When someone speaks of Myanmar, the first thing that comes to mind are the pagodas of Bagan and this place actually lives up to its name and people’s expectations. This ancient city of Myanmar, located on dry and arid land next to the Ayerawaddy river is surprisingly not a UNESCO World Heritage site as it has all the necessary ingredients.
These 11th to 13th century pagodas were built in plenty during their high time. Today, they exist sprawled on the plains of Bagan for the tourist’s eyes. Some of these temples are really large and spread large areas. When the Anawratha kingdom was in its peak dominance, there used to exist more than 12,000 pagodas. Today, only about 4,000 adorn the plains of Bagan.
Most of the tourists coming to Bagan either stay close to the old city of Bagan, the New Bagan area or in the closest town of Nyaung Oo. While staying in the old Bagan area ensures easy proximity, the costs are fairly. Nyaung Oo is more popular with budget travelers who either hire a bicycle for 1,500 kyat or a horse cart for 15,000 kyat per day.
If you want to do the entire Bagan temple loop, then you need at least 3 full days. But, most tourists coming here stay only a couple of days. Personally, I would recommend staying at least 5 to 6 days and explore some of the less popular, but equally beautiful temples. Sunrise and Sunset is ideal for photography and the weather is also very bearable in this hot and arid terrain.
For those looking to do a whirlwind tour of Bagan, visit the following temples: Dhammayangyi Temple, the largest temple of Bagan; Ananda Temple, the most beautiful temple; Thatbinyu temple, the tallest temple; Shwe San Taw Temple, the famous sunset temple and Bupiah Temple, the river view temple. While most of the tourists throng to the Shwe San Taw Temple for sunset views, I think this temple also makes for a great sunrise view owing to its 360 degree view.
There are many other temples that allow you to climb up and see great views of the plains and the stupas. Most of the temples have blocked the stairs to the top in order to prevent further damage to the monuments. If time is on hand, a good conversation with local Burmese people can lead to a lot of interesting options for fabulous views and photographs.
To visit these temples, one needs to buy a $10 ticket that will be collected at one of the bigger temples. This ticket is valid for a period of 7 days. In terms of other less popular temples, but equally stunning architecture and views are the Thandawgyi temple, Gawdawpalin temple, Shwegugyi temple and the Htilominlo Temple.
It is possible to walk from one temple to the other, but it depends on the temperature as Bagan is known to get notoriously hot during the day in the summer months. While walking allows you to find unknown temples, a lot of tourists prefer to hire a bicycle. If you want a classical experience, take a horse cart after bargaining very hard as the horse cart drivers are known to ask for too much money. There are also air conditioned cars and buses with tour guides if you wish for more comfort.
These ancient temples are one of Asia’s venerable wonders and should not be missed on your visit to Myanmar. The awe inspiring pagodas here weave a certain magic especially during the early morning hours when they appear from the mist. A truly stunning sight.