Bagan – The Glory of Myanmar

Bagan is the capital of the 1st Myanmar Empire. It is one of the most or should I say the most visited place in Myanmar. This is the richest archaeological site in South East Asia.

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Bagan is situated on the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwady River. As locals said, there were more than 3,000 temples, pagoda and stupas in this land. After the devastating earthquake on 1975, there are 2,200 structures remain.

How did I get to Bagan? My hostel offered bus booking reservation. After asking for the price it is more expensive with them. Luckily, I saw the Tourism Office near the Burma High Court; they assisted me to book a bus going to Bagan. I was more comfortable to book a bus with them.

The bus will leave by 8 AM. The tourism officer recommended riding a mini bus from Sule Pagoda to Aung Mingalar Bus Station. It was cheaper; you just need to wait to fill the seats. I expected that the mini bus will drop me off exactly on the next bus I will ride upon.

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However, the mini bus has a different terminal; I was looking for my bus for about 20 minutes. Wheeew! At last, I found it!

After waiting for an hour, we boarded on our bus. I was very happy to pay a very comfortable seat. It will be 9 hours to reach Bagan. Nevertheless, I love a long ride in the mornings. It can be more expensive than night buses but the safety is my basis. What I love more in morning travels is that I can see the road, I can see locals, I can see how a place is changing from every minute.

The bus arrived at 4 PM in Bagan, I looked for a public transportation that can take me to my hostel. It was getting dark and locals said that my bus is the last scheduled arrival for the day. I got no option to ride a cab. The bus station is far from New Bagan where my hostel is. I was delighted to ride a cab then and see some stupas around. My cab stopped in the tourism office to pay the archaeological fee. I attempted to use the pass given by my friends in Yangon. Tamara and Cesar mentioned that it was insane that none of the temples and pagodas that they entered asked for the pass. So I was thinking if I can use it since it is good for 5 days and that was the 5th day.

But my luck went away, I entered Bagan by 6:30 PM, the entrance pass is until 6PM only. It is more honest to pay though. 🙂

Where did I stay? I booked Bagan Central Hotel in Agoda.com. Blogs said that is cheaper to stay in New Bagan than Old Bagan. It is distant from the temples and pagodas but it has cheaper restaurants and hostels to choose from.

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The hotel looks old because of the woods and fluorescent lights. My room is kinda creepy as this is very large and there are three mattresses only. Breakfasts are included in my reservation and this is what I enjoyed most in my stay.

To read my full review about Bagan Central Hotel, view Old-Looking but Nice! in Tripadvisor.

How did I get around Bagan? I tried to ride an e-bike offered by my hostel. It looks easy but not for me. It can be a cheaper way to see Bagan yet e-bike doesn’t like me at all. 🙂 It was also my first-time to ride a motorcycle (alone) and I don’t want to sacrifice my safety. I decided to rent a horse cart for a day! 🙂

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Don’t get me wrong, I tried to look for someone whom I can share an e-bike (be my driver) or in the horse cart; but no one was there. 😦

Alternative to e-bikes and motorcycles are taxi. They are all over New Bagan. It can be more comfortable for me but since it is more expensive and I wanted a bit unusual, a horse can be more fun.

Solo travel problems, your transpo can be expensive. However, I knew this day will be awesome!!!

I stayed in Bagan for 3 1/2 days but 2 days are enough. These how it went:

Bagan Day 1 – Temple and Pagoda Day

I met Bobu, my horse cart carrier; Nanda our lovely horse. We started the tour at around 8 AM. I was eager to use this day to maximize my cart rental. As I was still on a distressing mood of paying more, I want everything to be covered. The horse cart ride was bumpy and dusty but for me it was the most entertaining way to see Bagan.

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Each temple has different style and stories. Bobu mentioned there were many rulers in Bagan before. It can be the reason why there were different kinds of temples and stupas. The rulers were like in a marathon of how many temples, pagodas and stupas they can build. Now, we have some clue why it is so plenty!

Here were the 15 temples we visited on my 1st day in Bagan:

Lawkananda Phayar – This one of the two temples near the Ayeyarwady River. It is a small temple that actually interests you more with the River itself. The Ayeyarwady River is vast!

The pagoda was built by King Anawrahta in 1059 A.D. Locals said that this one of the best attractions to see sunset. Oh crap! We were there in morning! 🙂

Sein Nyet Pagoda – The first picturesque pagoda I visited. I was captured by the red bricks and the structure.

