Without a doubt, Bagan (also called Pagan), the ancient capital located some 680 Km north of Yangon, is the highlight of any trip to Myanmar (formerly Burma). It is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. Bagan is also regarded by many as one of the three most impressive Buddhist sights, along with Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Borobodur in Indonesia. Arriving at sunset, we were greeted by the beautiful reddish glow of the temples lining the main highway. But it was only after we had climbed up one to get a better view, that we realized how the temple ruins extended as far as the eye could see.
Thousands of temples, pagodas, stupas and shrines located in this ancient city were designed, built and decorated by master craftsmen during the 11th ~ 13th centuries. They are all unique in architecture, purpose and structure, numbering over 13,000 during its heyday. Today, only about 4,000 remain as a testament to the religious fervor of the ancient Burmese kings. The ones we saw were absolutely awesome, and equally difficult to spell and pronounce!
We traveled in Bagan by a horse-drawn cart and walked around barefoot on holy grounds where shoes nor socks were permitted. (May had no problems with her well-calloused feet, but Frank with his baby-soft soles, was hopping, skipping and yelping in pain as he treaded the scorching stone surfaces... Men are such babies!) Our young driver allowed us to visit his home where we received a gracious welcome. He was also invaluable in helping us find a shop selling antique Burmese lacquer ware at reasonable prices.
From twilight to dusk, the setting sun on the horizon throwing its last fling of glow over the ancient monuments, is indeed a splendid and unique spectacle that takes one's breath away. As we watched our last sunset over Bagan, we realized just how right Kipling was in saying there was no land like Myanmar, for we too had fallen under its spell.