Bagan is an ancient city in central Burma/Myanmar and is one of the world’s greatest archeological sites. During the kingdom’s height between the 11th and 13th centuries, over 10,000 buildings were constructed in the Bagan plains alone (104 km2), of which the remains of over 2,200 temples and pagodas still survive to the present day. It forms the largest collection of Buddhist temples, monasteries, shrines and stupas in the world.
The first day we arrived early in the morning and decided to check out the village of New Bagan by foot. After walking around we got invited into a house to watch some sandpaintings created by the family and ended up buying two of them. Not knowing they sell them on every street corner and pagoda.
There is no single optimal way for seeing Bagan’s collection of pagodas. The pagodas are so far apart it’s not possible to do by foot so we’ve rented an e-bike and that is a MUST. It is really the only thing to do while you’re there anyway. It’s about 5000 Kyat (3 euro) for a whole day.
Watching the sunrise and sunset is kind of “the thing to do” in Bagan so we woke up almost every morning at 5 am. And it’s totally worth it.
Bagan has been hit by earthquakes over the centuries with the most recent, in August 2016, damaged 400 pagodas. Work on repairing them is ongoing, you can see allot of pagodas which are closed off for repairs or which you are not allowed to climb due to earthquake damage.
A famous product of Bagan is its Lacquerware. Bowls, dishes, vases, cups, plates, various boxes, most famous being the box for betel leaves and nuts. The Lacquerware is created by rolling up thin bamboo strips and cutting it into a smooth shape.
After the bamboo is cut the layering process begins, depending on the quality of the product but most up to 7 layers. Each layer has to dry one week in an obscure and wet place. Once finished drying, the lacquerware are carefully washed and sandpapered if necessary.
The last step of the process is the decoration by engraving with free hands, without a model, entirely of memory, directly with naked hands, using a stylet and of a brush or a sharp object.