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It was like I owned this temple!! 🙂

Lay Myin Hnna Temple – One of the temples where you can climb and see Bagan at its best! I was really happy to see this temple as this one of the things I picture myself out. Nothing beats the feeling when you are on the top.

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A kind Burmese selling sand paintings helped me out to climb the temple. He was one hell of a good photographer for taking me good photos on the top.

He offered me to buy some of his paintings but I refused though. I was still on the verge of not spending too much. I just said a little prayer for him and his family.

Naga-Yon Hpaya – It is another beautiful temple to take photos. I am stoked by seeing bigger temples and no other tourists were there at that time.

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So I took the opportunities to take many photos. Tripod can help but the bricks are always there to help.

Nanpaya Temple – Built on the 11th century and made by half brick and half sand stone. The entrance gate shows bricks of sand stones. It is interesting to see and different from the others.

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I met Phew-phew whose family sells lacquerware crafts outside the temple. She graduated from college with major in History. She is sweet and nice to guide me inside the temple.

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Phew-phew mentioned that I was very lucky to get my horse cart for 25,000 kyat only. She said that on peak season from November to February, it can rise up to 50,000 kyat. So I was very relieved and happy to ride a horse and be safe was such a great deal!

The paintings and murals are made of sands as well.  It is a small temple with unique feature.

Manuha Temple – The temple is located in Myinkaba village. It is named after Manuha, the captive Mon King in 1059 A.D. There were 3 colossal Buddhas inside the temple.

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Buddhas sizes are 14 meter height and one 17 meters recumbent Buddha image. It is said that is built for six months and six days only.

Gubyauk Gyi Temple – This is also located in Myinkaba village. It is built by Prince Rajakumar in 1113 A.D. The temple shows influences of Indian and Mon styles. It is famous for its beautiful murals and paintings inside.

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Too bad cameras are not allowed inside. Yet, I am a living proof that it has one of the most beautiful images.

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What I actually enjoyed was the sites outside the temple. These children from school going home are one of the authentic ways to see locals in Bagan.

Man Galar Ze Di – It is another temple that tourists are allowed to climb up! Wohooo! 🙂

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After the earthquake in 1975, the Burmese government listed few temples for climbing. This is to preserve the temples architecture.

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One of the best views, indeed! 🙂 Also, I met a Singaporean who is very generous and gave me her Inle Lake pass. What a great place to exchange kindness to others! 🙂

Gaw Daw Palin Phaya – This was one my favorite temple for its vast size and structure. It is like a monument in Florence, Italy. It was very different from the others. I was delighted to have an opportunity to see this temple from afar.

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A teenager girl whose selling post cards showed me a spot on how can I see the whole structure of Gaw Daw Palin. It was magical! I was lucky to meet this young lady. She told me that she owns this temple. She meant it because she knows every corners of it.

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The trees outside the temple are tall to relieve the heat. It was very wonderful feeling.

Ananda Phaya – This temple is considered as the finest and most respected in Bagan. It is located in the South East of Tharaba gate of the city wall. It was built by King Kyansittha in 1091 A.D. There are four massive Buddhas inside depicting his birth to his enlightenment.

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The white bricks are actually appealing after all the red and brown bricks from the other temples. The true beauty of this temple is from the distant. It was captivating and relaxing. Yes, I said relaxing!

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I was able to lay my back outside in a circle bench on a shade of a big tree. It was a great pleasure to see Ananda.

Maha Bodhi Pagoda – It is another Indian influence pagoda in Bagan. It was quite small but with interesting structure.

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Buphaya – This is the second pagoda beside the Ayeyarwady River. It is built on 300 A.D.

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Shwe-Gu-Gyi – This pagoda is massive as well and can be climbed up. The staircase is narrow and the floor on the top is actually rough.

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Be careful on walking on these stones as there are some sharp edges. But definitely, this pagoda has one of the best views from the top. More temples are visible here.

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Thatbyinnyu Phaya – It was built on 1144 A.D by King Alaung Sithu, the grandson of King Kyansittha. This is the highest temple in Bagan.

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It rises from 61 meters above ground level. Too bad that tourists and travelers are prohibited to climb. It will be more amazing to be on the top.

Shwe San Daw Pagoda – This is the last pagoda from our list for today. Bobu mentioned that this is one the most beautiful place to see sunset. We are allowed to climb until the 5th level of the pagoda yet I climb until the 3rd only.

