BAGAN — Situated 430 miles north of Rangoon, Bagan has never failed to attract local and international tourists. I witnessed this on the uppermost terrace of Shwe Sandaw Pagoda in the early morning, when dozens of Burmese and foreign visitors were waiting to see the sunrise over Bagan. [irrawaddy_gallery] Since Burma has been opening up to the world, the ancient temple town on the bank of the Irrawaddy River has seen a rise in international visitor numbers. Last year, the number topped 2 million, and, hopefully, it will be even higher this year. Known as the first kingdom of Burma, Bagan’s heyday—from the 11th to 13th century—saw more than 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries constructed in the Bagan plain alone. The remains of 2200-plus temples and pagodas survive to this day. For the Burmese, a visit to Bagan is a pilgrimage, while for outsiders it is trip to see the architectural wonders of ancient Burma.
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