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BAGAN-a possible UNESCO heritage site

BAGAN-a possible UNESCO heritage site

You may have never heard of Bagan, have you?

Myanmar  is a Southeast Asian nation of more than 100 ethnic groups, bordering India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand. Also called Burma, its older British colonial name, by certain media including the BBC, is in the news recently for its questionable treatment of the Rohinga people, a Muslim minority group in a predominantly Buddhist country.

It is home to the old kingdom of Pagan of which Bagan was the capital back between the 9th and 12th centuries. 10,000 temples and 4000 stupas and monasteries were built over this period, but only 3800 temples still exist today. They are mostly over an area of 20 sq miles so you can get a good view of many of them from the tops of some of the highest temples. Although the Mongols invaded Burma back in the 12th C, they are not thought to have reached Bagan, but the destruction of many temples was actually caused by neglect and the changing shape of the Irrawaddy river, into which many simply fell.

Its all within the dry area of Burma, so its very hot and sticky and the best times of day to explore are early dawn and sunset. The desert air adds a certain element to the photography giving it an ethereal feel. The best way to get around is by horse and cart or by renting a bicycle and driving along the sandy roads on your own. Almost all temples are freely open to be seen inside and out and at the heart of each is a small Buddha statue.

There was a massive earthquake in 2016 and many temples were damaged, but ironically it was the modernized renovated parts that were most damaged. Unesco had decided not to give it a heritage status due to the questionable renovations but now they are working with the government to redo these with the hopeful aim of bestowing one. My advice would be to go before this happens!

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by John Tomnay. CEO at Apex Office Centers