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One of the most remarkable sights in Southeast Asia, Bagan has inspired visitors to Myanmar for nearly 1000 years. The kingdom of Bagan took root in the 8th century but only rose to glory as capital of the First Kingdom of Myanmar in the early 11th century. Ancient chronicles say that there were once 4446 temples over its wide plains but today only 2230 remain, as recorded by UNESCO in 1988.

King Anawrahta, who ruled from 1044 to 1077, initiated the building of temples on this vast plain. The decline of the kingdom in the late 13th century is popularly believed to have resulted from an invasion of Mongols led by Kublai Khan. The capital was shifted from Bagan to Pinya and then to Inwa near modern-day Mandalay, where it remained for centuries.