar Burma
Temples in Myanmar Bagan (Burma)
Damaged by earthquake Ancient temple
Pictures of Bagan. The tour continues in Bagan along one of the streets leading to the temples scattered throughout the valley. Some temples are tilted due to an earthquake of magnitude 6.5 occurred in 1975.
Temple in Bagam
A temple in Bagan, Myanmar.
Temple of Anada Anada
I then visit the Ananda temple, characterized by a very special and rather unique architecture among the other temples of Bagan. The temple of Ananda has a cross plan, while the upper domes are laminated in real gold.
Anada Bagan
Buddha niches

The corridors in the temple of Anada leading to the shrine have hundreds of niches in the walls, contain a statue of Buddha each. It is believed that this architectural feature serves to break up the echo, making the environment more quiet even when attended by many faithful.
Tempio di Anada a Bagan
Photos of Ananda temple in Bagan taken with a fisheye, wide view showing the corridors and walls.
Gautama Buddha
The corridors Ananda temple lead to four Buddha statues arranged according to the cardinal points. This is the picture, the statue of Gautama Buddha oriented to the east.
Valley of temples Temples in Burma
Temples in Myanmar Temples at sunset
Temples panorama
Photos of Bagan. The tour in Bagan ends at sunset, climbing over a temple to have a view from top in dusk lighting.

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