Exploring Bagan

Since coming back from Myanmar, I have struggled with what to share about my trips. So much to tell and so many photos I would like to show. There were so many experiences – it is overwhelming.

I was telling Husband some of the stories a few days ago and mentioned again that I am planning for us to go to Myanmar together next February. He is skeptical and still not convinced that it is somewhere he wants to visit. And then it hit me. Instead of bribing or forcing or continually talking about it until he gets fed up and just agrees in order to shut me up (yes.. it’s happened before. I know it’s not the best process but very effective on Husband!) I am going to show him what I loved the most, what surprised me and what I would like to show him next year.

Bartek and I spent 4.5 days in Bagan, which was nowhere near enough time. People call it the Burmese ‘Angkor Wat’. I’ve been to Angkor Wat and I was not as amazed as I was with Bagan. Bagan is extraordinary. I loved the ‘real’, unsullied by tourism feel it had. Maybe this was how it was years ago in Siem Reap. I am sure Bagan will change soon too as it is the most well known tourist site in Myanmar.

There are temples everywhere. I was afraid that thanks to Bartek’s obsession with cultural artifacts, I would be completely ‘templed out’ after a day or two, but that wasn’t the case. There are over four thousands temples, pagodas and stupas in the Bagan Archaeological Zone (100km2). You can see them everywhere: from our hotel terrace, behind shops, literally by the side of main roads, and of course in the middle of the many fields. Some of them massive and magnificent, some falling apart with trees growing out of them and some brand new, just constructed. Different temples are famous for their sunrise views and others for sunsets. Unfortunately, sunset is also when all the tourists arrive – buses and buses of them. Each temple and stupa has it’s own name.

We rented bicycles from our hotel on the first day, eager to start exploring straight away. We quickly felt at ease exploring temples and stupas. We had planned to rent e-bikes with electric motors or hire a horse and cart (15-20USD per day), but that never happened. Both of us absolutely loved riding bikes (no gears of course, but what was more important were the brakes..). Sometimes it was tough (in the middle of the day) and exhausting (sandy roads) but it was easy to get off the beaten track and see some of the lesser known temples and stupas. Usually we were the only people in sight. Bikes are definitely the best way to explore Bagan.

Our hotel was located in New Bagan so everyday we had to cycle a few kilometers on dusty asphalt and dirt roads from one pagoda to another. Lots of kilometers everyday. I loved the workout. We never really worried about getting lost. Although we had 3 maps, they usually and completely contradicted each other. Once we spent 45min pushing our bikes through the middle of a field under a blazing sun after Bartek suggested a shortcut. Thankfully, we still managed to find our way back to civilisation. Usually we just asked passing villagers or tourists for directions.

There was no need to hide or lock bicycles. We just left them wherever, usually with shopping (Bartek’s!) sitting in the baskets, and would came back an hour or two later to find them in the same spot with everything still there. We only realised that bikes had locks on the last day when Bartek tried riding off with some random black bike he assumed was his..

  BaganBartek pedalling ahead past one of the many temples.

        BaganBurmese people still come and worship at the temples. Sometimes alone. Often with entire families. The biggest temples can get crowded but it is very easy to get away from people.BaganOur trusty bicycles which served us well during our entire stay in Bagan (3USD per day per bike).

Bagan

BaganPainting on the wall of Sulamani temple.

Bagan

BaganLady napping in the temple.

BaganStatue on the left side of the west entrance hall of Ananda Temple.

Bagan

BaganSand paintings for sale outside one of the temples.

Bagan

Bagan

BaganI loved exploring different temples and pagodas. You never know what you’ll find inside. Sometimes there are huge statues and villagers hiding from sun. Sometimes a couple of teenagers on a date sitting close together and chatting.

BaganBartek admiring Thatbyinny Pahto Temple.

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