Ten pagodas have been the focus of a request for a lift of the climbing ban in the Bagan cultural area. Many of Bagan’s temples have inner hallways and rooms as well as small staircases which lead to upper levels. These have been the most popular places for tourists to gather to watch the wondrous Bagan sunsets and sunrises. Many of these pagodas were shut to tourists since last year after reports of improper conduct and potential damage to the ancient structures from the high footfall. According to an official of Nyaung U District General Administration Department, the discussions are still ongoing.
“Visitors have not been allowed to climb the pagodas since the ban.
Currently, to reopen the pagodas is just at the suggestion status. The relevant experts are still in the process of discussion and coordination of which pagodas are fit enough to be reopened and which ones are not. For the time being, 10 pagodas have been nominated. We have been holding monthly meetings at which this topic is discussed. Even if they are reopened and accessible, there will be changes made compared to before,” said U Khin Zaw, deputy district officer of the department.
Meanwhile, some sources in the tourism industry and locals gave their views saying that the number of traveller arrivals to Bagan went down in 2018 after the ban on climbing ancient Bagan pagodas for sunrise and sunset viewing.
Some organizations including an entrepreneurs association and local private bodies, submitted a letter of suggestion to the relevant regional government and the ministries, which brought international experts, retired director-generals of the Archaeology Department and the National Museum, and archeological research organizations together for discussion.
Zaw Zaw Htun who runs a laquerware business in Bagan said that he would like to change the regulations to allow a limited number of persons to access the pagoda at a time, and that it is not good to place a total ban on access.
“It is also not good if unregulated access is allowed. During the ban, I have seen fewer visitors coming here,” he added.
The ban was brought in by the authorities to counter some improper behavior that was occurring around the sacred temples – some visitors or travellers were found to be drinking alcohol there and were wearing immodest attire which is inappropriate for the religious nature of the temples.
Despite the suggestion, some travellers have been in agreement with the ban, acknowledging the danger of collapsing temples or debris falling due to deterioration of the ancient structures, as well as the risk of earthquakes and therefore it might be best to keep the ban which is also helpful to preserving the heritage of the country.