Page C2.1 . 29 March 2006                     
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    Postcard from Bagan

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    Bagan, Myanmar (formerly Burma), is home to the gold leaf-covered Shwe-zi-gon-Paya temple complex and about 2000 stupas, pagodas, and other temples. Photography by Ian Morley.

    Dear ArchitectureWeek,

    In an expanse of land almost as arid as a desert, lies a relatively unknown architectural jewel one that is well worth investigating further for those with a spirit of adventure. This region of 16 square miles (40 square kilometers) was once filled with over 13,000 stupas, temples, and pagodas, and some 2000 or so remain today. Bagan, in the center of Myanmar (formerly Burma), can be thought of as a sister of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, though here tourists are fewer, and the most common form of transport is the horse cart.

    Dating from the 11th century, Bagan may be to Buddhist religious architecture what Chicago and New York are to skyscrapers. At almost every turn, vistas are filled with seemingly countless temples. The Shwe-zi-gon-Paya temple complex is covered in gold leaf and glimmers in the sunlight.

    With stonework of ageless detail and buildings of exquisite beauty, there is little chance of taking bad photos, unless of course a local farmer and his herd of goats walks casually into your view. Escaping from goats and the relentless sun into the temples, you discover monumental statues of Buddha. Frescos painted on the walls, some up to 65 feet (20 meters) long, have a quality that belies their age and the simple materials used to create them some 800 years ago.

    On the road in Myanmar,
    Ian Morley


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