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Bagan Attractions

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Ananda Pahto

With its shimmering gold, 170ft-high, corncob hti shimmering across the plains, Ananda is one of the finest, largest, best preserved and most revered of all Bagan temples. Thought to have been built between 1090 and 1105 by King Kyanzittha, this perfectly proportioned temple heralds the stylistic end of the early Bagan period and the beginning of the middle period.

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Dhammayangyi Pahto

Visible from all parts of Bagan, this massive, walled, 12th-century temple (about 1600ft east of Shwesandaw) is infamous for its mysterious, bricked-up inner passageways and cruel history. It’s said that King Narathu built the temple to atone for his sins: he smothered his father and brother to death and executed one of his wives, an Indian princess, for practising Hindu rituals. The best preserved of Bagan's temples, it features detailed mortar work in its upper levels.

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Shwezigon Paya

At the west end of Nyaung U, this big, beautiful zedi is the town’s main religious site, and is most famous for its link with the 37 nat . Lit up impressively at dusk the gilded zedi sits on three rising terraces. Enamelled plaques in panels around the base of the zedi illustrate scenes from the Jataka. At the cardinal points, facing the terrace stairways, are four shrines, each of which houses a 13ft-high bronze standing buddha.

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Shwesandaw Paya

Bagan’s most famous sunset-viewing spot, the Shwesandaw is a graceful white pyramid-style pagoda with steps leading past five terraces to the circular stupa top, with good 360-degree views. It’s located roughly midway between Thatbyinnyu and Dhammayangyi. Its top terrace is roomy, which is just as well, considering the numbers of camera-toting travellers coming by taxi or bus before sunset. If you go during the day, you’ll likely be alone, making it a good spot for temple panoramas.

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Sulamani Pahto

This temple with five doorways is known as the Crowning Jewel and was constructed around 1181 by Narapatisithu. It is one of Bagan’s most attractive temples, with lush grounds (and ample vendors) behind the surrounding walls. It’s a prime example of later, more sophisticated temple styles, with better internal lighting. Combining the early period’s horizontal planes with the vertical lines of the middle period, the receding terraces create a pyramid effect. The stairways to the top are closed.

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Gubyaukgyi

Situated just to the left of the road as you enter Myinkaba, Gubyaukgyi (Great Painted Cave Temple) sees a lot of visitors who are drawn by the well-preserved, richly coloured paintings inside. These are thought to date from the temple’s original construction in 1113, when Kyanzittha’s son Rajakumar built it following his father’s death. In Indian style, the monument consists of a large vestibule attached to a smaller antechamber.

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Manuha Paya

In Myinkaba village, stands this active and rather modern-looking pagoda, even though it dates back to 1059. It is named after Manuha, the Mon king from Thaton, who was held captive here by King Anawrahta. In the front of the building are three seated buddhas; in the back is a huge reclining buddha. All seem too large for their enclosures – supposedly representing the stress and discomfort the king had to endure.

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Thatbyinnyu Pahto

Named for ‘omniscience’, Bagan’s highest temple is built of two white-coloured boxy storeys, each with three diminishing terraces rimmed with spires and leading to a gold-tipped sikhara, 207ft in height. Its monumental size and looming height make it a classic example of Bagan’s middle period. Built in 1144 by Alaungsithu, its terraces are encircled by indentations for 539 Jataka.

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Dhammayazika Paya

Sitting in lush garden grounds with a gilded bell, the Dhammayazika dates from 1196. Set in the south-central end of Bagan on the main road, it also has lovely views from its highest terrace. The pentagonal zedi is similar to the Shwezigon but with a more unusual design. An outer wall has five gateways. Up top, five small temples, each containing a buddha image, encircle the terraces; some of them bear interior murals added during the Konbaung era.

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Htilominlo Pahto

This 150ft-high temple (built in 1218) marks the spot where King Nantaungmya was chosen (by a leaning umbrella, that timeless decider), among five brothers, to be the crown prince. It’s more impressive from the outside, with its terraced design, which is similar to Sulamani Pahto. Unfortunately it’s Vendor Central.

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