Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Burness Corner: Ananda Temple in Bagan

The latest in the series of snippets from the blog of my travelling companion, Burness, as well as a short interview, on his views on a World Wonder. This time: Ananda Temple in Bagan. Burness's focus was more on the overall ruins of Bagan, rather than just Ananda Temple, although he more-or-less agreed with me that Bagan was a little too spread out to be considered a single Wonder.

Burness's Blog

Imagine all the medieval cathedrals built in Europe on an area the size of Manhattan, and then you get an idea of the magnitude of the construction in Bagan. There were 4400 temples built over a 230 year period on the riverside plain.  The first temple our guide took us to was one that we could climb up. The temple was perfectly positioned for our first stop, right in the heart of Bagan with a great 360 degrees panorama. The view was breath taking, probably one of the best views I have ever seen. Everywhere you looked you could see temples, as far as the eye could see. Some were mere simple stupas, while others were of grand design with ornate towering spires. None of the temples individually are of colossal proportions, it’s the sheer number of them that is remarkable. It helps that the landscape is fairly flat and barren every direction the temples are visible. 

Our guide took us round the biggest and most famous temples during are day tour. The most famous one of the lot is Ananda, one of the largest and best preserved temples of Bagan. It has an imposing 52m high corncob golden spire in the centre, with four more gilded spires on the end of a raised square platform. Like most temples in Bagan it is terraced and it’s possible to climb up to the top, although the upper floors are closed to visitors. As an individual entity it’s nice to look at and fairly impressive in stature, but just not outstanding. Our favourite temples of Bagan were the ones we could climb to the top, with amazing views. It just goes to show that’s it’s the vast number of temples that’s the exceptional feature of Bagan. 

We spent four days in Bagan, but I could have spent more. It was a relaxing place, and a good break from our recent city stays. There was still plenty more to see and do, I could have stayed just to watch another couple of spectacular sunsets. But as we had a fixed return flight we had a tight schedule in Burma, and it was time to move on.


Had you heard of Ananda Temple or Bagan before travelling?
Not before I set off. But since, I'd heard about from you, or seen photos and read up about it on the Lonely Planet.

What were your expectations?
High. Not for Ananda, but for Bagan itself. The Lonely Planet had a good description and it got me interested.

What was your first impression?
First impression of Ananda or Bagan? Bagan - we got a guide on our first day, he took us up a temple that had an amazing 360 panorama, and I was blown away by the sheer scale of the construction and the numbers of temples for as far as the eye could see. Abanda - wasn't that impressive on its own.

What did you like most about Ananda Temple and Bagan?
The awesome view. Probably one of the best views I've ever seen. Ananda? Eh... about how old it was. The best temples we enjoyed were the ones you could climb up to see the spectacular view and you couldn't climb up Ananda.

What didn't you like about Ananda Temple and Bagan?
Not much I didn't like about Bagan. I could have stayed there another few days. Ananda... it was a bit dirty wasn't it? [Not especially].It just wasn't that big, or significant on its own.

Would you regard Ananda Temple as a World Wonder?
Bagan - yes. Ananda - no. 

Would you regard my disqualification of Bagan as fair?
Depends if you disqualify Easter Island. (Burness agrees that to include Bagan as a Wonder would open up entire cities for inclusion; however, he says that to be consistent I will surely have to disqualify Easter Island, as the statues there were built over centuries and are very spread out. As I have yet to visit Easter Island, I can't accurately assess it right now.)


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