Myanmar / Burma Travel Update
Since I was there, the situation in Myanmar/Burma has changed a lot. In February 2021, a military coup sparked widespread civil unrest and armed conflict.
The U.S. State Department currently advises: "Do not travel to Burma due to civil unrest and armed conflict." You can find their full travel advisory and security alerts here. And you can find the British Foreign Office's travel advice for Myanmar / Burma here.
Tayok Pye Temple (also sometimes written as Tayok-pyi) is one of the larger temples in the eastern part of the Bagan Archaeological Zone. It’s notable for intricate stucco ornamentation on the outside (much of it renovated) and its painted murals inside.
Precisely when it was built isn’t clear, but it is believed to have been before the middle of the 13th century. You’ll see a marker inside indicating a date of 1248, but that’s not definitive. At around that time, it would have been constructed during the peak of a building boom in this eastern part of the Bagan plain that began a century earlier.1)
Based on ruins around it, it was believed to have been part of a monastery, which would have added to the temple’s significance.
The layout of the temple is a large central core from which statues of the Buddha face outward in each of the cardinal directions.
Inside are several well-preserved frescoes. They feature figures heavily, with some of the best depicting the 28 Buddhas. Others depict specific miracles and Buddhist stories.
As impressive as it is, this temple is also a good example of one of the reasons UNESCO is conflicted about adding Bagan to its list of World Heritage Sites. The stucco on the outside is certainly impressive, but not all of it is original. Something like 60 percent is original, but you’ll also see a lot of new sections. And the main tower was completely rebuilt in the 1990s and is considered to be conjectural restoration, which means it’s really just a guess as to what the original looked like. So the line between restoration and rebuilding has been blurred here, as at a number of other sites. (Another impediment is that construction of new temples continued until halted until 2010, including some explicitly dedicated to the ruling generals.)
Photos of Tayok Pye
What to Know Before You Go
Tayok Pye is in the eastern part of the plain, over toward Nyaung-U, the airport, and the train station. If you’re looking to get there from Old Bagan or New Bagan, the best bet is by car (preferably with guide and driver). The electric scooters you can rent might make it there, but they might not have enough juice to make it back, so exercise caution.
This is one of the temples you can climb for the sunrise or sunset. If you get there when the sun is low, you might also catch the green and yellow glazed insets embedded in the outer walls to glisten in the sun.
- Donald M. Stadtner, Ancient Pagan: Buddhist Plain of Merit (Bangkok: River Books, 2013