“Bagan, tourist trap!”- The man from Israel with dreadlocks.
Bagan is on everybody’s list when visiting Myanmar. The place is beautiful, littered with pagodas that you can climb and beautiful sunrise views complete with hot air balloons taking off into the sun. What’s not to like?
Ahh the Bagan Archeological Zone fee at 25,000 kyat, high cost hotels/hostels, high cost taxi fares, a large amount of tourists and very little to do but ride around on an E-bike visiting pagoda after pagoda… basically it’s a tourist trap, but most think that it’s worth it.
The selling point of Bagan is to get up for sunrise to see the hot air balloons take off and get that perfect photo only to then check out the sunset for… again another perfect photo. There are also four main pagodas/temples that are incredibly beautiful to see during the day: Ananda Temple, Upali Thein, Sulamani Guphaya Temple and Dhammayangyi
Things to see and do:
Hire an E-bike (should be 3000-7000 kyat, don’t pay more even if 2 people are on one bike)
Ride around and visit a variety of temples
Go to Shwe San Daw Pagoda for sunrise with other tourists
Find pagoda 671 for the perfect sunset with no tourists
Eat at The Moon for delicious vegetarian food
Head to Ostello Bello hostel in New Bagan and join their free tips based tour of Bagan on an E-bike
Where to stay:
There are three main areas to stay in Bagan: Old Bagan, New Bagan and Nyaung U. The two best places to stay are New Bagan and Nyaung U. New Bagan has all of the tourists, hostels and has more of a social vibe, and Nyaung U has more places to eat and more locals. I stayed in Nyaung U but kind of wished that I had stayed in New Bagan just for a more sociable atmosphere.
Things to note:
The government will be stopping people from climbing the pagodas/temples by the end of this year (2017)/ next year and have instead created man made hills for people to view the sunrise/sunset.
E-bikes, although eco friendly drain incredibly fast so it’s important to keep an eye on the battery whilst riding around Bagan. Nobody wants to be stuck in the middle of nowhere in 40℃ heat.
I had heard so much about Bagan and of how beautiful it was, but in all honesty as lovely as it was to see all of the pagodas there wasn’t very much else to do there. Would I recommend going there? sure, but I wouldn’t stay longer that 2 days as you will definitely run out of things to do.
My personal highlight was discovering a secret temple with friends for sunset. We rode around for a while before scouting out the temple grounds, crawled through a broken part of the gate, used torches to explore the temple before finding a passage way to some stairs, climbed up , scaled part of the building to sit at a platform to a beautiful view. It truly was magical.