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It is quite impressive from me knowing I have fear of heights (nope I mean falling). The stairs are steep so everyone should be careful.

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While waiting for the sunset I met a Burmese professor teaching in Malaysia. It was lovely to know some stories from up above while waiting for the sunset. I also met a Filipina mother and son. I saw them while eating in a restaurant for lunch. It was wonderful to see them again here.

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Though it didn’t rain that day, there were too many clouds. So sunset was not that good but nevertheless to be in Bagan was such a huge blessing for me!

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Bobu said that the usual tour in a horse is until 5PM but we returned in my hotel at around 7PM. Though he said on the morning that we have plenty of time, I just thought that horsemen get tired too. He might thought of Nanda too as we stayed on the road longer. This kind of animal gets exhausted too.

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It was such a marvelous day for me to see Bagan.  A day could not be enough to see more than 2,000 temples and pagodas. Yet, I was very glad to say that I accomplished a huge achievement in my travel bucket list! 🙂

Bagan Day 2 – Mt. Popa

Mt. Popa is one of the sacred tourist attractions in Myanmar. It is said that Nats or Spirit Shrine is situated here. Mt. Popa is an extinct volcano and erupted on 442 BCE. It is 50 km away or around 2 hours from New Bagan.

To know more about my 1 day journey to Mt. Popa, follow Mount Popa – Day Tour

Bagan Day 3 – Lazy Day

When I arrived in Bagan, my stomach was not really feeling well. Traveler’s nightmare – not feeling well on the road. Though I have meds, this was not enough to make me feel better immediately.

It was my last day in Bagan and I had no plans to see more temples. I was also thinking of my budget then if I will ride another horse cart or be brave enough to try an e-bike.

Purely, my plan was to lie in my bed. Put my phone up and just surf the net. But obviously, setting myself on a vacation and have nothing to do was just not so me and a waste of time.

My Taiwanese dorm mate gave me a different kind of meds for my stomachache. Slowly but surely, my stomach calms down. After a few hours, I decided to see Bagan Archaeological Museum. I am dope. I know. Bagan itself is a big museum already. Why I should visit this then? My answer is – coz I got nothing to do. HAHA.

While riding on a horse cart on my first day in Bagan, I knew that the museum is near my hotel. But I was wrong, it can be more than hour of walking and I was lost! HAHAHA.

How did I get to the museum? Luckily, I found one of the tourism centers in Bagan and asked how I can get to the museum. The lady instructed that I can ride a truck but I don’t know what will be the sign of the truck. One more lucky moment, the truck passed by the center and the lady called the driver for me! Wohooo! Museum Day!!!

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After reaching the museum, I thought can make it by not paying an entrance fee and acting like a local but I said “Hello”  to the tourism officers. HAHAHA. I really have to pay.

DSLR and SLR cameras are not allowed inside and you have to leave it inside a locker. Big bags cannot enter as well but you can bring your phone!! Wohooo!

Inside the museum, you will be welcomed by a massive portrait of the temples in Bagan. I was stoked! It is very huge!!! I remembered The Spoliarium of Juan Luna in Manila!

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The museum has different sections of rooms from the history of the temples, royals’ lifestyle, early Burmese civilization, artifacts of different eras to how Buddhism enters Myanmar. The entire building is very rich in history and culture. If you want something worthwhile to do in Bagan or merely stay away from the heat, this museum got you covered.

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After more than an hour in the museum, I decided to go back to my hotel to eat an early dinner. I walked then again, lost again, and looked for another truck but nothing is coming. HAHAHA. I also forgot the way back to my hotel. I have no Wi-Fi, no mobile data; I didn’t buy any sim card that works in Myanmar, my map has no directions to New Bagan.Practically, lost. HAHA.

One proud lucky moment again, a truck came in! Wohoooo! I was very happy to hop in and reach my hotel.

I returned to the laundry service near my hotel to get my clothes. I was lucky to found them. The man asked me yesterday how much can I pay for at least 18 pieces of clothes I have, I said I only have 3,000 kyat but he initially  asked of 5,000 kyat. It was a bargain that he said yes! Such a budget saver!

I had my late lunch and early dinner again before returning to my room. I am relieved that my stomach stops aching and I can eat again. Time to be lazy for some few hours and pack my bags!  Inle Lake is waiting for meeeee!!! 🙂

Here is how much I spent in Bagan:

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