Bagan history is one of Myanmar’s main attractions and rightfully should have been considered the Eighth Wonder of the World. The former capital is spread over a 26-mile area bounded by the Ayeyarwaday River.
From the 11th to 13th centuries, Bagan was the capital and cultural centre of the Pagan Empire. The cosmopolitan city attracted monks and students from all over Asia to its distinguished centres of study. During this period, over 10,000 religious monuments including temples and stupas were constructed on the Bagan plains; more than 2,000 survive today.
The Pagan Empire ended with the 13th century Mongol invasions and the city dramatically reduced in population. Still, the city survived as a pilgrimage destination and a few new monuments were constructed during the Imperial period.
Fast forward to the end of the 20th century when Myanmar’s military government recognized the significance of Bagan and its potential as a tourist destination. Many of the pagodas and temples were restored although conservators paid little attention to the original architectural details and preservationists worldwide condemned the effort. Most of Bagan’s buildings were made of wood and bamboo, and these have long disappeared, but the Buddhist stone structures live on.