Bagan is undoubtedly one of the highlights of any trip to Myanmar. The city is the largest and densest concentration of Buddhist temples in the world and the complex housed more than 13,000 temples in the 12th century. Nowadays, we are left with ‘only’ 3,000 temples that are sure to keep us busy and in complete awe during our visit.
We spent our days riding an electric scooter (regular scooters are not allowed for tourists) and wandering around in almost no order through a myriad of temples. Some are small little stupas not bigger than a one room house, while others are massive structures rising five stories high from the ground. There is something for everyone and you are guaranteed to find yourself standing alone in many of them. Because there are so many temples and it is very unlikely to visit them all, you have a sensation of freedom and peace contrary to the anxiety of ‘must-see-everything’ that many might experience in places like Angkor Wat.
Just relax, enjoy the scenery, and be sure to climb some temples at sunrise and sunset: the views are like no others.
Given the large area of the complex, a fairly popular activity is to take a hot air balloon ride at sunrise. Unfortunately for us, or most any other backpacker, the price of the ride ($280US per person) was prohibitive. This however, didn’t impede us from enjoying the wonderful scene of hundreds of balloon flying over thousands of temples. Waking up for sunrise if definitively a must for everyone, you won’t regret it! A small piece of advise, avoid the main sunrise and sunset temples as they are overcrowded with tourist buses. Remember that there are 3,000 temples to chose from!
Birds turning into hot air balloon, only in Bagan
Simon enjoying the sunrise view (photo by Emil Kastrup Andersen)
Every main temple has a family who lives besides it and is in charge of keeping it clean and of opening the door early in the morning. During our first sunrise we met ‘EE-EE’ (a very phonetic way to write her name) and spent three hours with her and her siblings playing football, taking photos, and enjoying cups of teas. As we mentioned in our last post, Burmese are one of the most friendly people we have found in Asia—’EE-EE’ and her family were an example of how wonderful everyone is in this country.
Simon busting out his South American football ‘skills’
Tracy, ‘EE-EE’, and her older sister
Goodbye for now Bagan, we hope to see you again soon