The city of Bagan is located in Myanmar (formerly Burma), a country not yet fully opened to mass tourism that is changing fast. Bagan was the capital of the Pagan kingdom between the 9th and 13the centuries and the city is famous for the Bagan temples.
There were over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas, and monasteries built in this city. But currently, there are only 2200 Bagan temples and pagodas present in the city. If you are planning to include Bagan in your Myanmar itinerary, then you cannot miss out on exploring these sacred temples here.
How to Reach Bagan
Taking a night bus from Yangon is the most ideal and convenient way to reach Bagan. This way, you not only save money but you save time as well. Get the 8 PM bus from Yangon so that you reach Bagan next day early morning around 5 AM.
What to Wear when visiting Bagan Temples
In Bagan, footwear and socks are prohibited in all temples. The entrance to several of these temples is littered with shops selling trinkets and counterfeit CK One perfumes, Revlon lippies, and what have you.
One would wonder which one of disobeying the shoe and sock rule or purchasing counterfeit knick-knacks at the door of a holy temple is really sinful. Or if Buddha simply just enjoyed shopping barefoot.
Apart from that, women are supposed to keep their shoulders and knees covered while visiting the temples. So, you can carry a shawl to the temple to cover your head and shoulders when needed.
Customs of Bagan Temples
Inside the temples, women frantically rub each and every Buddha’s hands and knees before touching their faces and necks with their Buddha-impregnated hands. They then proceed to the nearby lipstick counter, happy to spend a few kyats on counterfeit cosmetics after receiving Buddha’s blessing. Buddhism and consumerism do rhyme, after all.
Most of these Bagan temples and pagodas are managed by the local families. And it is a sort of custom to tip them for opening the pagoda for sunrise and staying till sunset to close it.
Traveling Around Bagan Temples
Every morning, zombie-clad electric bikes glide silently in the dark at 14 km/h, everyone in the search of their own secret temple from which to perch themselves for sunrise. Boys with flashlights keen for a dollar or two lead the way to little-known viewpoints where, if you’re lucky, you’ll find yourself alone or with just a couple of other travelers, more than likely of the French sort. And before you, as the curtain of the night pulls up, low and behold, the most magical spectacle you have seen in a while.
You can join the locals on bicycles and explore Bagan and the different temples around here. But one thing that no one should miss out on is the Hot Air Balloon ride in Bagan. It is one of the most unforgettable experiences ever. Soar above the Bagan temples and pagodas early morning and watch the sunrise slowly, giving a magical glow to the pagodas.
Renting an e-bike is also a great way to visit the Bagan temples. It is speedy and cheap and you will love riding on it early morning, before the sunrise.
Must-Visit Bagan Temples
If you wish to experience a beautiful sunrise, then Lowka Oushang is the best temple to visit. For sunset, North Guny temple would be the ideal choice. Made out of white stone, Ananda Temple is one of the top Bagan temples that you simply cannot miss out on. This temple is huge, symmetrical, and has a gorgeous exterior.
Bu Paya Temple is another good choice which is located next to the river and is a great place for watching sunsets as well. You will find a big gold stupa here and the temple busy with Buddhist worshippers. Manuha Temple is another great temple that is visited a lot by the locals and is one of the authentic Bagan temples to visit.
Note: Earlier, many pagodas were open for climbing but since 2018 most of these pagodas have been closed off for climbing. There might be still a few pagodas that you can climb to enjoy the views but these are very few in number.
Bagan was pure magic.
Where to Stay in Bagan
In Bagan, there are three places where you will find the hotels – Old Bagan, New Bagan, and Nyaung-U. If you are on a budget trip, then you will find affordable stays in Nyaung-U. For a closer stay to Bagan temples, Old Bagan offers many luxury options. And in New Bagan, there are new hotels and accommodations available.
Have you ever visited Bagan temples? Did you love them too? Let me know in the comments below!