C’es si bon! Oui, it’s so good. Stupa-fied or not, it’s worth visiting a few. Shwezigon Pagoda in Bagan reminded me so much of the first pagoda we visited in Yangon: the Shwedagon Pagoda. Yes, all that gold once more! (“Shwe” means gold) Built in 1084-1113 AD, Shwezigon by the eastern bank of the Ayyarwady River in Bagan actually predates the pagoda complex in Yangon. Way earlier! And it easily became the prototype of subsequent pagodas built all over Burma.

 

 

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Just as graceful and majestic is another temple popular with tourists: Shwe San Daw Pagoda. It’s where we climbed up for a better panoramic view of the other Bagan temples and where we waited for sunset. Too popular, I’d say, as throngs of both pilgrims, tourists and serious shutterbugs with their tripods seem to have all assembled in this 5-storeyed temple likewise built by King Anawrahta. A devout Buddhist, he is the founder of the first Burmese Kingdom. He built Shwe San Daw after his conquest of then Mon Capital, Thaton.

 

 

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No “Shwe” prefix this time. But That Byin Nyu Temple is one of the tallest, if not the tallest, temple within Old Bagan. This white monolith is just a few meters from our hotel and I would have wished to climb it for a sunrise view. But climbing the temple has been banned after an earthquake rendered the structure unsafe. Up close, one even finds portions whitewashed in a futile restoration attempt. Hopefully, the structure will stand for many more years to come as a testament to Myanmar’s glorious past.

 

 

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If there’s a tallest temple, there’s the largest temple. Dhammayangyi Temple’s imposing structure makes for a truly majestic sight from the outside and more so, from up above. I have to borrow a photo from a friend who went on a hot air balloon ride one foggy morning to prove this point. (Thank you, Maricel, for these fantastic shots!) Too bad we didn’t have a chance to check out this temple’s interior hallways with its high ceilings and narrow corridors. But a grim and morbid history is attached to this surreal edifice. The temple was built by a sadistic and likely psycopathic King Narathu who killed his family : a father, brother, and his queen. Story goes that this same tyrant required the temple brickwork to be so perfectly tight that no knife or pin could pass between any 2 bricks. Failing that, the slaves who worked on the imperfect brickwork were put to death. Legend further goes that all these tragedies and cruelties haunt the temple to this day.

 

 

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Also in the horizon are the Sulamani and Kubyaukkyi Temples. The others would have to remain unnamed for now as my memory aids are limited to the postcards I bought đŸ˜„. Amazing that these temples survive to this day in all its grandeur!

 

 

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And I saved the best for last. Thilominlo Temple and Ananda Phaya Temple. It is unfortunate that the Thilominlo Temple is crowded with too many stalls selling anything from shirts to bead necklaces to woodworks to paintings. The cluster of stalls out front was quite a nuisance and somehow impairs the holiness of the place. I walked around the temple courtyard twice, very much impressed with the ornate doors, reliefs and carvings. On the other hand, Ananda Temple is one of the best-preserved temples and one of the most beautiful and revered . Once inside, the 4 standing Buddhas, one for each cardinal direction, hold your attention. Made entirely of solid teak, I was fascinated seeing a Buddha in a pensive mood up close, then a smiling Buddha as you walk farther. The farther you go, the wider the grin. And I’m talking about the same Buddha statue! This temple truly lives up to the hype.

 

 

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Enough temples for now? I think I’ve reached my quota of stupas and temples by this time. And of Buddhas too đŸ˜„. Mingalaba!

 

 

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