After ten months in Asia we’d definitely seen our fair share of temples by the time we arrived in Burma. In fact, after our temple-hopping experience in Cambodia we thought we’d seen the absolute cream of the crop – how could anything top the mighty Angkor Wat? Despite all this we stepped off the bus into a sweltering, dusty Bagan afternoon with open minds, ready to explore the thousands of ancient pagodas which litter the countryside.
Breakdowns and Beauty in Bagan
Now, we haven’t had the best luck when it comes to capturing sunsets and sunrises on our journey. Normally the ones we set out to see are a cloudy mess while we occasionally find ourselves spontaneously experiencing something beautiful – the lollypop-pink sunrise on the way to Milford Sound in New Zealand for example, or the purple-bruised sunsets of the Philippines. Despite all that, we got up at the crack of dawn in Bagan, shivering as we sped along at 20 miles per hour on our e-bike to watch the sunrise over the temple-studded fields.
This time, miraculously, we weren’t disappointed – the sun rose and the sky turned from shades of milky grey to orange, illuminating the spikes of pagoda-tops stretching far into the distance as hot-air balloon silhouettes sailed by. The sunrise wasn’t a fluke and we were blessed with more beautiful sunsets during our trip Burma, it’s one of the things I loved most about our time in the country. I also cherish meeting some Burmese tourists while we were in Bagan; groups of women were keen to have their pictures taken with me and at one temple parents brought their kids over to greet and shake hands with us – the Burmese people are incredible.
The beautiful scenery, kind people and good food we enjoyed in Bagan was countered by some tricky situations concerning touts. I’ve already shared the story about our e-bike break down which led to us being befriended by a boy posing as a student who turned out to be an unfriendly salesman in disguise. After this episode we were much more on guard during our time in Bagan, we were polite but firm with sellers and locals who approached offering to show us around – we’d definitely learnt our lesson the hard way.
The Temples of Bagan – in Pictures
Despite having seen so many temples during our time in Asia, Bagan was unique in that there are so many pagodas in one place; stand atop one and you can see them stretch off for miles into the distance. Many are simple red-brick, hat-shaped structures while others are larger and contain Buddha statues; some are gothic in appearance and there’s even a Hindu temple. We took hundreds of pictures while visiting Bagan, particularly of the spectacular sunsets and sunrises, here are some of our best shots.
Visiting Bagan – the Logistics
- Bagan is one of Burma’s most popular draws for both international and Burmese visitors and it was the most touristy place we came across during our time in the country. Be prepared to be hounded by touts and sellers, some of whom will offer to show you around for free and then try to charge you later on or get you to buy their goods.
- There are plenty of Bagan hotels, most are overpriced due to growing demand and expensive government licenses; you may need to book in advance, especially during peak season.
- There are three areas to stay in; Old Bagan, New Bagan and Nyaung-U, which is the cheapest area. We opted to stay at Shwe Na Di Guesthouse in Nyanung-U, which cost £15 per night.
- To get around the temples we rented an electric bike and caused a commotion by insisting they give us helmets to wear, this cost us £5.50 per day.
- There’s a smattering of decent restaurants in Bagan and the aptly named vegetarian place, Be Kind To Animals, served the best food we had during the whole of our time in Burma.