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el2995 Pagan - A travel report by USC
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Pagan,  Burma - flag Burma
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el2995's travel reports

Pagan, Burma

  17 votes
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Pagan travelogue picture
Pagan is situated on the Eastern bank of the Irrawaddi River in middle Burma. It's located in a vast arid plain dotted with myriad temples, pagodas, and scattered stands of toddy palms and acacia trees, with majestic mountains rising in the distance. It is especially scenic around sunrise and sunset. The city is segregated into Old Pagan, which is considered an Archaeological Zone (US or FEC $10 admission, please...), and New Pagan, where the people who lived in Old Pagan were relocated by the the government. It is decidedly rural, with wide open spaces and probably more ox carts, horse buggies, bicycles and shoulder yoke-laden pedestrians than cars, and is exactly like the Burma I was hoping to find. The locals are warm and very engaging. Pagan is a center for handicrafts, particularly lacquerware and ceramics.

Favourite spots:
Pagan travelogue picture
The main spots would be (attempted spellings to follow...) Ananda Temple, Shwezigon Pagoda, Dharmayangyi Temple and Sulamanni Temple, though there are more red brick temples than you could imagine out on the plains, some well over a thousand years old. Check out the market next to Shwezigon Pagoda, and the Shwe Leiht Min (Golden Royal Tortoise) lacquer factory for perhaps some of the highest quality lacquer. Look into hiring a boat to witness sunset on the river, as it is a fabulous sight that you won't soon forget. You will also see life along the river, with people bathing, washing clothes and watering livestock at the water's edge, as temples and palms on the shore slowly drift by and the sky transitions into a brilliant orange that seems to set the river ablaze. It's magical.

What's really great:
Pagan travelogue picture
On my last trip to Pagan, I took ill with food poisoning and spent half the first day in bed. The second day, I stayed behind to recover and walked across an open field in front of the hotel and met a local village boy of 15 years named Aung Pyi Sone. With my speaking some Burmese and he some english, we really hit it off and spent the day together touring his village on foot, which is filled with a variety of artisans (lacquer makers, store carvers, sculpters, painters.) Aung Pyi Sone (who, like his brother, is a skillful painter) took me to meet his friends and relatives, and see their workshops. Everyone was very warm and inviting, and I came away feeling like the prior day's food poisoning was actually a blessing in disguise. Often time, I was followed around by a group of giggling village kids, including during a 1/4 mile hike out onto the plain to watch the sunset over some distance pagodas.

Sights:
Pagan travelogue picture
In addition to the sights already mentioned, be sure to check out the old teak monastery. It's a bit of a rare sight, as the teak wood doesn't generally hold up well to the elements over the years and the remaining specimens of this type of architecture are few and far between; there's also a lacquer factory next to the monastery where you can watch the artisans at work.


Accommodations:
Pagan travelogue picture
Power Bagan Hotel and Kathumudi Hotel (practically next to each other) were both nice (see www.myanmars.net for info). The village of artisans I mentioned is across from Power Bagan. Please tell Aung Pyi Sone that U Sa Cott said Hi if you meet him (you probably will, as he is very friendly and enjoys interacting with tourists.)

Restaurants:
Pagan travelogue picture
River View Restaurant is a must. The have outdoor seating and a live cultural show at the river's edge; good fried chicken (kyet kyaw) and fish curry (nga hin). I don't recall the name, but there's a nice open-air type restaurant near Ananda Temple and the gate at the old palace moat that had great fried rice and noodles. Try a lunch at the Mount Popa Resort, where you can enjoy British-style sandwiches, crisps and a cup of tea while overlooking the Mt. Popa temple below.

Other recommendations:
Pagan travelogue picture
Mount Popa is about an 90 minute drive from Pagan. It is a temple compound built on top of a dormant volcanic cone. It is believed that the 37 Dieties or Nats that pre-dated Buddhism and are still worshipped live on the volcanic cone. There is a shrine devoted to the Nats across from the stairway that ascends the cone. In the cooler months (November to January) you'll see monkeys, but I didn't see any in late March because of the heat. Mount Popa Resort overlooks the cone from above, and the air is cool even during the midday sun because of the altitude.

Published on Monday June 24th, 2002


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Fri, Apr 28 2006 - 03:37 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Wonderful report of a mysterious place

Fri, Feb 04 2005 - 10:03 AM rating by maxbuten

You say "Check out the market next to Shwezigon Pagoda, and the Shwe Leiht Min (Golden Royal Tortoise) lacquer factory for perhaps some of the highest quality lacquer." I didn't see any market at Shwezigon, though there may be one there on certain days. The lacquer factory you mention is definetly closed. A hotel is or will be built on the site. We were in Bagan in January 2005. Pictures will be posted shortly at http://buten.net/max

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