|1996||Tentative list||Submitted as tentative site by State Party|Alexander Parsons (Australia):
While in Mandalay in December 2013, I felt compelled to visit the remote archaeological site of Halin, as it seems likely to be Myanmar's first inscribed site during the convention in 2014. Had this not been the case, it would be inconceivable to spend a day travelling out to this location, through extremely rutted 'roads' that are normally limited to motorbikes and ox-carts.
The local archaeology department certainly believes that it will be inscribed, and probably the most fascinating aspect of the visit was seeing the site staff in 'UNESCO preparation mode'. A museum was being literally built in front of us, with the small existing part filled with artifacts in plastic bags. Staff were categorising them with photos, and assembling a large table-map of the area. They seemed a bit flustered to have foreigners barging in, but happily charged us for a $5 entrance ticket. An English language brochure was supplied, with 'UNESCO nominated world heritage list' as the initial heading. This was obviously new, as was the English language signage on the building.
The actual site is spread across a large area of peanut farms, with a few dozen specific areas of excavation. These are not impressive ruins like more famous ancient cities or temples, but instead foundations of walls and monuments, slightly rebuilt to about knee height. This is not to say they are not interesting, but do not expect to be awed at first glance.
More shocking were the sites of human burials, but not for the correct reasons. Archaeologists were working in these sites, noting meticulously in English while trying to ignore our intrusive presence. Unfortunately, they ignored our guides insistence that we go down into the actual pit, where we were handed bronze spearheads and actual bone fragments! Picking up such things for touristic handling is something I would never do of my own accord, and being pressured into handling them was surprising and uncomfortable. Worse, in wandering around the pit, the guide stepped onto a human armbone, from somewhere between the 4th and 9th century, and crushed it beneath her feet. She didn't seem to notice.
Overall, it was a worthwhile day, but I'm not sure I could recommend it once the novelty of UNESCO-related scrambling to be a 'proper' tourist destination dies down. Hopefully by then more sensible rules can be in place regarding access to the dig sites.
Date posted: January 2014
Have you been to Pyu Cities: Beikthano-Myo, Halin, Tharay- Khit-taya (Sri Ksetra)? Share your experiences!