Bagan was the area of Myanmar, if not the entirety of Asia, that truly took my breath away. A forgotten area. It’s sleepy, it’s peaceful, its truly magnificent.
Originally, 10,000 religious monuments were constructed (consisting of stupas, small temples and monasteries) in an area of 104 square kilometres on the Bagan plains. There was over 400 recorded earthquakes between 1904 and 1975. So, now just over 2000 of the magnificent structures remain in the area; and I assure you they are truly astounding. Whilst exploring Bagan a tour guide described the climate to me as being set into 3 distinctive seasons: Hot, Hotter and Hottest. Bagan is dry, and the temperature can be brutal but its unique and beautiful and feels somewhat magical.
With over 2000 temples it’s quite overwhelming on your first day to know where to begin. You will read endless posts recommending routes and if I’m going to be completely honest, it’s unnecessary. With such a vast array of temples both large and small there really is no reason to create a strict route, that you will inevitably divert from anyway. You have the option of taking a bicycle or electric bike to explore the area – the latter obviously being the most popular.
Not only are the temples incredible, there’s an amazing range of accommodation and plenty of friendly locals to chat to. In addition, there is a surprisingly fantastic range of restaurants providing everything from Thai food to pizza. I would recommend taking the time to research your hotel and maybe even splashing out a little bit more than normal. You will find yourself exhausted from the intense sunshine and heat and may need to retreat back to your hotel around lunch time.
There’s lots of restoration currently ongoing in the Bagan area; which has sparked a mixed reaction from locals and tourists alike. This ‘beautification’ combined with the recent addition of a watch tower and golf course were the main reasons that Bagan previously wasn’t a UNESCO world heritage site. However, on 6 July 2019, Bagan was officially inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. One of the highlights of my whole trip to Myanmar was climbing to the top of one of the temples and watching to world go by. There’s now only a handful of temples that tourists are actually allowed to climb. This number is deteriorating year on year. Meaning that soon watching the sunset over the temples will be a thing of the past; perhaps for the sustainable best.
I guess amongst all this rapid change, the only clear advice is go. Go now.
See a full 3 week itinerary for Myanmar (Burma).
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