Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bagan, Ancient City of Myanmar- Page 3

Second day, the tiredness took effect. We took a long rest in the morning, and started our trip at lunch time. Our target, a group of temples at Minnanthu Village, 5 km south of Nyaung U.

Our tour guide cum driver brought us to Nyaung U for lunch. Then, we started our second sequence of temples walkthrough- Leimyethna, Tayokepyay, Thambula (built by a queen), Thon Zu (the only triple pagoda structure), Dhamma Yazika pagoda (the pagoda with 5 faces), and Pyat-Tha-Gyi for sunset. We took a quick stop at Gawdaw Palin before we headed back to our hotel at 6 pm. Many of these temples were not stated in map. We could never get to these temples without a local guide. Overall, the temples at Mannanthu are lesser compared to the temples around Old Bagan area.

Leimyethna means "four sides". Believed to be built by the prime minister of  King Htilominlo, the temple is well preserved, with the quarter for the monks, praying hall, and a few other structures were built within the compound of the temple. The temple was said to be "whitened" by the villages. The restoration of the temple was ongoing during our visit. 

Leimyethna is a small white temple. Frankly, the walkway with metal cover ruined the view of this ancient temple.

Other ruins within the compound of Leimyethna.

Thonzu means "three", thus Paya-Thon-Zu is the name for the three temples that joined together. All three temples are identical to each other. The building of this temple was taken place in late 13th century, and it was left unfinished when the whole kingdom was abandoned.

Thonzu is located just 200 meters from Leimyethna, with Tayokephay and Thambula just 200 meters away. More information about this temple is available at

Thon Zu is neither magnificient, nor attractive from the outside. Some web information stated that the interesting part of this temple is the mural drawn inside the temple. So, maybe you will have to go into the temple instead of looking at it from the outside.

Tayoke-Pyay, or pronounce as Tayok-Pye carries the meaning of "The king who fled the army from China". In fact, the intruders were came from Mongolia instead of China. Built by King Narathihapate (1256-1287), this is one of a few last temples built in Bagan.

Tayoke-Pyay in the rain. We didn't went into this temple because of the raining, and the temple looked dark inside. This was one of the temples which the upper level was still open to visitors, but it wouldn't be long.

It was built by a queen. That makes this temple unique among the others. Thambula, who was the consort of King Uzana built the temple in 1255 AD, one year before King Narathihapate succeeding the place of King Uzana. Although some historians are keen in debating the real name of Thambula (some said should be Thonlula), we found the only interesting part of this small single storey structure- its builder.

Located close to Tayoke-Pyay, Thon Zu, and Leimyethna, this small Thambula was built by Queen Tham Bula. You can see from the sign board that Thon Lula is written in bracket below Tham Bula. Interesting.

Dhamma Yazika
This pagoda is around 2 km south west of Minnanthu (at the middle of the road from Minnanthu to New Bagan).Dhammayazika means “Pertaining the King of Law”in Pali language. King Narapatisithu built the pagoda in 1198 AD to enshrine four holy relics from the King of Sri Lanka.The distinct part of this pagoda- it has 5 sides instead of normal 4. 

Dhamma Yazika was under restoration during our visit. We just took a short stay, about 10 minutes at the pagoda.

This pagoda is smaller than Shwezigon, and quite remote compared to the town-based Shwezigon in Nyaung U.

Surprisingly, the surrounding of the pagoda was nicely landscaped. Photos show the bells decorated with figures (left), and the walkway covered with flower trees.

Pyatthadar, or Pyatthada is a big monastery, and is believed to be the last big construction in Bagan. King Kyawswa (1287-1298) is believed to be the builder of this monastery. As most monasteries in Bagan were built in wood, it is believed that the builder of Pyatthadar wish to show his power by building it with bricks.

What we found interesting about this structure- the double cover design (or double-cave style) exhibited within the entrance. There are small stairs built for us to access to the rooftop area of the building. We came for the sunset, and again, rain crushed our hope. The nice view around compensate a little bit but not much. We didn't stay there for long.

By the way, the road to Pyatthadar turned muddy in the rain and we saw a few cyclist stuck in the middle of the road. Please take care if you are planning to visit the temple on your own.

Pyatthadar from the main road. The land around the monastery was barren.
We went through the narrow stairs lead to the roof of the monastery (upper left), and saw the structure topping the building (upper right). The double cover design of the entrance can be clearly seen.

North-eastern view from Pyatthadar. Dhammayangyi can be seen on far left, while Sulamani is the biggest temple figure 1/3 from right side. Thatbyinnyu and Ananda, both with eyes-catching golden spire can be seen far away. Please enlarge this photo by clicking on it.

