The temples of Bagan © Lisa de Araujo
Bagan is an ancient city dating back to the 9th century that was home to the first kingdom of a unified Myanmar. A seemingly impossible collection of thousands of temples and monuments scattered over a vast plain, the buildings range in condition from ruined to resplendent, although many retain the power and majesty their devout designers intended. Most of the structures were built between the 11th and 12th centuries, when Bagan was the capital of the First Burmese Empire. Regrettably, many temples have suffered under the government's poor attempts at restoration, but others have been well preserved by organisations like UNESCO.
The temples can best be viewed via bicycle, which allows for independent exploration as bike trails link all the temples. This attraction still feels relatively undiscovered and allows visitors to feel that they are the only ones exploring a temple. Each is thoroughly unique so visitors can spend days exploring and remain enthralled. Sunset is prime time in Bagan, as locals and visitors alike head for the highest temples to enjoy the magnificent sunsets over the stupa-dotted plain. Another popular way of seeing the temples is from the air, in a hot air balloon.