Located on the banks of the Irrawaddy River in the center of Myanmar, Bagan is the most flourishing ancient capital of Pagan Kingdom in 11th -13th centuries. This is the site preserving almost all Buddhism cultural values such as temples, stupas and monasteries.
The former capital of Myanmar consists of three towns: Nyaung U, Old Bagan and New Bagan as well as an area with many temples. Nyuang U is a large town with stations, trains, ports and airports. New Bagan is a new village built in 1990 for former residents living in Old Bagan. Old Bagan is a scenic area with a huge number of ancient heritages and temples which are preserved very carefully.
Discover Old Bagan by bicycle, horse-drawn cart or on foot.
One of the interesting things in Bagan is to learn and explore remote lands unseen by tourists. It is hard to access but in return there will be a lot of things to experience and visit by your own way. For example, walking, biking or taking a horse cart riding in Old Bagan, strolling leisurely on trails, watching the temples, pagodas and monasteries amid the immense space.
The temples in Old Bagan are quite close together and it's easy to make a tour exploring the whole region. If walking tour allows you to stop anywhere you want, a biking tour helps you roam further lands and vast temples without losing much power. You could also combine with a horse-drawn cart ride to get more enjoyable experiences.
Along the way, you can stop at temples and remember to take off your shoes, sandasl and socks outside, walk barefoot to visit the Buddha with your respect. The temples here are made of bricks with yard stretches hundreds of meters; when it is sunny, the ground is very hot. You should visit in the morning or in the afternoon to be more pleasant.
Feel free to ask locals if you have any question or do not know the way, because many people here can speak English. You should also take the chance to buy paintings and lacquer crafts as gifts with reasonable prices.
Explore each temple in Bagan
Visit Manuha pagoda to learn about the customs of making offerings of the people of Myanmar. They have a huge golden bell placed on a cement base in the center of the temple’s large chamber. For centuries, making offerings has become a unique cultural feature, happiness in people’s life in Bagan.
Any visitor travelling to Bagan must visit the most sacred and important temple - Ananda Temple, built in 1105 BC. It was badly damaged in the earthquake in 1975 but was later restored and gilded in 1990, serving visitors. The impressive thing when visiting Ananda is the giant Buddha statues overlooking the four directions.
You should also make a stop at the largest temple in Bagan with a pyramid-liked shape called Dhammayangyi, built by King Narathu.
Thatbyinnyu Phaya is the highest temple in Bagan with 61 meters high and built in the mid 12th century. Standing on the summit of the temple, you can get a panoramic view of the whole Old Bagan.
Known as the "sunset temple", Shwesandaw features a perfect position to admire the red sky at sunset. According to legend, the temple was built in 1057 BC by King Anawratha to keep one out of eight hairpieces of the Buddha. During a half to one hour, the scenery here changes quickly from bright red to purple and gradually disappears in the darkness.
In addition, there are other temples in Bagan you can visit such as Shwezigon, Shweguyi, Sulamani, Gubyaukgyi, Gawdawpalin, Bupayastupa, ...
Conquer the revered Mount Popa and explore villages
Located about 50 km from the south of Bagan, Mount Popa is a famous pilgrimage site of Myanmar. The mount is known for its Taung Kalat monastery located 737 meters high on the top of the volcano which stopped working. Visitors must past 777 steps and cross a crowd of monkey to reach the monastery. Mount Popa is over 1,520 meters high and considered a legendary home of the god "NAT".
Leaving Mount Popa, you could pay a visit to the villages on the footmount or on bumpy roads in Bagan. The people here are very hospitable. You could also ask to stay overnight and enjoy a Myanmar dinner.