Iconic sunset viewings atop ancient Bagan pagodas may be a thing of the past after the state counsellor yesterday spoke out against them.
While on a two-day visit to Bagan with the queen of Bhutan, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said that while she gets the appeal of the ancient pagoda perch for sunrise and sunset, the practice is not sustainable.
“I understood why travellers are interested in sunset and sunrise viewings in Bagan because the experience is different from all other places in the world. It is strange and very beautiful,” she said yesterday.
“I have a lot of experience viewing sunsets and sunrises but nowhere is it better than in Bagan. But visitors watching on top of ancient pagodas will have a negative impact on the long-term sustainability. That is why we need to find a substitute,” she said.
The government has previously sparked outrage in the tourism industry for attempting to ban tourists from clambering over the ancient relics in the world-renowned archaeological zone, including for sunrise and sunset watching. Watching the sunset from the top of a pagoda is one of Bagan’s main tourism draws, the decision was soon after repealed.
The growing number of local and foreign visitors to Bagan – the number of foreigners has more than doubled since 2011 – means hundreds are turning up each evening to ascend the temples, placing strain on the ancient structures. To ease the load on the historic temples, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has proposed building a raised earthen bank that would serve as a viewing platform.
Regardless of tourism operators’ scathing reaction to the ban, the state counsellor yesterday was adamant that it be reimposed.