Friday, August 18, 2017

Two pagodas resume sunset viewings

Two Bagan pagodas have reopened for climbing, allowing tourists to scamper up for iconic sunset views. Clambering atop the ancient relics has been prohibited at dozens of the more famous pagodas since damage sustained in the August earthquake.

Initially, the Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library had banned climbing for a year until restoration work could be complete. But as of this month, two pagodas, Shwe San Taw and Taungguni, have been reinstated into the sunset ritual which draws tourism to the area and is listed as a “must-do” activity in Myanmar by several guide books.

In addition to Shwe San Taw and Taungguni, before the quake, Pya Thet Gyi, Bu Lal Thee, Myout Gu Ni, Thitsar Wadi and Bagan Hmaw pagodas were all considered ideal sunset-watching spots.

It is unclear for how much longer any of the pagodas, including Shwe San Taw and Taungguni, will be open to climbers however.

Nyaung-U District general administrator U Soe Tint said climbing on the ancient structures is not sustainable, and alternative viewing platforms should take their place.

“When people climb on the pagodas it can cause long-term damage,” he said. “Currently, land for viewing areas is being sought.”

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 Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is in the process of constructing a viewing platform next to Ko Mauk Lake as an alternative vantage point for sunset viewings that will preserving the monuments.

All expenses for the platform are being covered by the Japanese government, U Han Nyunt, the deputy in charge of JICA’s regional tourism development projects, told The Myanmar Times on September 12.

The platform is expected to open for viewings soon.

“Ko Mauk Lake, where they are currently constructing a new sightseeing platform, is almost finished,” U Soe Tint said. “After government approval, people can take in the scene from Ko Mauk Kan.”

The new viewing platform will have three viewing areas.

Translation by Emoon