Described by Marco Polo as “one of the finest sights in the world,” the ancient city of Bagan, in central Myanmar, is one of the most spectacular archaeological sites on earth.
With more than 2,200 Buddhist Temples spread over 26 square miles, the remnants of a once almighty civilisation are left for the world to admire. The city was founded in 9 AD and grew to become the flourishing capital of Myanmar’s first great kingdom, Pagan. The city’s golden years from 11th – 13th centuries constituted 250 years of temple building – around 10,000 religious stupas and monuments we constructed during this period.
Legend has it that a monk sent by the Mon King of Thaton in southern Myanmar to convert King Anawrahta to Buddhism had such success that the newly fervent King immediately initiated a programme of extensive temple building to pay homage to the Buddha.
Subsequent Kings continued construction throughout their reigns until the end of 13th century when internal economic strife combined with attacks from Mongol hordes sent by Kublai Khan in the north sealed the demise of this great civilisation.
The Scenic Route
Whilst exploring the ruins on e-bike or bicycle certainly makes for an excellent day, admiring them from a hot air balloon during sunrise is absolutely an experience of a lifetime.
We were collected from our hotel at 5am and taken to the launch site for breakfast and coffee while the balloons were prepped and inflated.
We flew with a professional balloonist whose chat combined historical knowledge of the ruins with technical ballooning expertise. The journey lasted 45 minutes and took us directly over the ruins (we were lucky as the route depends on wind direction…). The view is mind-boggling.
We landed on the banks of the Irrawaddy river and tucked into a bottle of sparkling wine to toast the occasion!
All the hustle and bustle takes place in the nearby town of Nyuang U where most restaurants are located.
Hotel Oasis – A charming little boutique hotel with deluxe rooms clustered around a beautiful pool (much needed in the Bagan heat). Simple but tasty breakfast, friendly staff and tastefully decorated rooms.