• Photo: Chantal de Bruijne / Shutterstock


Between the 9th and 13th centuries, Bagan (née Pagan), was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan, once a tiny settlement that eventually gained power and, in doing so, united the neighboring territories to form Burma, present-day Myanmar. The 11th through mid-13th centuries were the height of the Kingdom of Pagan's prosperity, and it was during those 250 years that the then-10,000 stupas, temples, and pagodas were built. Today, just 2,000 remain, but their expanse is staggering. Bikes can be hired from every guesthouse for around K2,500, and visitors will find that on two wheels is the best way to get around. The stupas dot the sides of the long road that runs through Bagan, and the awe-inspiring larger temples are clustered across from Tharabar (née Tharbha) Gate, the only surviving section of Bagan's city wall. There are so many small stupas on either side of the road leading up to the larger temples that it's entirely possible to be completely alone and surrounded by hundreds of them. If your time in Myanmar is limited, skip Mandalay and head to Bagan, permeated by a laid-back, backpacker-style vibe.


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