Asia

Guide to Visiting Bagan

I’ve been dying to visit Bagan for years now, but given how long it takes to get from New York to South East Asia, it wasn’t until I had time in between jobs to finally get all the way over there.

I ended up booking to stay in Bagan for five days. Most people only stop in for two or three days, but I’m really glad we spent a lot of time here.  There are literally 1,000s of old temples here, and there are so many corners to explore. It’s like an immersion into an Indian Jones movie. Usually compared to Angkor Wat, the two sites are very different, but I personally enjoyed Bagan more mostly because I felt we had more independence to explore.

Bagan was once the capital of the Pagan Kingdom which constituted modern day Myanmar.  During its height they built over 10,000 temples, pagodas and monasteries.  Over the years, all common buildings, made from wood, crumbled and disappeared, but 2,200 of the Buddhist temples and pagodas built from brick still stand (some in better conditions than others).

See it on your own. The major tour groups only hit the main sites, and seems to lack flexibility.  Not to mention I hate crowds.

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You’re gonna need a moped/e-bike. Especially if you are going to self tour. Bagan covers a massive area, and you can’t get from one site to another solely on foot, biking would be difficult too. You can pretty much rent  mopeds for cheap anywhere.

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Follow the back roads. In my opinion, the real wealth of Bagan lies hidden off the beaten path.  So follow some random dirt roads and explore any ruins you come across (there will be tons).  Most tourists stick to the main road, and hit the major temples.  The main sites are beautiful, and impressive, but swarmed with tourists, which takes the charm away. The empty, crumbling temples were what I liked best.

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Keep going… Just when you think you’ve hit the end of the road, look around, there is usually another path heading further in to the ancient city. Remember you are allowed to follow the back roads. They are not off limits (one of the best parts of Bagan.

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Explore every nook and cranny of each temple. Some of the temples have hidden staircases leading to roof access and awesome views.

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Be careful while climbing. While climb down off a roof, I fell (only about a foot), and managed to slice my foot open on a brick (we were climbing barefoot because you can’t wear shoes in temples).  Unfortunately, I managed to gush blood all over an ancient monument. Cool. I hobbled down, and was wailing while my brother tried to calm me down.  Some men from the village near by even came over and offered to put me on their ox cart and take me back in to the town (lol). It was deep enough I may have needed stitched but that wasn’t really an option, so we had to bandage it up as much as possible and power through.  I couldn’t really walk on it the rest of the trip, and had to toss my sneakers due to the blood stains.

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Have Lunch at the Aureum Palace Bagan. If I was traveling with someone who was going to bank roll my trip, I would have had them book me at this hotel. It’s gorgeous. The view from the pool is unreal.  Lucky for lowly hostel dwellers like me, you can visit for lunch and take in the view.

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Wake up for sunrise… and stay out for sunset. You need to get to a good view point for both events at least once.  Otherwise, did you even go to Bagan?

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Find your hidden gem. Especially important for watching sunset or sunrise! I’ll lend you my favorite spot. We visited it for both sunrise and sunset multiple times.  Go to Dhammayazika Pagoda. When you get to the gate, where you would take off your shoes, turn right, and continue down the dirt road. Go for a while, until you find a medium sized temple. In good condition. Look for the staircase inside the temple, and climb to the top. There was only a few other people here on the occasions we went. It was perfect.

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Balloons Over Bagan. Expensive, but worth it.  I wasn’t going to come all the way to Bagan and not do this!

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11 replies »

  1. In recent years, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of Bagan because it’s so close to my surname (Bhagan). It looks like a place you can explore for several days. I’m sorry to hear you got hurt while climbing and hope you’ve healed nicely by now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m also dying to visit Bagan! It really does seem like it would be immersion into an Indiana Jones movie. Love the idea of exploring on your own via bike, I hate getting caught up in crowds of people too, and really don’t enjoy the tour experience anymore. Like to travel at my own pace. You got stunning photos, isn’t it amazing exploring the back roads! I love finding hidden gems off the tourist trail by exploring deeper into the country.

    Yikes though, I’m glad you were ok from that fall (relatively anyway!!). Noted to be careful while climbing! Sunrise looks like the most magical time of the day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! I can’t believe I had never even heard of Bagan until now. It looks amazing, and I love that there are so many options for getting “off the beaten path.” Great recommendations regarding taking the dirt paths as well as renting a moped. I want to go here so badly now! And it looks like an incredible place for a hot-air-balloon ride as well! Hope your foot is all better now!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. 2200 temples are just wow! Those temples look like some great architectural gems. We are completely in awe of the panorama dotted with temple spires, sailing over them in hot air balloon is a fantastic idea. Love the idea of temple hopping on own without the crowds and the tours, in that way you get to explore much more than offered.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your pics are amazing! I never knew that Bagan was once the capital of the Pagan Kingdom. I not sure what camera you use but again the pics are amazing! The best way to see things is usually by yourself going early and avoiding all those pesky crowds 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! To be honest I’m not sure what my camera is but it’s a mirror less lens, which takes SLR quality photos but the camera itself is much less bulky so it is great for traveling lighter.

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  6. I just want to get this out of the way first – your photos are so beautiful and captivating, especially the ones of the hot air balloon. Speaking of the hot air balloon, I’ve always wanted to try those. I hope I could visit Bagan and some parts of Myanmar soon. This is one destination that I am getting more curious of the more I read about it. And you’ve completely sold it to me. I loved my visit to Angkor Wat but I also hate the crowd. Hence, this would be a worthwhile option too!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow I would’ve loved to stay in Bagan for 5 days! I only had 1-2 days there unfortunately and it didn’t feel like enough time (esp since we had to pay a bunch just to enter the archaeological zone!)

    Your photos are beautiful, and I love the close ups you got of the hot air balloons. I didn’t make it close enough to the balloons when I was there and just got to see them from afar. Looks like you guys had a wonderful time!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I never knew of Bagan before reading your post. 2200 temples in one place and this is most convincing reason to wishlist this place. Ride on Hot air balloons must be beautiful. Also exploring this place through moped is a great idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Lately, I have been seeing so many articles and posts about Bagan that I am thinking to visit it soon. Hopefully, 2018 is the year. I knew Bagan has many temples but 2200 temples is a crazy number. I have been dying to experience the hot air balloon at sunrise.

    Liked by 1 person

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