Close up of Sulamani using telephoto lense.

Southern view from Pyatthadar, with Dhamma Yazika can be seen at the far center of the photo. The land was barren. Ancient temples are dispersed beyond this point. This site is definitely not as good as Shwesandaw for us to see the sunset. Please click to enlarge this photo.

Gawdaw Palin
We visited Gawdawpalin on our way back to our hotel. The temple was completed by King Htilominlo (1211-1231). For us, it is a shorter twins of Thatbinnyu with the whitewashed wall and golden spire resemble the architecture of Ananda. This temple is located beside Bagan Archaeological Museum. Saturated by the temples, we didn't went into Gawdawpalin.

Whitewashed temple structure from outside the compound. Compared to Thatbyinnyu, this temple is short by only a few meters.

Closer look on Gawdaw Palin.

Third Day, we were quite relaxed with only one place left in our itinerary- Bagan Archaeological Museum. That morning, we went for a stroll around New Bagan, went for lunch around 12:30 pm, visited the museum, and went straight to the airport. We will share more about the accommodation and transportation in Bagan in our upcoming post.

Bagan Archaeological Museum
We struggled a bit before we put this museum into our place-to-visit list. Why? First, the comments by reviewers, good and bad were sort of 50-50, plus, the entrance fee of USD5. However, we came out with the decision- since we had travelled far into the land of Bagan, and since we had whole day to dispose, so why not (we had decided earlier that we had visited enough temples and were not going for more)?

 The museum from the gate.

 The decoration of the museum.

Statue of the hunter in front of the museum, with Gawdaw Palin at the back.

The museum is big, with many items exhibited- replicas and the genuine objects collected from the temples in Bagan. The ground floor- main chamber of the museum contained the sculpture of the kings in Bagan, with four side chambers exhibiting the life in Bagan, the work of restoration, and the artwork in Bagan. Many replicas were exhibited in this level. The first floor- the right chamber contained the drawing and the dimension of the temples in Bagan, and the left chamber displayed all Buddha statues recovered from the temples.

By visiting the museum, no doubt we have understood more about the history and the people in Bagan. However, some down side which could be improved- many of the description was written only in Burmese language. The air conditioner was not well functioning as well, which made a few chamber quite deterring.

If you ask,is it worth to visit the museum? Then our answer is yes, but if possible, visit the museum first before going out to the field to look for the temples. Some of the artifacts displayed with the places of discovery might give you more hints on where to visit in Bagan.

We will write more on getting around Bagan soon, with more sharing on accommodation, transportation, and food.

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Bagan, Ancient City of Myanmar- Page 2

12 pm, we took our lunch at Golden Myanmar 121, not far away from Ananda. The traditional Myanmar Food was nice. We will share more about the food in Bagan in our upcoming post. We took rest at our Hotel- Thiri Marlar until 3 pm. Our first stop in the afternoon- Thatbyinnyu.

It is the tallest temple in Bagan, with the highest point soars 61 meters above the ground, built by King Alaungsithu in 1144 AD. The temple shares some similarity with Ananda as both of the temples were built in same era. Thatbyinnyu located nearby the old city wall, about 500 meters west to Ananda.

The surrounding of Thatbyinnyu was quite barren, so we could walk a bit far away from the temple to see the temple from a distance. Well, that's all what we could do, as going up to the higher levels were prohibited. Again, like many other temples in Bagan, the interior of Thatbyinnyu was not more than a square passage with statues of Buddha facing four different directions.

Thatbyinnyu from the main road. The whitewashed wall and the golden spire resembles the architecture of Ananda.

Backside of Thatbyinnyu.

The passage in the temple is decorated by several statues (left)- a design shared by many other major temples in Bagan. Drawings and inscription with unknown dates can be seen in the temple.

Mahabodhi is the only temple in Bagan that was built with strong Indian architecture- resembling Mahabodhi Temple in Bihar, India.It was built in 1215 AD by King Htilominlo.

We saw this temple on our way from Thatbyinnyu to Bupaya. We didn't go into the temple. Looking from the outside, the temple really had not much different than any of the Indian temples in our country, except one structure- the golden spire on the top of the temple.

Mahabodhi is unique with its Indian architecture- make it different from the other temples. However, the odd wooden gazebo built in front of the temple spoilt the ancient feel of the temple.

Bupaya located at the bank of Ayeyarwaddy River, 500 m from north of Mahabodhi. It was built by King Pyu Sawhti, who ruled the Kingdom of Bagan during 168-243 AD. Some refer King Pyu Sawhti as King Bagan. Whether he was the first king in Bagan or not, Bupaya is still the oldest monument that we could see in Bagan.

