Bagan is a city located in Central Myanmar. If Cambodia's Angkor is known for its sophistication in stone and bricks, Myanmar's Bagan embodies immense beauty and solitude with countless of sacred temples and pagodas.
Founded in mid-to-late 9th century, Bagan is the most massive and, of course, must be a superb highlight when visit Myanmar.
Balloons in Bagan
Main history event:
Repairing and refurbishing structures of temples as well as pagodas in Bagan is considered as the top one priority issue even after the independence of Myanmar. Especially due to two massive earthquakes in 1975 and 2016, all historic temples in Bagan got prodigious damaged; and by the fact that Bagan has not yet listed as world heritage by UNESCO, this triggered Myanmar government even more.
But the two earthquakes could not cease temples and pagodas in Bagan any less value. Culture and history still remain the same, and that’s what makes Bagan an informative destination for travelers around the world.
Main history attraction:
Ananda Temple: Built in 1105, Ananda Temple is recognized as the most beautiful one, well-known for its gold-plated outside and ceramic-decorated on the inside. Although it had been refurbished after being damaged, the spectacular Ananda temple has never been disvalued. Besides, it is marked as the best restored ancient temple in Bagan. Another reason for you to visit this temple is the Pyatho full moon festival, which is celebrated between December and January according to Lunar calendar. This must be a remarkable experience since you can join the locals to deeply understand Buddhism as well as Myanmar culture.
Htilominlo Temple: 113 years after Ananda Temple, King Narapati Sithu built the very last temple in Myanmar style of Bagan for his crown prince named Htilominlo. You must be impressive by how meticulous Burmese were by just looking at details on the walls and pathways leading to the inner sanctuary.
Shwesandaw Pagoda: Being one of the tallest pagodas in the region, Schesandaw stands out in the plains of Bagan, giving you a breath-taking observation from afar. Tourists can easily feel the sacredness of Shwesandaw pagoda, which looks like an Egyptian pyramid with 4 sides, 5 distinct floors and a stupa (a bell-shaped tower) situated at the top. The temple was built by King Anawrahta in 1057 to house a Sarira (a sacred Buddhist relic) - one of the Buddha's 8 hair strands that had been procured from India more than a thousand years before. Taking a boat tour on the Irrawaddy River is another interesting route to Shwesandaw that you should definitely try out.
Shwezigon Pagoda: Known as one of Bagan's oldest and most impressive monuments, Shwezigon Pagoda attracts tourists from the giant gilded layer looming under the sun. Located in the center of a large platform, there are many other small temples and pagodas surrounding. The highlight of Shwezigon is a bell-shaped stupa that is completely gold-plated on a square base with golden lions in each corner. You would get attracted to the boat tour on the Ayeyarwaddy River where you can observe the pagoda and enjoy the magnificent overview of Bagan at the same time. In the evening, the temple is projected like a stage with countless lights creating a mystical atmosphere.
Mount Popa: This would be a top-notch spot for sporty travelers since you have to join the 777-step adventure to get to the mountain peak. But this spot reaches the next level when you have to climb on barefoot entirely in respectable clothes since this mountain is considered as a religious place to the locals. Along the climb, you can find many curious monkeys occupying the food stalls. From the top of the mount, the landscape is marvelous and refreshing with dreamlike foggy forest surrounding and the blue sky connected by beautiful horizontal line.
Nyaung U Market: Almost all kinds of stuffs in Myanmar can be found in this “wet” market, from longyi (traditional Burmese sarong) to modern clothes, from colorful veggies and fruits to fresh fish, from products made from rattan to tea leaves - one of the famous specialties of Myanmar. Nyaung market has many suppliers selling excellent local ceramics, which can be gifted to friends or beloved ones as a souvenir. Tourists also have the opportunity to mingle with the people of Nyaung U village and experience a day in your life as a local.
Culture (ethnicity, living custom, religious belief, special tradition festival etc.)
Dhammayangyi Temple Bagan
Myanmar is the country has high respect in Buddhism, so before packing stuff and heading straight to Bagan, you have to make sure your luggage includes appropriate clothes: shirts have to come with sleeves, pants must go below the knee. Also, since you have to visit temples in Bagan on bare foot, a pair of sandals or slip-on is highly recommended. Don’t forget to bring some tissue to clean up your feet after visiting temples.
It would be great if you visit Bagan around November – February since the weather is pretty dry and temperature is not yet on-and-off, perfect for any activities from climbing mountain to travel by boat across places.
From March to May, temperature would rise up high due to the sunny season.
Rain would fall heavily around August – October.
You can get all the ancient and chill vibes by watching sunrise or sunset from old temples. That would be something most photographers have been waiting for, so if you want to take cinematic pictures of sunrise or sunset with long exposure, you have to set up your tripod from the very soon moment to have the best sightseeing view. It would be tough with timing and waiting at first, but really worth the wait.
Currency: Local currency in Myanmar is kyat. The rate of money changing at airport is nearly the same as locals, so when you get to Myanmar, simply just exchange money while waiting for luggage. Although US dollar is accepted in some hostels and restaurants, those places are not really "local". If you want to enjoy being a local Burmese throughout the trip, having cash in hand is a must.