FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Wanders in Bagan

Posted in Bagan, Myanmar by folkestonejack on November 8, 2017

The simple pleasure of a wander across the plains of Bagan, taking one dirt track after another as your eye gets drawn to interesting temples, pagodas and stupas is that it doesn’t stop. There is always another temple or pagoda just that little bit further ahead of you. How can you resist walking a little more, then more again!? It all makes for wonderfully relaxing walks with no-end of delights for the photographer – enough to slow me right down from my usual hurtle through life!

No shortage of pagodas in Bagan…

I tried not to be too ambitious with my walks, for example starting with an early morning taxi to Taung Guni for a walk after sunrise one morning, taking in Dhammayangyi Temple on a leisurely wander back to the Bagan Thande hotel in time for a late breakfast. On another occasion I took a taxi to Sulamani Temple and began my wanders from there, enjoying the sight of a flock of goats being herded down the dirt road, before finding a good spot for sunset.

The sights of Bagan took quite a hit when an earthquake of 6.8-magnitude struck on 24th August 2016. The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture reckon that the earthquake affected a total of 449 temples out of 3,252 across the plain. Restoration started with the 36 pagodas at highest risk of collapse, followed by the 53 temples which need urgent repairs.

Pagoda undergoing restoration in Bagan

In most places the sight of a major attraction under scaffolding would be a disappointment, but here the use of traditional techniques makes the sight of pagodas under repair a fascinating spectacle in its own right. Only a few are covered by unsightly tarpaulins or incongruous modern caps – such as Sulamani Temple and Thatbyinnyu Temple.

Now that the rubble has been cleared away it is easy to forget the destructive power of the last quake as you wander. In many cases the damage is not immediately apparent, though the complete closure of temples such as Myauk Guni hints at the lingering danger from unstable brickwork and the like. The earthquake may yet have done some good with the opportunity to restore these pagodas and temples more accurately than in the past, led by experts from UNESCO.

Traditional bamboo scaffolding

Our four nights in Bagan seemed a sensible length of stay and we just about managed to avoid becoming templed out, though I will admit that my enthusiasm for stepping in and out of temples was slipping on my last afternoon of wandering. I don’t know how the balloon pilots cope with months here with very little other than temples to see!

Almost by chance I stumbled across the perfect spot to end the trip – a raised viewing platform ten minutes walk away from Sulamani Temple which offered a lovely view of the setting sun on a horizon filled with temples. I think it may be the site referred to in newspaper reports as Oh Htein Kone though the lack of signage makes it a little hard to be certain (the entrance includes a noticeboard describing the ‘pottery hill’ of Otein Taung).

After enjoying a gloriously red sunset I made my way off the plain in the fading light, returning to my hotel for a last meal under the acacia trees before packing in readiness for our return to Mandalay on an early morning flight.

Gallery

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