There is so much information about Bagan on the web, and to be completely honest, I went through over 10 – 15 websites and two travel guidebooks before I could finally find what I was looking for. I’ve tried to compile everything that was important and relevant that I would have liked to know before going to Bagan, combined with tips based on my personal experiences there. Hope this brief guide helps you plan your Bagan trip, or at least gives you a better idea of what to expect once there! 🙂
Writer’s Note: If you’re looking for something more quick and simple to comprehend, here’s my list of 10 Things To Know Before You Go to Bagan.
We departed Mandalay at 5:00pm and arrived in Bagan at 10:30pm. Bagan is most easily accessible via Mandalay (also in terms of costs), and for this reason, I wouldn’t recommend any other departure points. There are several ways of getting to Bagan from Mandalay including the minivan, flight, train, and ferry. I opted for taking the minivan, which cost me $9 for a one-way ticket. It was about a 6-hour journey. The ride is bumpy, so expect minimal to absolutely no sleep if you plan on going by land.
If you’re looking to save some money, I would recommend taking the 9:30pm overnight minivan to Bagan. This way, you arrive at roughly 4:00am, and in time for the sunrise (if you’re able to rough it out and continue to stay awake for a bit that is)!
Where to Stay
I stayed at the Kaday Aung Hotel, which was in New Bagan, and about a 4km drive into Old Bagan (which is where all the temples are located). The hotel and location was fantastic, the breakfast was delicious, and the staff was more than eager to help us with anything we needed.
You can chose to stay in either New or Old Bagan, although both has its ups and down.
- New Bagan: Nice hotels with an array of dining options and bars in the area. The atmosphere is rather laidback.
- Old Bagan: Surrounded by temples and more of the local lifestyle. However, there isn’t much to do at night, and during the day it is quite hectic.
You can either rent an E-bike, a bicycle or a car. An E-bike will cost 8,000 kyat per day. This option will allow you to access the deep areas of the temples that are not accessible by bicycle (due to the sandy areas) or car (due to the small and narrow dirt paths). I rented an E-bike and it was the best decision. Given how exhausting the heat is during the day, I cannot imagine pedaling my bicycle around in the afternoon.
About the Temples
Because there are over 3000 temples, with at least 10 – 15 extremely popular ones recommended by travel guidebooks and trip advisor, I’m going to try and keep this section as brief and to the point as possible. I’ll only touch on the ones that were not touristic, but provided equally (if not more) stunning views of the sunrises and sunsets than the more crowded ones.
In the afternoon’s, regardless of how out it is, brave the heat and ride your E-bikes through the temples and go exploring! The best discoveries are made when you least expect it in Bagan. Don’t overplan your day, and just go with the flow and an adventurous soul.
News Alert: Make sure to check the news regarding scaling the temples in Bagan. I’ve read that there is a ban set in motion that will be effective as of March 1, 2016, but unsure which Pagodas and Temples will be impacted by this regulation.
I woke up for a total of 3 sunrises, and honestly, I wish I had more mornings to give Bagan.
For your viewing pleasure, watch in highest quality – 1080p HD
Here are my three recommendations on sunrise viewings in Bagan:
The temple in front of Buledi Temple: Everyone will recommend you to go watch the sunrise at this temple. However, it is extremely crowded, and you don’t really have the space to move around freely, as everyone is already seated comfortable in their spots. However, there is an equally large temple (I’m not sure of the same) right in front of the Buledi Temple, and this one provides an even better view of the sunrise and the balloons flying over Bagan in the morning.
Myauk Guni: This temple is part of a pairing of two temples, the North and South Guni. Myauk refer to the north temple, and is Bagan’s best kept secret. I had so much fun climbing up this temple. The sunrise and balloon views were breathtaking from up here, and my video (above) was shot at this location as well.
Sulamani Temple: I personally did not climb up this temple for a sunrise view, so I cannot speak to how crowded it might have been. However, the temple is situation in the perfect location for a sunrise viewing.
Travel Tip: The balloons fly over Bagan just past sunrise, so don’t quickly rush off to go back to bed. Wait until about 7:00 – 7:15am and watch the magic happen. Also, you can never predict which direction the balloons are going to fly over, so you just have to hope for the best! Everyday is a different journey for these balloons.
Interested in Ballooning over Bagan? Find out more here!
I made the biggest mistake by listening to some of the locals that recommended me to go to Pyathada Pagoda for the sunset. They told me it’s not crowded. Boy, were they wrong! There was an extremely long queue to get up there as soon as we arrived. I could have easily waited 1 hour and still not made it to the top of this Pagoda. Also, just by looking up I saw the thousands of tourists and photographers lined up on all levels and corners of this temple.
I decided to immediately rush the Shwesandow Temple, only to realize later that it was as equally crowded as the Pyathada. People were pushing and shoving each other in all directions. Some even hit me! This was definitely not a fun experience. Nonetheless, during mid-afternoon, both the Pyathada and Shwesandow should be visited as they do provide stunning views with minimal people during those peak sun hours.
Luckily, the journey from one temple to another proved to be rather exciting. I saw about four to five herds of goat, sheep, and cow walk by. This saved the evening from being a complete disappointment, to say the least.
My recommendation would be to climb one of the neighboring temples of Shwesandow, including Myauk Guni (which I already recommended for sunrise as well), or the Dhammayazika Pagoda. Another great viewpoint is the Nann Myint. This is actually a viewing tower, not a temple, which provides a great 360-degree view of Bagan including the sunset. However, it is situated much further away from all the temples, so it won’t give you the Bagan sunset feel that you’re looking for, but you get an impressive overview of the area. This viewing tower has an entrance fee of $5 per person.
My Two Cents: To be completely honest, I didn’t find the sunsets of Bagan nearly as exciting, or even near comparable to the quality of sunrises.
Where to Eat
I tried only a handful of restaurants and loved majority of them. These are the ones I would recommend for dinner.
- 7 Sisters, which is literally a restaurant run my seven sisters and provides more upper scale Myanmar dining, along with some European and Continental options as well.
- Taste of Bagan is another delicious and cozy option, with only 4 tables in the restaurant. If you’re a solo traveller, this option is great for meeting fellow travellers.
That’s everything you need to know about Bagan! 🙂 If you have any questions or inquiries, please feel free to leave them in the comments section, and I’ll be sure to respond!