Bagan, a historical ancient city of Myanmar(Burma), a Buddhist cultural relic, and a famous tourist resort, is located on the west bank of the Irrawaddy River in central Myanmar.
The ideal time-frame for a first trip to Bagan is 2–3 days, for seeing pagodas and the spectacular sunrise or sunset. Investigate the historic pagoda jungle by horse-driven cart, enjoying the sunset from the top of a pagoda. Do not miss the hot-air-balloon ride over the Bagan plains at sunrise – definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
For many foreigners, Bagan is the gateway for them to start learning about Myanmar, and some of them even learn more about Bagan than they do of the country as a whole.
As for the locals, Bagan is where their pride comes from, and they always say that Bagan is the landmark of their country.
Between the 11th and 13th centuries, about 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were built in the Bagan plains. But at present, only 2,200 temples and pagodas still remain to tell you about its history.
No one can guarantee that the remaining temples or pagodas are free from any geologic hazard, so the city deserves a visit before they become history too.
Imagine ascending in a hot-air balloon over 2,000 pagodas and temples that are scattered across the 25-square-kilometer plains, just like gemstones dropped on a jade plate.That may be one of the most memorable moments in your life.
It was reported that the Myanmar government will submit its draft application to UNESCO's World Heritage Center in September 2017. If the application and the inspection go well, the Bagan Archaeological Zone may become the first World Heritage Site in Myanmar in 2019.
Don’t miss the chance to get close to the next World Heritage Site.
If you travel by regular means,such as private car or bike, you may soon get temple fatigue.
However, if you take other forms of transport, such as a hot-air balloon, horse-drawn cart, or cruise, when visiting them it will make your tour more interesting and allow you to enjoy the beauty of Bagan from different perspectives.
What can’t be missed
Enjoy sunrises or sunsets on the pagodas
In September 2017, Myanmar will formally submit the application to the UNESCO’s World Heritage Center and, in order to protect the temples and pagodas while the application goes through, the activity of climbing up the pagodas may be slowly banned.
In December 2016, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyialso appealed to the tourists to stop climbing on the pagodas.
That is to say, being able to climb up a temple or pagoda to watch the sunrise or sunset will also become part of Bagan's history.
Enjoy a sunrise from a hot-air balloon
A hot-air balloon ride is not a budget-friendly experience but most people consider it to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.It is also the only way to experience the breathtaking scale of Bagan's historical district.
When the hot-air balloon gently takes off into the morning sky, everything is covered by the dark. But when the balloon unceasingly ascends and is flying, the sun's rays slowly break through the clouds, and the outlines of the temples and pagodas gradually appear. The sun rises slowly, and the view becomes wider and wider.
The mist embraces the temples and pagodas, just like a fairyland. The sunshine son the red-brick temples and pagodas, and they look as though they are twin kling with golden lights.
It’s not only spectacular but also magical.When you are flying over the historical district, it's like you are engaging in dialogues with history.
The flight will definitely be safe and smooth with Western pilots and modern equipment.The pilots are all exceptionally qualified. They will also be considerate and rotate the balloon so that everybody can see the red-brick temples whilst the other balloons are dotted in the sky around you.
Travel by different means
If you are afraid of seeing too many temples and pagodas,which might give you aesthetic fatigue, traveling by different means,such as private car, cycling, hot-air balloon, horse-drawn cart, or even trekking, may pull you slightly out of this type of fatigue.
These are the different ways to show you the beauty of Bagan from different angles, and each of them has its own merits.
Day 1 pagodas and sunset
Proposal 1: Visit pagodas in the afternoon and before the sunset, by boarding a boat and cruising across the Irrawaddy River. The boatman will prepare some refreshments and the boat will reach the center of the river to stop before sunset.
You will be away from the noise and dust, quietly sitting in the boat, watching the glittering river, enjoying delicious snacks, listening to the wind blowing over the trees and the lake as well as the birdsong. When the sun slowly sinks, the clouds become colorful due to the reflection of the sunlight.
Proposal 2: Visit pagodas in the afternoon by horse-drawn cart. The surrounding pagodas are all more than 800 years old and there is no sign of modernization.
As the horse-drawn cart gallops through the forest of temples, the dust is blowing and the hooves are clattering.Imagine you have stepped into a time tunnel and are witnessing history.
One hour before the sunset, you can climb up a high pagoda,such as the Shwezigon Pagoda, and wait for one of the most breathtaking sunsets of your life.
Day 2 Sunrise and pagodas
There are two ways to enjoy the sunrise in Bagan: climb up a pagoda or fly in a hot-air balloon.
If you prefer to watch the sunrise on a pagoda, the best time to leave your hotel is at about 6 am. If you prefer to enjoy the sunrise from a different angle, then a hot-air balloon adventure is highly recommended.
You will be collected from your hotel at about 5:20 am and, at the launch site, there will be fruit and cakes as well as coffee. When the balloon ascends with the sun, the breathtaking site of stupa after stupa will appear through the delicate mist, which will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
After the balloon has landed, champagne and pastries will be served to celebrate the safe landing and a certificate will also be awarded to you to celebrate your courage. This will be one of the highlights of your trip to Bagan, as well as to Myanmar.
Best known temples and pagodas list
The Asia Highlights team has handpicked some of the 2,200 pagodas, which are either the most famous of the temples or the most distinctive. In short, they are absolutely not to be missed for your Bagan trip.
1. Shwezigon Pagoda
This standswith Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon as one of the sacred pagodas in Myanmar. It's the most efficacious pagoda in Bagan, and the prayers are the most frequently answered. It is the oldest pagoda in Bagan and the best pagoda from which to enjoy the sunset.
2. Thatbyinnyu Phaya
This is the highest pagoda, standing at 67 meters. It used to be the best place to watch a sunrise and sunset; however, in order to protect the pagoda, the stairs to the top have been blocked.
3. Ananda Temple
This features a standing statue of Buddha with perfect proportions. However, since September 2016, a large-scale repair has ruined its natural beauty.
4. Dhammayangyi Temple
This is the biggest temple in Bagan. The temple was built by King Narathu to make up for his sins of killing his father, King Alaungsitha, but it was not finished until Narathu was assassinated.
5. Gubyaukgyi/Gubyauknge Temple
Famous for its exquisite murals,this temple has 547 well-preserved paintings depicting stories of Buddha's previous lives.
6. Sulamani Temple
This temple is one of the most frequently visited in Bagan. It is famous for its interior decoration.
7. Htilominlo Temple
This is the last Burma-style temple in Bagan.
Tips for Traveling in Bagan
It's usually very hot at noon in Bagan. It's a good choice to choose a restaurant to enjoy lunch or to go back to your hotel for a swim in the pool.
You need to stand barefoot or sit on the cold ground while waiting for the sunrise, so it's necessary to take warm clothing.
Do not hide your excitement from the camera when taking a trip in a hot-air balloon. If you ask politely, other passengers will take a photo of you, which will be a good memory for you.
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