shared by MaMa on 05/02/15  -  irrawaddy.org  -  Travel

RANGOON — A UK-based travel magazine has designated the ancient Burmese city of Bagan as the second-best city in the world to travel to in its annual Travel Awards Survey, based on the votes of readers.

Bagan came in second behind the Unesco World Heritage-listed city of Luang Prabang in Laos in the “Top City” category of the Wanderlust Travel Magazine’s 2015 awards, which also included the categories of top country, top emerging destination and top international airport.

Founded in 1993, the magazine announced the results of its latest survey on Jan. 29 during “Destinations,” a holiday and travel show held in London. Burma also polled 9th in the “Top Country” awards category, with New Zealand claiming top spot.

Bagan was built from the 9th to 11th centuries, a period in which some 55 Buddhist kings ruled during the Bagan Dynasty. The ancient city covers an area of about 26 square km and features more than 3,000 temples. Around 120 temples have stucco paintings and 460 have mural paintings that are in urgent need of conservation work.

Zaw Win Cho, a resident of Bagan and a local tour guide, told The Irrawaddy that the award designation could help attract even greater numbers of tourists to the already popular city that was “full of ancient pagodas and scenes of rural life.” He said that most visiting foreign tourists had told him that Bagan was a very peaceful city to spend time in.

“To sustain Burma’s tourist attractions is a challenge,” said Tin Aung Tun of the Union of Myanmar Travel Association. “The number of tourists coming to Burma has increased rapidly since 2013 and due to weakness in infrastructure and human resources we have had to work hard.”

Kai Weise, a World Heritage expert involved in formulating a heritage nomination and protection plan for the temple complex of Bagan, told The Irrawaddy in October last year that the site was on track to achieve a Unesco World Heritage Site listing within the next few years.