Niche with carving, Sri Ksetra, Pyu Ancient Cities. Jacques Beaulieu /Creative Commons
For over 1,000 years between 200 BC and AD 900, the Pyu civilization flourished on a well-irrigated patch of land next to the Ayeyarwady River, until invasions from the neighboring Nanzhao kingdoms brought them down.
The Pyu impact has lasted over the millennia, as their urban planning and especially their devotion to Pali-based Buddhism were retained by succeeding polities till the present day.
You can visit the remnants of their cities in Myanmar today: the Ancient Cities of Halin, Beikthano and Sri Ksetra were recently inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, with palace citadels, burial grounds, city walls and brick Buddhist stupas still standing, the last remnants of the Pyu's power.
Halin City contains a massive Palace Citadel, built around a spacious Assembly Hall that retains the original brick platform. The city's history is laid bare at the Halin Museum, with10 glass cases bearing objects found around Halin, including pottery and stone slabs inscribed with Pyu writing.
Beikthano City spans around 900 hectares, all containing a collection of Pyu-era city walls and gateways, religious monuments, residences and a grand palace. At the Beikthano Archaeological Museum, exhibits showcase found items, and surmise about the city's unique structural remains.
Finally, Sri Ksetra City is notable for its massive Baw Baw Gyi pagodas, the earliest-known Buddhist monument in MyanmarThe local archaeological museum contains notable cultural artifacts, Buddha images, Pyu silver coins, beads and other objects excavated from the locality.
Pagoda at Sri Ksetra, Pyu Ancient Cities. Jacques Beaulieu /Creative Commons.
Women circumambulating pagoda at Sri Ksetra, Pyu Ancient Cities. bianca polak /Creative Commons.
Welcome sign, Sri Ksetra, Pyu Ancient Cities. Jacques Beaulieu /Creative Commons.
Similar Southeast Asia Experiences
If you're after an Indiana Jones-like experience in other ancient cities around Southeast Asia, you can travel within Myanmar to the temple-strewn plains of Bagan. Elsewhere in the region, we recommend you travel to Cambodia's Angkor Temples; Hue, Vietnam's Citadel and the nearby My Son temple complex; the mysterious Plain of Jars of Laos; and the Philippines' UNESCO Churches.