Bagan (Pagan) the ancient city in Mandalay – the largest and formal toyal capital city of Myanmar (Burma). The New and Old Bagan is located in Nyaung-U District of Mandalay. The region covers 100 square kilometres with over 2500 temples, monasteries and Buddhist stupas, remaining one of the most popular tourist destination in Asia. Bagan is one of the two most significant ancient cities in South East Asia, along with Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It used to be a capital city of Pagan Kingdom. Approaching such a massive tourist attraction it is good to have an itinerary, so here are number of useful things to know before you go, to make your sightseeing most convenient and adventurous. Entry tickets are valid for three days, so you have enough time to plan your touring wisely. I would advise to book accommodation in advance, it’s a centre of country’s tourist industry. The place was very busy in early 2015. However I heard the standard and number of places has increased significantly, and more visitor are heading top luxury places to stay.
Where to stay in Bagan, Myanmar?
On the bus to Bagan I met a very nice German girl and we agreed to get a room together, as a cheaper solution. When you travel for months, maintaining your budget is imortant. Besides travelers company is invaluable! It took as a while but we managed to find a double room for 15$ per day – two beds and a ‘shower’. Generaly the accommodation standard in bagan is not great. Unless you are staying in 5 star hotels or spa resorts where the price per nights reaches $100.
2 star hotels will cost you about €8 (very difficult to find)
3 stars: €13-€18
4 stars: €25-€35
5 stars: €80-€100+
To give you an idea our 3 star room was very basic, bathroom was old with a pipe shower and a toilet. It didn’t matter for me, since I was outdoor for the most of the day, especially in such magnificent area like Bagan. And I was happy to have a friend for Bagan adventure. Plan your first day to start early in the morning with a sunrise over Bagan’s teples complex! Shockingly beautiful.
Tips before going to Bagan.
There is number of usefull information to know before exploring Bagan, Myanmar. Bagan is under a zone of silence, which means you won’t be available to explore this huge area by noisy tuk-tuks. Only bikes, eco-mopeds and droshky are available for rent. If you are thinking of a bike, remember you need to be very fit enough to cycle long distances in a heat and high humid conditions. I wouldn’t recommend droshky, as as the horses are highly overworked. I am fit but the only solution for us was eco-motorbike.
- One thing to carry with you BUG SPRAY – the amount of mosquitos is insane.
- Try your eco-motorbike while renting, it drives differently from traditional ones and make sure all works well.
- Mind your self-powered bikes battery – it is usually charged for max 8 hours.
Sunset over Bagan, Myanmar.
Magic sunrise over Bagan.
One of the things you can’t miss is sunrise over Bagan. This is one of the most memorable and mystic experiences ever. Firstly, you need to get a map of Bagan and ask for best sunrise and sunset view points. For sunrise majority of people will be heading toward Shwesandaw and Dammayangi temples. But there are other temples for Bagan sunrise – Bulethi or North Guni Pagoda (separate entrance fee apply). Your maps will be very useful when exploring the area. You need to wake up around 4 am if you want to make to your temple for the sunrise. Unfortunately my German friend reveled she’s not going, although we agreed on our plan. Well, that means I’m driving alone in a total darkness, trying to find the right way to the right temple. Try to reach your sunrise temple as early as possible to secure a good viewing spot!
The way was not that scary when I think about it now, but there were glowing eyes of wild animals hiding everywhere in the bushes. Even I checked the previous day the way to the temple, it was still quite challenging to locate it in the morning. It was almost 5am when I finally parked my eco-moped and the air was chilly. I was sure I’m the only person in the area, but while climbing the stairs I noticed several camera lenses on the top of the temple.
Sunrise times depend on a season: March – July the sun rises around 5:30am, August to February 5:30-6:00 am.
Dress warm, wear socks or a scarf!
Bagan sunrise view is breathtaking! Usually it is chilly in the mornings. You would need to leave your shoes at the entrance of the temple and remain bare feet for couple of hours. Day-time temperatures in February-March reach 32-40 Celsius degrees, to drop dramatically at night-time to 10 degrees. Dress warm for a motorbike and take socks to wear on the top of the temple. I learnt from my mistakes and my feet were frozen after few hours at the top. Remember about temples dress-code, always have a scarf with you to cover yourself if required in a sacred place.
Explore the history of Bagan temples.
There’s fascinating history behind almost every temple in Bagan, Myanmar. There are some incredible history facts behind some of the Pagodas, while others would be a complete mystery like with Bulethi Pagoda, one of the best surise spots in Bagan. Imagine in the past there were 13 000 temples in this deserted area, while treasure thieves and earthquakes would significantly reduce the number of stupas overtime.
Bagan in a hot air balloon!
One of the most fascinating ways of exploring Bagan is in a hot air balloon. This is only available from October till March. There’s a maximum of eight people allowed in one balloon and keep in mind there’s no toilet. 😉