In surrounding countries, Myanmar is known as ‘the golden land’, and when you fly into cities such as Mandalay and Yangon it’s easy to understand why. From the sky you can see glittering golden stupas and pagodas dotted throughout the countryside and nestled among busy city streets.
On the ground, you can’t go far without coming across a gilded Buddhist temple; the largest are on hills in town centres and the smallest are tucked at the base of old trees outside people’s homes. Gold adorns almost all of them, and there are thousands of them throughout the country.
The temples of Bagan
The Irrawaddy River flows through the heart of the golden land. Its banks are quintessential Myanmar (also known as Burma), with massive temples on hills, monsoon clouds above jungle-covered mountains and floodplains with houses teetering on stilts above the water line.
According to Mandalay Business Forum, there are more than 700 golden temples on Mandalay’s surrounding hills, which can be seen from the river. And around the city of Bagan, further down the river, the remains of 2,200 temples and pagodas are scattered across the horizon.
At its height between the 11th and 13th Centuries, the Kingdom of Pagan (now known as Bagan) was home to more than 10,000 temples. It was during this time that Buddhism expanded in Myanmar, though the origin of Buddhism dates back more than 2,000 years.