Bagan is one of the richest archaeological and historical sites in Asia, featuring more than 2,000 pagodas and temples all set on a vast plain beside the legendary Ayeyarwady River. During the Bagan era (11th to 13th centuries), Burmese was written for the first time and it was at Bagan that the modern form of Buddhism – still practised widely today – developed. The city was the seat of religious learning of both the clergy and laity. Mingalazedi was one of the last great stupas to be erected at Bagan and is a fine example of the skills of the Bagan temple builders. It is also a favourite spot to catch the sunset. Foreign visitors to Bagan can be found on the steep steps waiting for the magical moment; as the sun sinks behind the Ayeyarwady, cameras click can be heard almost continuously. Bagan now features a variety of good hotels and is also the starting and ending point for cruises on the Ayeyarwady River to and from Mandalay. A unique travel experience is a hot-air balloon ride over the archaeological zone, which is available during the winter months.
Mount Popa is an extinct volcano and at 1500 metres is the highest point in the Bago Yoma mountain range. The main attraction of the region, however, is the smaller, 730-metre conic rock Popa Taungkalat. Also known as the “Olympus of the Nats” because it is the home to Myanmar's legendary 37 "Nats" (animist spirits), one hast to climb 700 steps accompanied by a crowd of monkeys to reach the top of the volcanic plug, with its many shrines and monastery. This effort is also rewarded with an extraordinary panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. Around the area of Mount Popa is Popa National Park, which features dense sandalwood forests and rare species of birds and butterflies – certainly worth a walk or trek. Other attractions include two important “Nat Pwes” (or festivals) held each year – one in May-June and the other in November-December – when people from all parts of the country come to appease and worship the spirits. These spirits are evoked by so-called “Natkadaws” (mediums), who offer their bodies to individual ants. The nats still play an important part in many people's lives in spite of the dominance of Buddhism.
Visitors to Bagan often make the 40-kilometre trip south to visit Salay, an ancient town rich in Myanmar culture. Also located on the banks of the great Ayeyarwady River, another pleasurable way to reach Salay is by one of the small motor boats available for hire at Bu Paya jetty. It is worth visiting for it’s exceptional 18th century wood carved monastery, known as Yoke Son.You will see the amazing largest lacquer of the Buddha in the country at the Man Paya Pagoda;it have been built in the 13 century. Don’t forget to visit the museum dedicated to the famous Burmese 19th-century writer; U Pone Nya. It’s a great way to spend an hour soaking up some of the literary heritage of Myanmar
About 32km west of Bagan, Pakokku is located on the western bank of the Ayeyarwaddy. Pakokku is a tobacco trading town of the area in addition to its famous checked blankets made from cotton, and thanakha It is a stopping point for visitors who want to travel to Chin State by public bus and to across the river Irrawaddy to the ancient city of Bagan sitting on the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwaddy. From there on the way to Monwya you can pay a visit to a wooden monastery of Pakhangyi built in 19 century. Another place to visit is the destroyed monastery of Pakhannge, once the largest wooden monastery in Myanmar. Besides, the town is also a noticeable Buddhist centre with more than eighty monasteries. One of the most famous pagodas in Pakokku is Thiho Shin Pagoda, built by Kung Alaungsithu. The Pagoda contains an image presented by the King of Ceylon some 800 years ago, one of the most renowned in Myanmar. Thiho Shin pagoda festival is held from 8th waxing day to 10th waxing day of Nayon annually. Besides Pakokku, we can also find another famous pagoda such as Thiho Shin Pagoda and Shwe Ku Pagoda which is famous for its wood carving and houses a Buddha image seated on a lotus throne.