Myanmar’s ancient cultural heritage emerges with the Pyu ancient cities of Halin, north of Mandalay, Beikthano, close to the country’s new capital of Naypyitaw and Sri Ksetra, near Pyay along the Ayeyarwady River, whose remains are now UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The Pyu people were eventually subsumed by the ascent of the mighty Bagan Empire, the remains of whose great city still stand majestically on the Bagan plain, along the east bank of Ayeyarwady River, close to the modern town of the same name.

During this period of transition, according to most historians, the Mon Kingdom in the south were constructing the famous Schwedagon Pagoda, now in modern day Yangon, though prevailing local tradition places it within the lifetime of Gautama Buddha in 600 BC.

The ancient city of Bagan and its empire was a rival to the much better known Angkor Kingdom in Cambodia, and its ancient architecture is regarded by many as the equal of the more famous site, with over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries constructed during the period of its heyday from the 11th to 13th centuries AD, some 2,200 of which remain readily visible today.


After the eventual fall of the empire, in 1287, at the hands of the Mongols, the empire fractured into several rival states and the heritage of the Burman peoples re-emerged in the fourteenth century as a new kingdom centred upon the city of Inwa (also known as Ava) situated further eastward along the river close to Mandalay.


The small contemporaneous kingdom of Sagaing just across the river also existed at this time, while the Arakan post-Bagan Kingdom thrived to the west of Myanmar and evolved into the Mrauk U Kingdom, whose remains can still be seen today on Myanmar's west coast.


The remains at Amarapura, now a suburb of Mandalay, was the successive capital after a devastating earthquake at Ava in 1839 destroyed much of the city. Many of the structures of Amarapura were physically moved to Mandalay, which briefly became the capital prior to the fateful British takeover which established Rangoon (Yangon) as the capital.