We spent the last 3 days in fairytale Bagan, where thousands of Buddhist temples, stupas and pagodas are scattered in an area of about 5000 hectares. Even the partially 38-39°C could not take away the magic of this place.
Bagans´ temples were built mainly between the 11th and 13th century, when Bagan was the seat of the Myanmar dynasty, and were renovated widely during the last 3 decades. There are different architectural styles: some square buildings have narrow and dark corridors, 4 entrances facing each direction, others have bright spacious interiors. The stupas stand out with their beautiful, often golden cone tops reaching into the sky. On some pagodas we could recognize Hindi style marks, on others elements of the Chinese architecture.
Wherever you turn you can be sure to find at least a small sanctuary or pagoda, one more beautiful than the other. Except for the real big ones, most of the time we were alone at the monuments, or maximum a handful of people were joining us in admiring the sites. This added a lot to the spiritual atmosphere of these locations.
The big tourist highlights, like the Shwezandaw or the Shwezigon Pagodas, the Ananda, Htilominlo or Dhammayangyi Temples were much more crowded. However we were smart enough to start our days early so we have experienced some of them more peacefully then we would have later in the day. Around these monuments there are dozens of vendors, most of them very nice and not too pushy, but it can already be felt, that the increase of the touristic interest has an influence also on the attitude of the locals.
Sunset in Bagan
A common activity of visitors after 4:30 PM is to start looking for a place to contemplate and photograph the beautiful sunset. One should find something by 5 PM latest, otherwise you don’t get a good spot, and the Sun disappears shortly after 6 PM. The tourist busses are taken to the big temples like the Shwezandaw Pagoda, this is where we also went on our first evening – gorgeous view, far too many people. The next evening we were hunting for a less popular location where we could spend the sunset hour, and randomly chose a smaller site with terraces and fewer visitors. This was much more enjoyable and tranquil than the previous day.
There are several ways to get around in the rather wide area: by tourist bus, taxi, collective taxi, horse carriage, biking or hiking. We chose renting 2 electronic mopeds. This was a great idea; they served us well during our expedition tours, and gave us independence and freedom. After the insecurity of the first hour we quickly learned to love the small speedsters, and toured the surroundings in their saddles with great pleasure. The only downside was the return ride after sunset, as our vehicles were completely missing any backlighting. But as most real motorbikes and even some of the cars don’t even have headlights here the traffic is anyway going rather slowly, so this also worked out well in the end.
The three days in Bagan were full of magic moments: beautiful sunsets, sunrises with balloons, encounter with a group of Buddhist novices (child monks) singing together a slow prayer, catching a glimpse of a monk crossing the beautiful corridor of a temple, friendly, helpful people, and good food. We fell in love with this place, someday we should return.
The photos are a selection of our favorite ones taken in Bagan. We hope that we can give you an impression why we are so enthusiastic about this place.