Sunsest viewings in Bagan are about to get a new vantage point.
For years, tourists have been clambering on top of the ancient pagodas to catch the iconic sight, and the activity is regularly included as a “must do” on Myanmar tourism lists. But scurrying up the sides of the old relics can cause damage, Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Assistant Director U Han Nyunt said yesterday. To lessen the burden on the pagodas, JICA is hoping to arrange a viewing area next to Ko Mount Lake.
“Ko Mount Lake is in the centre of Bagan’s ancient heritage region and it is very convenient for watching the sunsets,” U Han Nyunt said.
To better enhance views from the lake, the bank, which now stands at 2 feet high, will be raised to 4 feet.
He added that allowing tourists to clamber on top of the archaeological sites “is not good for the pagodas in long term”.
Residents, the regional government and the Ancient Culture Department are all coming around to the idea of directing tourists to the lake in Phwar Saw West village, he said.
Previous attempts to curtail pagoda sunset viewing raised ire in the tourism industry. In February, the Ministry of Culture banned pagoda-based sunset viewings after a private company had conducted a show on top of a monument, which allegedly reflected poorly on Myanmar’s heritage. The prohibition was rolled back amid outrage from tourists and tourism operators.
The viewing-area proposal has regaining traction following the damage imparted by last month’s earthquake. Centred in nearby Chauk township, the 6.8-magnitude quake damaged nearly 400 pagodas. Government officials have estimated restoration work could take one year.
The proposal will be submitted to the government in the next month and, if permission is granted, the project will be completed in two months – before the end of the year.
“So, next tourist season, locals and foreign travellers will be able to take in the view from the bank,” U Han Nyunt said.
Project expenses will be covered by the Japanese government.
“If we watch the sunset from the bank, it protects the strength of pagodas and provides advantages for residents,” said U Aung Aung Kyaw, director of the Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library in Bagan. “The travellers can buy handicrafts from the residents. Mainly, we must keep the bank of the lake clean.”
Translation by Khine Thazin Han