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.
Nagayon Temple, about half a mile south of Myinkaba Village, gets its name from the large serpent mouths that arch over the statue of The Buddha in the main shrine. Naga refers to the serpents, or king cobras, that you see stylized around the place, often protecting the entrances to wats and pagodas.
According to the temple’s founding legend, it’s built on the spot that Prince Kyanzittha slept while a naga watched over him.1 It probably dates to around the end of the 11th century.
Inside is dark, but there are dim corridors with rows of niches, each with (or at least once with) statues.
In the tall main shrine area, a few small skylights in the ceiling let in the only natural light, and if you’re there at the right time of day you can see them line up with the face of the main statue.
Not everything you see here is original. In fact, much of it is the result of various restorations. The spire that appears in very good condition was rebuilt after the 1975 earthquake. The inner sanctum was refurbished sometime around the late-18th or early-19th century (probably; the dating is unclear).
The temple does feature some very old and impressive frescoes, but they’re currently in poor condition, require a torch to see, as well as some patience to hunt for them. I had a hard time finding them and a harder time trying to photograph them.
Photos of Nagayon Temple
What to Know Before You Go
Take a flashlight (torch)–it’s dark inside.
As with many Burmese names, it has been transliterated into English in various ways. You’ll also see it written as Naga Yon Hpaya.
Nagayon Temple is about half a mile south of Myinkaba Village, close to Apeyadana Temple. If you’re heading down the Bagan-Chauk Road, it’s on the same side of the road as the morning market and opposite side of the road from Manuha Temple.
It’s sometimes locked up, but it’s worth trying again some other time because you might be lucky and find it open.
- Donald M. Stadtner, Ancient Pagan: Buddhist Plain of Merit (Bangkok: River Books, 2013) p.180-85. [↩]