Myanmar • Bagan Temples: The Ancient Burmese Empire at Sunrise and by Bike

Before talking about my personal experience, it’s best to know something about Bagan and its magnificent temples area. First at all: you will not enjoy this area in one day only (like the majority of tourists usually do) and the reason is easy, you will miss too many places, too many things.

From the 11th century to the 13th century the kings created the fundamental structures in Bagan to govern the social, economic and administrative system and allowed Bagan to become a city of wealth and power. The experts call this period “Bagan’s glory.” All this coincided also with an important transition from Hindu beliefs to Theravada Buddhism, the most conservative form of the religion. The Kings, inspired by their new faith, started to build, and build and build until Bagan started to become a pilgrimage point for Buddhists throughout Southeast Asia. Bagan was the First Burmese Empire. At present about 2200 temples and pagodas still survive.

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I visited Myanmar with my girlfriend Romina, great traveller and nature lover, she enjoyed the time we spent there, discovering the Myanmar’s history and culture. We stayed three days in Bagan to try to see as many temples as possible, marking those we wanted to visit on a map. Our accommodation was in Nyaun U and we started our exploration around the area following the main road to Old Bagan, a 1,5 km circuit took us to the temples within the old city walls. We saw Gawdawpalin Pahto, Mahabodhi Paya, Shwegugyi, few small temples and Mi Ma Laung Kyaung, this last site is the one that most impressed us on the first day.

The second day was the busiest and most exciting day. We woke up at 4 o’ clock to watch the sunrise from the top of one temple. Local people said there were many sites where we could have climbed to see the sun going up, but the hardest thing was to find one “empty” or at least not too crowded. We did not succeed, and we had to share the place with many other people, but we found a remote corner at the top.

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It was still dark and cold when we arrived there, something like 8 or 9 degrees and we were praying to the sun to come out. We couldn’t see any temple at the beginning, but after about one hour we noticed that the sky was starting to change color, from dark blue to a lighter shade of the color, after that a huge red line appeared to the horizon allowing us to see something surreal, hundreds of temples under a stunning sky. It was gorgeous, but there are no words to explain what I felt during that time. From the top I had a beautiful view of temples at 360 degrees, I couldn’t count how many, I suppose it is impossible. This sunrise was the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen in my life. Now, every time I look at a Bagan’s sunrise photo, it brings back to me so many fantastic memories of this wonderful place that you must see in your life.

We spent the second and the last day between the Central plain area (Dhammayangyi Pahto, Sulamani Pahto, Pyathada Paya), the North Plain (Amazing Ananda Patho, Buledi temple where we enjoyed the sunset) and some other areas where we saw one of the most beautiful temples (for my personal opinion) Dhammayangyi Pahto and few others.

We spent a total of three days discovering the Bagan area and the time was not enough, but we had a great time. It is impossible to understand the ability and effort involved in making each brick, then transporting them to the plain and building the temples without any technology.

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This place remains one of my favourite destinations ever.

A bus from Mandalay or Yangon is the best way to get there. From Mandalay the bus takes about 6 hours for 17$AUD, from Yangon, 15 hours and it costs 30$AUD.

Besides that, all foreigners to the Bagan Archaelogical Zone are required to pay 40$AUD entrance fee, which goes to the government. Now you are ready to explore the Temples of Bagan, but how? There are several ways to visit the temple: hire a shared taxi for a full day (60/65$AUD), take the local bus to Old Bagan and walk around the temples (2$AUD but you will see just a few temples in one full day) and lastly, and for me best option, is to rent an e-bike for all day (8$AUD). Traffic is almost non-existent on all roads and nearly every accommodation place rents e-bikes. It’s the best way to go around and visit a large range of temples (both Old and New Bagan).

The best time to go to Bagan is from November to February when it is not too hot.

All photos by Davide Fancellu



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