Over the centuries the ancient temples of Bagan have weathered the invasion of enemy forces such as Kublai Khan’s Mongols, not to mention the corrosive effects of decades of wind and rain, plus a powerful earthquake in 1975. But could the old temples withstand the arrival of those rambunctious novice monks from Tat Ein village in Shan State? We were about to find out!
Actually, compared to the hordes of foreign tourists who have descended upon Bagan in recent years, it’s highly doubtful that a few dozen young monks (along with a teacher and two female students from the village) was going to be have too much of a negative impact on the old temples. Any pagodas which are structurally unsound or particularly vulnerable to legions of visitors have either been closed or made inaccessible in certain places (you are not allowed to climb to the top of some of them).
We tried to visit as many of the major temples as possible during our three days in town, but due to time restrictions and the fact that it was so damn hot the entire time we were in Bagan, our pace was slow and we didn’t see as much as we had hoped. The last morning before the crew returned to Nyaungshwe (I stayed in Bagan an extra day and then returned alone to Mandalay) we visited the archaeological museum in Old Bagan. That was the first time I had visited this museum and found it quite impressive. Strangely, visitors are not allowed to bring cameras inside the museum, but they do allow photo-taking phones!
The biggest change I see in Bagan, besides the higher number of tourists in the area, is the decline of the horse carts that were once a popular option for tourists wanting to see the sights. Instead, electric bicycles have become the rage and they are everywhere. Horse carts haven’t disappeared completely, but sadly they are becoming a rare sight.