10 Things To Do When in Bagan

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

Mingalaba!

I love Bagan and I have listed down the 10 things to do when you are in Bagan.

It is not as crowded as Angkor Wat and it has a lazy feel to the entire town. Perhaps it was because we came in when the tourist season was at its tail end (May).

It is said that Bagan has the densest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas and stupas anywhere. And indeed stupas are spread out as far as the eye can see. There are 2834 temples according to French architect Pierre Pichard who inventoried it in 1996. Each temple has a unique design and story from different periods.

An earthquake in September 2016 damaged more than 400 temples. I was lucky to have visited Bagan months before this cultural tragedy happened.

I had a lovely and unforgettable experience in Bagan and here are 10 things to do when you are in Bagan:


1.  25,000 Kyat Bagan Archaelogical Zone Fee

Taxi's will be stopped here so you can pay the fee.

The card given after you pay the fee.

All foreigners are charged 25,000 kyat or 21USD for entering into the Bagan Archaelogical Zone. You will then be given a ticket which is valid for five days use from the date of issue. Inspection of the card once you are beyond the ticketing booth is from zero to none that is why you can find guides online on how to skirt the ticketing booth and avoid paying the fee.


2. Old Bagan, New Bagan and Nyaung U

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

If you are looking for accommodation, you will find the government owned luxury hotels at Old Bagan while the cheaper hotels are found in New Bagan and Nyaung U. Nyaung U is more geared towards backpackers.

I got a twin bed fan room with shared bath in Pyinsa Rupa for 7,000 kyat or 6USD a day. This comes with free buffet breakfast and water. This was a good deal that I never found again for the rest of my trip. The proprietor speaks good English and even helped arrange my trip to Mandalay.


3. Rent your own transport

 
Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

Bagan is a huge place that exploring it on foot on a hot, sunny, and dusty day would be a death wish! (And another deathwish if it rains!) A transport is a must. Depending on how you want to explore Bagan, you can rent the following transport:
  • Hot air balloon. However, hot air balloons are only available from October to April.
  • Horse cart
  • Airconditioned taxi
  • ebikes 
  • Motorbikes
  • Bicycles

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík


 Bicycles are rented at 1,000Kyat or 1USD per day from the woman right across my hotel. If you are not used to using your legs to cycle and you have limited time, this is not the best way to explore Bagan.


4. Dress modestly

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík


There is no big issue on men's wear. It is always women who are asked to dress modestly. Knees and shoulders should be covered. Wrap around skirts or sarongs were really a big help. So keep this handy in your bag just in case.


5. Easy to remove footwear

You need to remove your shoes when entering the temples. So it is wise to wear something that is easy to remove. I used flip flops on my first day and my feet was covered in dust. It was so dirty that I decided to wear closed shoes the next day. It was cumbersome as I had to lace it every time plus the stain on my socks from the dirt and grime was bad. Wear what works best for you.


6. Water. Liquid. Hydration.

Bring plenty of water because you do not know when you can find your next waterhole. There are clay pots with water near temples though. If you are adventurous and really thirsty, you can take a sip from one of those. 

I frequented Htilominlo Pahto for its free water and delicious sugar cane juice with lime sold at 1USD.


7. Food. Nourishment. Grubs. Chow.

 

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

If you are not picky and you are up for an adventure, there are a lot of restaurants located near major temples. We chanced upon one which served a Burmese meal for just 1,250 kyat per person. It already has rice, meat, soup, appetizers and raw vegetables. The portion is big that you can share it with another person.

I tell you, food is really cheap but with generous servings in Myanmar.

8. Beautiful sunsets

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík


The sunset is so beautiful in Myanmar because of the fiery color of the sun from the dust in the air. The most popular temple to view the sunset is the Shwesandaw Temple.

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

It is a steep climb to the top and you have to be early because it gets crowded. An alternative would be to climb nearby temples like the Shwe Gu Gyi.

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík



9. Souvenir

I wish I had bought bells and dolls at the Htilominlo Pahto in Bagan as I have never seen them again in any place we have visited in Myanmar. It is one of my deepest regret. 

 I wish I bought some gold leaf as well. At the back of my mind I thought I could find it in the other temples at the last leg of our journey but we never did. 

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

 The best souvenir/gift I got was a book called Burmese Folktales. Unlike George Orwell's Burmese Days, I believe you can't download this online. The book has been a faithful companion. I would read it during long waits. It's written like fables so there is always a moral lesson at the end of each story.

 

 

10. Get lost

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

 I urge you to get lost and be fearless in exploring the different temples. Some temples are in good shape but others seems like they were abandoned and these were the temples I loved best. Although they gave me the creeps because I was imagining that they were haunted.

 

And here is a bonus: Free naps 

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík


If you need to take a nap because you are tired or maybyou are waiting for the rain to pass like I did, you can actually take a nap with the monks anlocals in any of the stupa!

So that is my lessons learned when I was in Bagan Archaelogical Zone but some of these things to do when in Bagan can also be applied elsewhere. 

 

Was this article helpful? Do you have other tips to share or questions to ask? I would love to help you with your trip. Please leave a message below.

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