When you think Myanmar you think temples. Bagan is THE place to see temples. I left Yangon late and it was just over an hour flight to Bagan. Yangon domestic terminal is awesome and easy. It’s new and super modern. Hot tip – book FMI air (Myanmar’s premium carrier) and clients get free access to their new (and quite good!) Yangon lounge. Great little bonus.
To do Bagan justice you’ll need a minimum of 2 nights allowing at least one full day touring around the area. I got to Bagan around 8pm in time to make a b-line dinner and the now customary few glasses of Myanmar beer. The next day I was met bright and early by Ms. Yu Yu, Diethelm’s Yangon based Account Manager for the US market, keeping me in fine company for the rest of my time in Myanmar!
We were taken by one of our encyclopedic Bagan-stationed guides Ms. Khin, to the fabulous scene of temples pictured below. This cluster of varied temples was around 10 mins from the hotel. After arriving we walked briefly for a few minutes to one of the temples. We removed our shoes (in respect) and climbed the stairs to the roof. Let me tell you there are many advantages to being 6″1 in life but climbing staircases in temples is not one of them! Ms. Khin told us as of Sep ’17 tourists will no longer be able to climb the temple staircases. An effort (and quite rightly so) to preserve them. We felt very lucky to be able to do it.
The thing with Bagan is there are 3000 temples. What you see here are just a handful. Everywhere you look there are brick temples, pagodas and stupas (a bell shaped temple influenced by the Sri Lankan style) dotting the plains. They are of various age, some in clusters, some on their own, some beside roads just a few feet high. Then in the distance are temples imposing on the skyline hundreds of feet high. The perspectives are just mind-blowing and for the most part they are all super accessible. Plus the beauty of Bagan is there are so many temples you can always find a spot to breathe and take pictures with no one else in them!
After touring the temples we visited a local village called Minnanthu to see how locals live, how they run their family businesses in areas such as farming, creating crafts and producing cotton products. We chatted with local villagers who invited us to try tea and a selection of delicious foods, included a dish of stewed tea leaves of sorts. It was delicious as was the tea. I held back from eating the lot as not to look like a total piglet… I later learned that the act of sharing and hosting gives the locals a sense of great honor and pride, expecting nothing in return. I just felt very humble and lucky to have been welcomed at all.
We walked the village in the amazing sunshine and I took photos of the scenes below from this working village. Later on Ms. Khin took Ms. Yu Yu and I to lunch at the Sunset Garden Restaurant where we dined on the most ah-mazing Burmese cuisine overlooking the Ayeyrwady River. This is where Bagan offers variation. You might have heard about ‘temple fatigue’! They may be amazing but the average tourist can’t look at temples all day. For me the visit to the local market and the interactions with locals in the village are all amazing ways to flesh out a day in Bagan which otherwise left only with temples might be a little 2 dimensional. Book a full day with a guide including lunch and you’re golden.
Look out for forthcoming blogs for the low down on the Bagan hotel scene (there are two hotels I recommend) plus my tip for a fabulous Bagan restaurant with a focus on giving back to the local community. I hope you enjoyed the pics – it was a fabulous sunny day in Bagan!