The most famous of all Burma’s attractions lies downstream of Mandalay. Bagan is the ruined capital of a civilization that thrived from the 9th to the 13 centuries, rivaling the Khymer Civilization of modern day Cambodia. The houses, roads and huts of the everyday people have long disappeared, leaving the remains of hundreds of Buddhist temples and thousands of ruined pagoda, covering an area of over 100 square kilometres.
The main temples and shrines are still current places of worship, maintained and run by large communities of monks. Other smaller shrines are maintained because of the amazing carving and art that still covers their walls and ceilings. Many others litter the countryside, some overgrown in bush jungle, others standing in the middle of rocky fields from which the local population try to eke a crop existence (helped, it must be said, by the money being brought in by visitors which is no longer kept within government hotels and restaurants.)
The sheer size of the site means that you need a vehicle to get around its main sights. A great way to spend an afternoon is to rent a bike and leave the tarmac behind, exploring some of the side tracks and footpaths that head off into the countryside and finding overgrown and tumbling stupas and temples wherever you go. It has an Indiana Jones mystique to it you just don't get parking by the main temples. The locals still farm and graze around the ruins, meaning you are never far from someone to talk too or being pointed in the right direction.