Bagan, Myanmar | Exploring Bagan’s temples

By Sacha Bunnik

Exploring Bagan and its surrounding countryside in northern Myanmar (formally Burma) is like taking a trip back in time, to a place where time has stood still. It’s what I imagine rural Thailand or pre-war Vietnam would have been like 50 years ago, so peaceful and so authentic.

Bagan is home to more than 1500 temples, monasteries and stupas, all spread out over a vast area. You find them between houses, in farmers’ fields and overwhelmingly you get the feeling that they are everywhere.

We arrived early in the morning after a short flight from Yangon, the current capital of Myanmar, and headed straight to the local Nyaung Oo Markets to experience the colour and smells of the local produce. The variety of fruit and vegetables on offer at this market was staggering. It’s nice to see the different tropical fruits that you don’t normally see at the big supermarkets back home, like the massive jackfruit.

Bagan's Nyaung Oo Markets

Natural shampoo at Bagan's marketsOur local guide Thynn explained all the different uses of everything we saw. She even showed us some natural shampoo that the locals used. My daughter Amie was not too keen to try this as it looked like a small bag of muddy water.

Shwezigon Pagoda in Bagan

The main reason for any visit to Bagan is to see the temples and stupas; it’s what put Bagan on the tourist map. Our first site was Shwezigon Pagoda, built around 2600 years ago and is said to house eight of Buddha’s hairs, making it one of the most revered places in Myanmar. It’s become a pilgrimage site and most people from Myanmar plan to visit at least once in their lifetime. The size of Shwezigon Pagoda is mind blowing, especially considering its age. The main stupa is 99 metres high and covered in gold leaf.

Sacha enjoying lunch in BaganLunch was at Queens Café, a local establishment where Amie and I ordered a full meal with drinks. It came to a total of $10 USD and was one of the best meals we had (the curry was not too hot).
After lunch we visited a range of smaller stupas and temples that are scattered around Bagan. Most are located in farmers’ fields which gives them the feeling they have almost been forgotten whilst life has continued on around them.

Stupas in the countryside surrounding Bagan
We were able to climb on top of one stupa, the staircase was very steep, but the view from the top was worth the effort. Bagan is a photographer’s dream.

Our Bagan hotel has a beautiful infinity pool

Sacha and Amie poolside in BaganIn the afternoon we enjoyed the hotel swimming pool. Built with an infinity pool, you can marvel at the temples in the distance while you bath. This is the same hotel we use for our clients in Bagan.

We got picked up at our hotel around 5ish for a sunset cruise on the mighty Ayeyarwady River.

Adding to the experience is that the boats are colourful, long wooden boats. Nothing was more relaxing than when the engines were cut so we could just float downstream. The magnificent sunset over the river and mountains just topped it all off.

You can visit Bagan on our fantastic 13 day Burma (Myanmar) Discovery tour. Click here for more details.

Sunset cruise

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