The first time I visited Myanmar, back in 2011, I was surprised by one thing: I saw quite a few people who lived with the right in a country that has spent long decades under a military dictatorship (and, in part, still remains the same), but also thousands of pagodas, many of them with parts or statues of Buddha covered with gold leaf. At that time I thought that religions in the end are a scam anywhere. Well, in fact, I always thought about it. It didn't fit in my head how they raised temples that cost a kidney when they didn't have to have a decent house. But of course, you don't have to go too far to see cases of the same type. Catholic cathedrals do not differ in anything from Buddhist pagodas and temples.
The maximum Burmese expression of this nonsense you will find in the city of Bagan. Of course, a beautiful and overwhelming nonsense.
Comparable to the famous Angkor wat, Bagan is located on the central plateau of Myanmar. In it you will find no less than 3,700 pagodas, temples and stupas of all shapes, colors and sizes.
Most of them were built in the era of splendor of the Burmese Empire, between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. The fever began with King Anawratha and spread through his successors.
If you have only two or three days to visit Bagan, it will be difficult to know what temples to visit. Really, the most fun is to rent an electric motorcycle (e-bike) and travel the dirt roads to discover the pagodas that nobody visits, those that are half collapsed and abandoned by the passage of time. However, it is true that there are some monuments that you cannot miss. Here I leave some of them (in my modesty opinion, partly supported by the opinion of the masses ... of course).
Shwe Zi Gon
Shwe Zi Gon
Shwe Zi Gon's stupa is one of the oldest in Bagan, and therefore, from Myanmar.
Its construction began during the reign of King Anawratha (1044-1077), around 1059-1060, and was completed in 1102, when Anawratha's son, Kyansittha, already reigned.
The large umbrella of its stupa is completely covered with gold leaf and, under sunlight, shines in an extraordinary way.
I saw it in its splendor in 2015, although only a year later it would be damaged by the powerful earthquake that destroyed part of Bagan. It was not the only earthquake that has suffered Shwe Zi Gon. Many others occurred over the centuries. With the repairs derived from them, some of the staggered floors of the stupa have been covered with copper plates, although the lower steps have been preserved as they were.
Beyond its monumental wealth, its religious importance is enormous since it is said that here is a bone and a tooth of Siddharta Gautama, the fourth Buddha and the one we study at school.
In addition to the four Buddha statues, there are also guardian statues (they look like ugly demons) at the entrance to the pagoda. There are also figures of the 37 Burmese nats, a kind of spirits that confirm the syncretism of the old Burmese religion with the Buddhism that Anawratha implanted.
Shwe San Daw
Sunset seen from Shwe San Daw