17.01 Bagan 2, Laquer-work, Shwezigon pagoda, markets and villages
Buddhist monuments in Myanmar fall into 2 basic styles – solid pagodas and hollow pagodas. Solid pagodas are solid conical structures with a central treasure vault below. Hollow pagodas are built with a hollow chamber in the centre where pilgrims can enter to worship or meditate. Shwezigon Pagoda with its golden stupa is the most important pagoda in Bagan. It was built in 1057 AD as a centre of prayer and reflection by King Anawrahta, the founder of the first Bagan dynasty. The Shwezigon is the prototype for all later Myanmar stupas.
Nobody elected to take part in the planned sunrise viewing excursion, because of the weather forecast. It had rained quite heavily in the night. Nevertheless we started at 8.00 with a visit to a lacquer-work factory in nearby Myinkaba, the Shwezigon pagoda, Nyaung U market and Minnanthu and West Pwasaw villages. The latter were more or less attuned to tourists, which one can view positively or otherwise. They are of course keen to receive some remuneration for posing for out photographs.
In the afternoon there was more sightseeing, Thisawadi pagoda, and an attempt to see the sunset from the top of Pyathada pagoda, which of course did not really happen. We were lucky though with the unexpected appearance of a large heard of cows and goats just before we arrived there and they were also visible later from the vantage point of the pagoda.