The original Bupaya was destroyed by the earthquake in 1975. The broken pieces of the pagoda felt into the river and never been recovered. The current structure built was lesser in architecture and design compared to the original pagoda.

We suffered from the "burning-feet syndrome" at Bupaya, as the site was exposed without any cover. Without our shoes and socks, we had to endure the burning temperature while walking around the pagoda. Besides the badly built replica and the view of Ayeyarwaddy River, there was nothing else interesting there.

This replica is poorly built and can't really reflect the original building, except for the location.

Ayeyarwaddy River from Bupaya.

Dhammayangyi is huge compared to other temples. It was located far to the east, 2.5 km from Bupaya. Built by King Narathu in 1170 AD, it was one of the finest temple built in Bagan- the construction was so fine that even a needle could not be inserted between the bricks. 

The King has bad reputation to be the murderer of his own father and sibling. Some believe that the king built that massive structure as a redemption to his sin. However, he had treated the builders badly- he chopped the builders' hands off when the builders couldn't meet his expectation.

There was two corridors in the temple, with the inner one had been closed by bricks due to unknown reason. Although the temple is tall with six external terraces, we were only allowed to visit the lowest level. While entering the temple, the droplets from the dark dwellers high above the temple's ceiling- the bats, produced awful smell. We couldn't finish walking through the corridor with the deterring smell. As we visited the temple around 4:45 pm, the afternoon sunlight made the temple looked amazing. That's why we had spent more time looking at the temple from the outside than from the inside.

Colossal Dhammayangyi looks like a pyramid from far away.

Entering the gate of Dhammayangyi.

Photo from the right flank of the temple.

All the doorways are well decorated by exquisite carving- one of the best in Bagan (left). The high-dark ceiling allows dark dwellers to hide undisturbed.

The fine brickwork of Dhammanyagyi is certified by this photo.

Sulamani was located near to Dhammayangyi. It is a big temple. The name itself reflected the temple has some connection to ruby. Sulamani means small ruby. It was said that King Narapatisithu found a ruby while building this temple in 1183 AD. Sulamani displayed a good brickwork with stones inserted at strategic places and used to strengthen the structure. Sadly, we couldn't really understand the beauty of these architecture designs.

We reached Sulamani after visiting Dhammanyangyi. It was getting darker at 5:45 pm. We couldn't see much inside the temple without the help from the auto focus light from the camera. The mural inside the temple was the best among all temples that we had visited, so it is a must-visit temple in Bagan. The biggest relieve for us when we visit the temple- no more burning floor and awful smell.

Although being considered as a big temple, Sulamani is dwarfed by Dhammayangyi.

The large mural in Sulamani is the most exquisite among all the temples.

The mural shows the activities of the people around Bagan (left). Another mural shows an Indian worshipper.

This is a small building covering a 18-meter reclining Buddha statue. It is located next to Shwesandaw. The real reason of covering such as big statue inside such as small room is remained unknown. This Buddha statue is claimed to be the largest of its kind in Bagan.

This structure is so modest that one might overlook it easily. It is located in the compound of Shwesandaw.

Inside Shin-Bin-Tha-Lyaung.

Shwesandaw is a tall pagoda with 5 terraces, which can be climbed through small and steep stairs. We climbed to the top level of the pagoda, hope to see the sunset. No luck, the clouds was too thick. However, we still enjoyed the scenery pretty much. According to one of the local, Shwesandaw will be closed to visitors in near future. We hope that won't happened, or else we need to pay to see the sunset or sunrise at the observatory tower.

Extremely steep staircase- the obstacle that we need to brave through for beautiful scenery.

Temples east to Shwesandaw.

Gandawpalin west to Shwesandaw- a reward for the pagoda's climbers.

Look north-west and we can see Thatbyinnyu.

 Ananda is close to Thatbyinnyu. It looks beautiful from Shwesendaw.

The size of Dhammayangyi is well-captured when we watch it from Shwesandaw.

Panorama view south of Shwesandaw, please click on the photo to enlarge. Shin-Bin-Tha-Lyaung with the white roof can be seen on near left, while Myazedi Pagodas can be seen on the far left corner. Gandawpalin can be seen on far right. Mingala Zedi can be seen too, located about 1/3 from the left, at the end of the sandy road. 

First night at Thiri Marlar. We experienced our first mini-sandstorm- sands were blown high into the air, and a few of the trees beside our hotel were almost toppled. Lucky, the wind stopped half an hour later. We will share more about this in our upcoming post. Our sharing about our trip is continued on Page 3.

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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