Two thousand pagodas

Yangon has the largest and the most golden pagoda, but Bagan makes up for that with numbers. They grow them like mushrooms. On forty square kilometers there are 2000 of them, mostly made of brick but there is some marble and gold as well. For rich people it’s chic to rebuild pagodas, so many of them are rebuilt with little regard for authenticity. The guide book quips, the dodgy contractors that today “restore” piles of rubble are the descendants of the dodgy contractors who threw up the originals from the 11th to 13th centuries, at a furious clip of one every two weeks.

Anyway, the result is stunning. No matter where you turn, there’s a pagoda rising over the trees. Many are quite large and most contain a Buddha statue, or one for each direction of the compass. Plaster has mostly fallen off but some intricate frescoes remain. The highlight was a pagoda that could be climbed, for a fantastic view of the plain.

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