Bagan is an ancient city in central Myanmar (formerly Burma), southwest of Mandalay. Standing on the eastern banks of the Ayeyarwady River, it’s known for the Bagan Archaeological Area, where more than 2,000 Buddhist monuments tower over green plains. Holy sites around Old Bagan include ornate Ananda Temple, built in 1091 and topped with a golden stupa. Nearby is the vast 12th-century Dhammayangyi Temple.
One of the most remarkable archaeological sites in Asia, the spirituality of Bagan has long inspired and awed visitors to Myanmar. There are about 5,000 temples, pagodas and ruins scattered over an area of about 42 square kilometres on a vast plain on the eastern side of the Ayeyarwady River. Apart from its rich Buddhist heritage and spectacular sunset views, Bagan has an archaeological museum and is also the centre of a thriving lacquerware industry. Visitors to Bagan can enjoy serene river cruises, hot-air balloon rides over its wondrous temple-studded plain, bicycle and horse cart rides, and horse riding.
Mount Popa is an extinct volcano which soars about 1,500 meters above sea level. The view from the 730-metre high Popa Taungkalat monastery offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, including the distant temples of Bagan on a clear day. It is the home of Myanmar’s legendary 37 ‘Nats’ (spirits) and highlights of the region include two important “Nat Pwes” (festivals) held each year (one in May-June and the other in November-December) to propitiate the Nats.
about 60 kilometres from Bagan in Magway Region, Salay is famous for the 120-year-old Salay U Ponnya Monastery (Yoke Sone Monastery) which has some of the finest wood carvings to be seen in Myanmar. An attraction at the monastery is Myanmar’s tallest lacquerware Buddha image, known as the Shinpin Maha Laba. The area is famous for its delicious seedless plums.
On the western bank of the Ayeyarwady River not far from Bagan, Pakokku is easily accessible by ferry and local bus. A trading town for the Chindwin and Yaw river valleys, Pakokku is a centre for the timber and palm sugar industries and is also well known for the high quality tobacco grown in the surrounding area. The archaeological site of Pakhangyi is just outside the town and has a museum and a spectacular 19th century wood carved monastery.