Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bagan, Ancient City of Myanmar- Page 1

Bagan is ancient. More than 10 thousand temples were built by the kingdom of Bagan, which spanned for more than 1000 years. Today, more than one third of them are still standing. From the humble beginning of Bupaya dated 162 AD, Bagan kingdom reached its peak by the building of the monumental Shwezigon Paya, Dhammayangyi, and Ananda around 1100 - 1170 AD.

Then, the kingdom declined and eventually been abandoned at around 1300 AD. The city of 200,000 was reduced to a small settlement. However, several temples within the area still attracts Buddist pilgrims until today, which standing among them are Ananda, Shwezigon Paya, Dhammayangyi, Hitlominlo, and Sulamani.

The reason of the decline of once the strongest kingdom in South East Asia is yet to be unveiled, although the invasion of Mongolian army is popularly accepted. However, we believe that the empire collapsed not by a single reason, but a combination of many factors.

Itinerary for our 3 days trip. Day 1, we reached Bagan early in the morning around 8:30 am. After a brief rest at our hotel, we visited Shwezigon Paya (with Buddha's relics), Gubyaukgyi (with mural), Bulethi (tall pagoda with good view around), Htilominlo Guphaya, and Ananda (most beautiful temple). We took our lunch at 12:30 pm and took a rest until 3 pm. Then, we visited Thatbyinnyu (the tallest temple), Mahabodhi (the only Indian style temple), Bupaya (the oldest monument), Dhammayangyi (the largest temple), Sulamani, and Shinbinthalyaung before we stopped at Shwesandaw to see the sunset.

Day 2, Betty was not feeling well in the morning, so our trip started quite late in the afternoon. We went to Nyaung U for lunch. Then, we visited Minnanthu Village located east to old Bagan. There, we visited Leimyethna, Tayokepyay, Thambula (built by Queen Thambula), Thon Zu (the only triple pagoda structure), Dhamma Yazika pagoda (the pagoda with 5 faces), and Pyat-Tha-Dar.  We visited Gawdaw Palin before we headed back to our hotel around 6 pm.

Day 3, we checked out from our hotel in the afternoon, visited Bagan Archeological Museum after lunch, and went straight to the airport for our late afternoon flight back to Yangon.

Well, with 3000 temples scattering around Bagan, planning is very important to keep our trip smooth. So, this was we had done- listed all the most unique temples what we wished to visit, such as the most beautiful- Ananda, the largest- Dhammayangyi, the tallest-  Thatbyinnyi, built by the queen- Thambula, and the only pagoda with 5 faces- Dhamma Yazika, then we tried to link them according to the location, together with a few of the lesser temples nearby.

Upon arrival at Bagan Airport, we were required to pay USD10 per person for the admission to the achaeological sites in Bagan. We were then been given a ticket (nice waterproof card). We were checked for the ticket by the guards at Htilominlo and Shwesandaw.

Now, we would like to bring you around with our photos, starting from Day 1.

Shwe-Zi-Gon Paya
This is a huge golden stupa topped by a metal umbrella. It is unique due to the relics of Buddha, which are buried deep under the stupa. It resembles Shwedagon in Yangon. Shwezigon located nearby Nyaung U area, around 3 km from Nyaung U airport.  Initiated in 1060 AD by King Arawrahta, the construction was completed by his son, Kyansittha in 1102 AD.

The stupa stands on three levels of stages. All the stages have been closed to visitors. More information about this temple is available at Bagan Pagodas.

This is one of the most visited temples in Bagan, especially by the local Buddhists.

The galleries built around the stupa make the temple looks inharmony- strong contrast between the old and the new architectures (upper left). Thousand-year-old lion guarding the stupa(upper right) is unique for the split hind legs. Shwezigon is the only temple in Bagan that we came upon a few young monks begging for money (lower right). However, they were not aggressive, and left us alone after a polite rejection. Some of the archaeological facts of Shwezigon was displayed, but too bad, it was written in Burmese language only.

