Bagan, Myanmar – Exploring Bagan’s temples

By Sacha Bunnik

Exploring Bagan and its surrounding countryside in northern Myanmar is like taking a trip back in time, to a place where time has stood still. It’s what I imagine rural Thailand or pre-war Vietnam would have been like 50 years ago, so peaceful and so authentic.

Bagan is home to more than 1500 temples, monasteries and stupas, all spread out over a vast area. You find them between houses, in farmers’ fields and overwhelmingly you get the feeling that they are everywhere.

We arrived early in the morning after a short flight from Yangon, the current capital of Myanmar, and headed straight to the local Nyaung Oo Markets to experience the colour and smells of the local produce.

Nyaung Oo markets in Bagan.

Nyaung Oo markets in Bagan.

Our local guide, Thynn.

Our local guide, Thynn.

The variety of fruit and vegetables on offer at this market was staggering.

At the markets in Bagan.

At the markets in Bagan.

It’s nice to see the different tropical fruits that you don’t normally see at the big supermarkets back home, like the massive jackfruit.

Our local guide Thynn explained all the different uses of everything we saw. She even showed us some natural shampoo that the locals used. My daughter Amie was not too keen to try this as it looked like a small bag of muddy water.

Natural shampoo... really?

Natural shampoo… really?

The main reason for any visit to Bagan is to see the temples and stupas; it’s what put Bagan on the tourist map. Our first site was Shwezigon Pagoda, built around 2600 years ago and is said to house eight of Buddha’s hairs, making it one of the most revered places in Myanmar.

The Shwzieone Pagoda in Bagan.

The Shwzieone Pagoda in Bagan.

It’s become a pilgrimage site and most people from Myanmar plan to visit at least once in their lifetime. The size of Shwezigon Pagoda is mind blowing, especially considering its age. The main stupa is 99 metres high and covered in gold leaf.

The dazzling Shwzegon Pagoda.

The dazzling Shwezigon Pagoda.

Inside the Shwezigon Pagoda.

Inside the Shwezigon Pagoda.

Lunch was at Queens Café, a local establishment where Amie and I ordered a full meal with drinks. It came to a total of $10 USD and was one of the best meals we had (the curry was not too hot).

Sacha eating lunch at the local Queen's Cafe.

Sacha eating lunch at the local Queen’s Cafe.

After lunch we visited a range of smaller stupas and temples that are scattered around Bagan.

Sacha visiting a temple in Bagan.

Sacha visiting a temple in Bagan.

Temples and stupa's in the fields of Bagan.

Temples and stupa’s in the fields of Bagan.

Most are located in farmers’ fields which gives them the feeling they have almost been forgotten whilst life has continued on around them.

Temples and stupa's around Bagan.

Temples and stupa’s around Bagan.

We were able to climb on top of one stupa, the staircase was very steep, but the view from the top was worth the effort. Bagan is a photographer’s dream.

The long climb to the top of a stupa.

The long climb to the top of a stupa.

In the afternoon we enjoyed the hotel swimming pool.

The incredible infinity pool at the hotel.

The incredible infinity pool at the hotel.

Built with an infinity pool, you can marvel at the temples in the distance while you swim.

The view from the infinity pool.

The view from the infinity pool.

We got picked up at our hotel around 5ish for a sunset cruise on the mighty Ayeyarwady River.

Amie with our guide and her daughter on the river cruise.

Amie with our guide and her daughter on the river cruise.

On deck, watching the beautiful sunset over the river.

On deck, watching the beautiful sunset over the river.

Colourful long boats.

Colourful long boats.

Adding to this magical experience was that the boats were colourful, long wooden boats.

Lovely, peaceful sunset.

Lovely, peaceful sunset.

Nothing was more relaxing than when the engines were cut so we could just float downstream.

Stunning sunset on the Ayeyarwady River.

Stunning sunset on the Ayeyarwady River.

The magnificent sunset over the river and mountains just topped it all off.

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