Bagan History, Money, ATMs and Advice
Bagan is located in the heart of the South-East Asian country formerly known as Burma but now known as The Republic Of The Union Of Myanmar. The country is commonly referred to as simply Myanmar and is the largest country in the Asian peninsula with a total land mass of over 675,000 square kilometres. It borders five countries, Thailand, China, India, Laos and Bangladesh and Bagan was historically at the heart of trade between the China and India resulting in its great wealth.
History Of Bagan
Bagan was founded in the second half of the 9th Century by the Bamar people who arrived in the region from the Nanzhao Kingdom. The Bamar invasion was one of numerous waves of people from the north-east into the fertile area and led to the formation of the new Pagan Empire.
The Pyu people who had occupied the region for the previous 1,000 years, building numerous City States in and around the Irrawaddy Valley, Mu River Valley and the Kyaukse Plains most notably Halin and Sri Ksetra, were gradually absorbed into the Pagan Empire.
The growth of Bagan saw it become the capital of the Pagan Empire from 1044 CE until 1287 CE and with its location between China and India a centre for trade and learning. The cultural, economic and political rise of the city spawned the building of thousands of religious buildings including 1,000 stupas, 3,000 monasteries and 10,000 temples in an area of just forty-two square kilometres.
The city attracted scholars and monks from great distances including India, Ceylon and the Khmer Empire to study Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism and Tantric Buddhism.
Bagan And UNESCO World Heritage
In 1996 the Burmese government nominated Bagan for UNESCO World Heritage Site status which was granted in 2019. UNESCO has suggested improvements which need to be met including ‘working towards building heritage sites founded upon stable and effective conservation and preservation strategies’.
Currently UNESCO are working alongside the Burmese to sympathetically preserve the sites and prevent further damage.
The local currency is called the ‘Kyat’ and is abbreviated to ‘K’ which normally precedes the amount, for example K1000, although some append the ‘K’. The currency was floated against the US Dollar by the Central Bank of Myanmar in 2012 and it currently stands at around 1300 Kyats to 1 US Dollar. Although the currencies are both legal tender most major payments are priced in US Dollars, for example hotels, restaurants and airplane tickets, while minor payments are often carried out in Kyats. It is recommended to bring some new US Dollars with you as although there are now ATMs in the country the charges for using them can be quite high. When using US Dollars the condition of the notes is studied carefully and even the smallest blemish, tear or crease can mean the note will not be accepted. The condition of the average Kyat is conversely often very poor, although there is no problem spending these.
ASIA GREEN DEVELOPMENT BANK
Bagan-Chauk Rd, Tharabar Gate, Old Bagan
ASIA GREEN DEVELOPMENT BANK
Near Zfreeti Hotel, Nuang U
The Hotel @ Tharabar Gate, Old Bagan
Bagan Hotel River View, Old Bagan
Bagan Umbra Hotel, Nyaung U
Zfreeti Hotel, Nyaung U
1517 Myanmar Handicrafts, Shwesigon Pagoda, Nyaung U
Bagan House Lacquerware, Jasmine Road, New Bagan
Kaytumadi Dynasty Hotel, Myat Lay Road, New Bagan
MYANMAR ORIENTAL BANK
6 Cherry Street, New Bagan
Health and Safety
The same precautions should be taken as in many developing countries
Do not drink the local water but buy the readily available and cheap bottled water
Do not eat unpeeled fruit and vegetables and be wary of food sold from the street stalls
Do use a high factor sun cream on all exposed skin to protect from the intense UV rays
Do use a DEET-based insect repellent to avoid bites from mosquitoes especially around dusk
Do wear a sun hat and light cotton full-length clothing
Respect the local culture
Remove footwear when entering temples and other holy places
Dress conservatively, do not wear tank-tops, sleeveless blouses, shorts or other revealing clothing