Long corridor that lead to Shwezigon was built (upper left), housing many vendors selling various things. We bought "The Spirit of Bagan" there with one of the vendors. Haggled for 5 minutes, we bought it with much cheaper than what we could get at Shwedagon.

Second stop, Gubyaukgyi nearby Shwezigon. Gubyaukgyi means great spotted temple, but it is in fact a very small temple. The interesting part of the temple is the mural drawn inside the temple's wall. However, the temple was too dark inside. To see the mural, we need to bring a torch light. Photo taking is not allowed inside the temple.

As we didn't bring any torch light, we couldn't see much inside the temple. We tried to use auto focus light from our camera, but it had alarmed the security personnel inside the temple. We were warned to keep our camera in our bag.

Gubyaukgyi temple is really small (upper left). The temple has a spire with sculptures (upper right). The stone outside of the temple stated that the restoration of the temple was done with the donation from Mr. Berarg (lower right). Hundreds of these stones are found scatter across the temples in Bagan. It was very hot during our trip. Although the land was dry, we found a blossom flower tree in front of the temple.

Bulethi (some pronounced as Pulethee)
Bulethi has nothing special, except we could climb up to the top of the pagoda. According to our taxi driver, Bulethi was among a few of the pagodas which climbing to the upper levels were still allowed. He was right. In the name of preservation, most of the upper levels of the pagodas and temples were closed to visitors. Bulethi is located 1.2 km away from Gubyaukgyi, around 400 meters south east to Htilominlo.

In our opinion, Bulethi is worth for a short stop, just to take a view around. Be noted that the floor will be burning hot under the sunlight. It is easier to climb up the pagoda through the side which is less exposed to sunlight.

Group photo before the climbing. our parents gave up climbing due to the unbearable feet burning floor.

The weather was extremely hot. With little rain, the land was dry and lack in green plants.

The pagoda is steep. Shadows provides more comfortable passage to the top.

Scenery west from Bulethi.

This is what we saw south to the pagoda.

Hti-Lo-Minlo Guphaya
Htilominlo means favored by the king and the white umbrella. It was built in 1211 AD by King Nan Daung Mya Min (or King Htilominlo, a few sources refered him as Zeyatheinka as well), to commemorate the incident which he was selected as the new king with the white umbrella used by his father tilted towards him. With the center spire reaches height of 46 meters, Htilominlo is one of the biggest temple in Bagan. Although it is a three storey building, only the access to the ground level is open to public. There are four Buddha statues facing four different directions in the main temple building.

For us, that temple was yet another big temple, which we had put it in our backup list. But since it was located so close to Ananda, so we decided to take a short visit to this temple on our way from Bulethi to Ananda. We just stopped for some 25 minutes before we continued our trip to Ananda.

Htilominlo from the main road.

The gate of Htilominlo (left) leads to the main entrance to the temple (2nd from left). We could see many vendors at the both sides of the main path lead to the entrance. Buddha is the main theme of the temple- murals, statues, souvenirs, etc.

Ananda is dubbed as the most beautiful temple in Bagan. It was built by King Kyansittha in 1091. It was said to be built with a blend of Indian and Mon architecture. The highest spire of the temple rises 50 meters above the land, and the building was nicely decorated.  This is definitely an ancient edifice that we should not miss. Detailed description of this temple is available at Lack of illumination, the internal beauty of the temple was really hard to be seen.

Topped by golden beehive-like spire, this temple is easy to be identified from afar.

Ananda can be clearly seen outside of the temple's compound (upper left). However, the great view as published in several books are now blocked by overgrown trees. Most parts of the structure were painted in white, including the main gate (upper right), where a long corridor was built to connect the gate to the entrance of the temple (lower right). Many vendors placed their stalls in the corridor. The temple is well decorated.

Earthquake in 1975 had badly damaged the temple. Luckily, this 25 feet tall Buddha statue which has been standing since the temple was built were left untouched. Ananda temple that we can see today is the result from careful restoration.

We went for lunch and took a break after we left Ananda. Our trip in the afternoon continued on Page 2.

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