Preserving remnants of history

By | Travel
Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon.Credit@Timothy.Neesam.flickr.com

Myanmar, located in South East Asia, is a historically significant country which became independent from British colonial rule in 1948. Also known as Burma, Myanmar has a largely Buddhist culture, which may be found in the many temples, monasteries and sculptures in Yangon, Mandalay and the ancient kingdom of Bagan. The Buddhist temples may be the most important architectural features throughout the country, and many serve as religious schools, community centers, guest houses and getaway retreats. Many tourists visit Myanmar to experience the culture and view its historic sites, however the Ministry of Culture has expressed their intent to change the ways in which tourists may experience these sites of interest.

According to recent developments, Myanmar’s Ministry of Culture intends to change the rules regarding climbing the ancient temples in the city of Bagan. At the moment, tourists are able to be as close to these ancient structures as they wish, and this includes climbing on top of the famous pagodas. A popular tourist activity in Bagan is climbing the temples to take photographs of the scenery and watch the sunrise or sunset. Although this may be an enjoyable and memorable activity for visitors to Bagan, this may prevent the archaeological site from being preserved for future generations. Therefore, this move by the authorities may aid the protection of the pagodas from rapid deterioration and preserve pieces of their country’s history.

Farmer working nearby Myanmar's ancient kingdom.Credit@Jennifer.Stahn.flickr.com

Farmer working nearby Myanmar’s ancient kingdom.Credit@Jennifer.Stahn.flickr.com

There are over 2000 temples at present in Myanmar, and UNESCO has restored many of these. According to the UNESCO website, they have restored many temples with the intention of re-creating the spirit and feeling of these ancient cities in Myanmar. The ancient kingdom of Bagan dates back to the early second century BC, where more than 13,000 temples were constructed. Over time, many temples have disappeared due to earthquakes, being exposed to the elements or washed away by the River Irrawaddy. Some of the most notable temples are the Dhammayangyi, which may be one of the oldest existing temple in the area, and the Ananda temple, which stands out amongst the greenery with its gold roof. The Ananda temple was built by King Kyanzittha and is considered the largest and best-preserved temple in Bagan, which was restored following an earthquake in 1975. Inside many of the temples are Buddhist statues and ancient inscriptions depicting the Buddhist religion. Inside the Ananda temple, there are several 30-foot-tall standing Buddhas facing in four directions to represent the four Buddhas which have attained enlightenment.

Pagodas in Bagan.Credit@Christopher.Michel.flickr.com

Pagodas in Bagan.Credit@Christopher.Michel.flickr.com

 Besides the temples in the ancient kingdoms of Myanmar, tourists may visit Inle Lake, a picturesque body of water known for its floating villages, gardens and markets. Here, tourists may dine by the lake and enjoy locally sourced food or shop for traditional handicrafts in the markets nearby. In the floating village of Nampan, wooden houses and pagodas are built on stilts and there are floating gardens in which local people grow vegetables and flowers. This method of agriculture is another unique aspect of life on Lake Inle, as the villagers have harnessed nature to develop these gardens over many generations. The Nga Hpe Kyaung monastery is located on the lake and may be a site of interest for tourists who want a cultural experience where they can meet the monks who live and practice here. Alternatively, tourists may travel to the Red Mountain Estate vineyard in the hills for a wine tasting experience. The vineyard also aims to offer panoramic views of the lake and the chance to sample some locally produced wines.

 What alternative methods may the Ministry of Culture take to preserve their ancient tourist attractions?

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