Bagan, also spelled Pagan, on the banks of the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River, is home to the largest and densest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins in the world with many dating from the 11th and 12th centuries. The shape and construction of each building is highly significant in Buddhism with each component part taking on spiritual meaning.
With regards to tour comparison between this immense archeological site and the other significant archeological gem of Southeast Asia, the Angkor sites, this analogy may be helpful:
Angkor ruins are like a Chinese Lauriat banquet where food is presented in spectacular servings and there is long wait between items. On the other hand, Bagan is served like Spanish Tapas style, in small bite-size servings, with the next attraction close at hand, in shorter intervals.
Another analogy between Angkor and Bagan Sites when distinguishing temple structures is through their stupa and spire shapes.
Artichokes and corncobs = Angkor while gourds and durians (or pineapple) = Bagan.
An example is gourd for Shwezigon Pagoda and durian for Ananda, Thatbyinnyu, and Mahabodi Temples. In another way of imagining, Bagan temples are like topped with inverted ice cream cones.
What makes the temples look romantic is the process of graceful aging. For some reason, there are no windbreakers around as shown by the barren, desert-dry mountain range to the west past the river, spinning occasional micro twisters that spawn loose dust particles everywhere from the eroded earth to the structures. This phenomenon had peeled off so much the stucco coating of the temples to reveal the brick structural blocks with its rusty, reddish, and sometimes golden brown-like patina when hit by the sun's rays.
Erosion is a significant threat to this area, not only the wind chipping away the buildings' plastering but also water from the mighty Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River threatens the riverbanks. The strong river current has already washed away half of the area of Old Bagan. It used to be a rectangular-shaped piece of enclave protected by a perimeter wall. Now what remains is roughly the triangular eastern half part.
Other images of Bagan which make a lasting impression to tourists aside from the spire-fringed skyline; stupas sporting that tumbledown look yet crowned with glitter-studded golden miter-like sikaras; the ubiquitous pair of ferocious stone lions flanking a temple's door; the spiky and lacy eave fascia woodcarvings lining a monastery's ascending tiers of roofs; tall palmyras or toddy palms with willowy trunks, bougainvilleas, exotic cotton trees, and the likes bringing life to the arid landscape and abandoned ruins; squirrels playfully and acrobatically scampering on the walls and pediments of temples; horse drawn carriages lazily carrying drop-jawed tourists; sleepy moving grandfather's bullock carts grinding on a dust-choked trail; not to mention the garbage left around, stray dogs loitering, longyi clad men spitting betel chews in copious amounts everywhere, overgrown weeds and the pestering dust.