Conquering armies led by various peoples (including the Pyu, the Mon and the Burmese) have marauded across this central plain, the ‘heart of Myanmar’, over the centuries. The area around Pyay served as the Pyu capital from the 5th to 9th centuries AD and some historians consider the Pyu to be founders of Myanmar’s ‘first empire’, although little is known of this vanished group.

Bagan’s burst of spiritual creativity lasted 250 years, beginning in 1047 and ending as the pounding footfall of Kublai Khan’s raiders approached in 1287. The latest empire to lodge in the area is the military junta, which founded the new capital of Nay Pyi Taw in 2005.