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Destinations Uncovered: Bagan

Next stop, exotic exploration.

Photo Courtesy of Tiberio Frascari

By Noah Henkell • Published on 3/8/21 • 3 min read

It’s not everyday you learn about a city that birthed an entire civilization. At its peak, Bagan was the cultural, economic and academic hub of Southeast Asia. It fostered religious growth, it inspired mesmerising creations. Come and learn more about an ancient city that created a roadmap to the future. This article kicks off our three part series entitled, Destinations Uncovered: Bagan.

One of the central tenants of Global Extreme’s Go Where Others Don’t Go lifestyle is inspiring exploration to certain destinations across the world that would not otherwise be considered. Through this, Global Extreme seeks to bring some of the world’s more hidden geographic, historical and cultural treasures to the forefront.

“The structures pierce the breathtaking landscape, reminding visitors of a city that transformed an empire”

- Noah Henkell

Deep within the Mandalay region of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, rests an ancient city which catalyzed the unification of warring kingdoms, fostered growth for one of Asia’s most prominent religions, and plays host to an architectural landscape that rivals any of the famed “Seven Wonders of the World”. Today, the city of Bagan tells the story of the birth and development of Burmese society. While historians have theorized that Bagan was first established sometime around the 2nd century, the city did not enter a period of prosperity until the mid 9th century under King Anawratha, who successfully unified all of territorial Burma under Theravada Buddhism. Further, the King encouraged massive immigration of people into the Pagan Kingdom as they were seeking fertile farmland next to the Irrawaddy River. Over the course of the next couple hundred years, Bagan (serving as the capital city of the Pagan Kingdom) transformed into an economic and cultural power which served as the capital for the Pagan Empire.

By the 11th century, this once barren land had become home to over 10,000 temples, pagodas, stupas, and monasteries. Among these is the Ananda Temple, which was constructed during the reign of King Kyansittha and is famous for its flawlessly crafted dimensions. Coined the “Westminster Abbey of Burma”, the great minds behind the construction of this holy site utilized architectural traditions from a variety of local and foreign cultures. This unusual technique of combining diverse engineering practices speaks to the intellectual prowess of Bagan and Pagan Kingdom during the height of its power. Tragically, as for most of the prominent societies throughout human history, the power did not last for long. By the end of the 13th Century, the Pagan Kingdom and its capital city of Bagan were conquered and virtually wiped out by multiple Mongol Invasions led by Kublai Khan, the grandson of famed Mongol leader Genghis Khan. From that point up until today, past and present citizens of Bagan have attempted to preserve, renovate and rebuild the city’s most holy and significant sites.

While Global Extreme encourages exploration to this historically rich and relatively overlooked site, we would be remiss not to inform you about potential dangers which could arise. Currently, the nation of Myanmar (in which the city of Bagan is located) is in the midst of a military coup after decades of political tension and disputes over democracy which have boiled over into physical violence. We recognize that Go Where Others Don’t Go is the lifestyle, but we fully desire for you to travel safely and wisely so you can continue to pursue that lifestyle. Enjoy the exploration.

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