Old Bagan MyanmarAlt-Bagan Myanmar
g. there are not so many overseas guests in Mandalay or at the Golden Rock Pagoda), the beautiful Bagan Temples draw literally thousands of travellers every year.
However, like Angkor Wat, the Bagan Pagoda is scattered over such a vast area that you will still sense the singularity and seclusion of this exceptional place. From Yangon (which is actually very enjoyable - busses are highly fashionable and convenient, although some advise against it) or from Mandalay, which is about 180 km (110 miles) from Old Bagan (4 hours).
Arriving in Bagan from Mandalay (which is also a beautiful town with a tradition-some day I will describe it soon). We asked at the front desk of our Mandalay hostel for a coach terminal and when the coach leaves for Bagan. Please be aware that Myanmar is more costly than Thailand or Cambodia - there are very few youth hostels. Please check with your local hostel for details.
At first we thought the limousine would go to the coach terminal so we could take a coach, but as it turned out, we drove all the way to Old Bagan and were drop off right at our guesthouse. It stops in New Bagan, and from there you have to take a cab wherever you go.
My experience in Myanmar has shown that everything is relatively uncomplicated and frank than in Thailand or Cambodia. There' re a few ways to explore Bagan. Since this is a rather large area and there is no way to visit the most important temples on foot, you can book one of the following tours: a cab ride with an English-speaking chauffeur (about 30 USD), a horse-drawn carriage ride (10-15 USD) or a hot-air ballon ride (320 USD).
Ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey, we liked it so much that we chose to show off in Bagan again. Stop at the smaller and less frequented shrines, enjoy live history and feeling like a forerunner! Immediately after the hot air balloon ride we did exactly that: we hired the bicycles and biked through the whole area.
Our first sight of the Bupaya Pagoda was the gold staupa of the Bupaya Pagoda, situated on the northern bank of the Old Bagan stream. It was possible for us to go there the evening we came - our chauffeur (from Mandalay) drove the locals there. It is small and not one of the most important and popular temples, but it was beautiful, especially at nights.
Next day we began to visit Old Bagan by driving up the road. Then we drove westwards and southwards to Anawrahta Road and back to Bagan-Chuak Road (see map). The Gawdaw Palin was one of the first great Buddhist churches we saw - Gawdaw Palin, a monumental second highest Buddhist church in Bagan built in the thirteenth cenury.
The next was the Mahabodhi Tempel, a monastery also from the thirteenth centuries, whose archeological designs were based on the Mahabodhi Tempel in the town of Bihar, India. It is Bagan Town' s highest 12th c. temple, situated near one of the most popular pagodas in Bagan - Ananda. It is great and much less touristy than Ananda.
Ananda Temple, which goes back to the beginning of the twelfth centuries, is still open to the general public. Ananda Temple was mentioned earlier. From Ananda to Thatbyinnyu we saw a potters fair, many smaller churches (Hsu Taung Pyi and Min O Char Thar) as well as local people with their livestock.
On the way west towards the city Nyaung-U we went to the big brickwork Htilominlo built in the thirteenth cenury. Nyaung-U is the city where you can see the biggest Bagan sanctuary - Shwezigon. Although it was finished in 1102, it is now frequented by worshippers and has the contemporary feel of other similar palaces - full of gold statues and frequented by many converts.
All the way from Shwezigon we cycle back southwards and stop at another tile temple - Dhammayangyi and Sulamani from the 12th centuries. The last stop was the famed Sundown Pagoda - the Shwesandaw Pagoda. It is one of the highest and oldest in Bagan (11th century). The best part is that you can scale the 5 verandas that provide an incredible panoramic sight - especially at sundown when the dust and smoke of the surrounding sky is coloured bright green and creates a legendary aura.
Assuming Bagan is off the well-trodden path, you'll see literally thousands of visitors. The good thing is that it is quite hard to reach the highest levels of the sanctuary because the stairs are unbelievably sharp and tight. If you don't take the hot air ride, you haven't lost much!
Generally the starting money in Bagan is quite expensive: 20 US$ or 20 EUR. Thing about Bagan is, there's no door or gateway where you have to buy your ticket. From Bagan-Chauk Road, you won't see an agency or a place where you would have to foot the bill.
Superintendents who make the payment and make out the ticket are at the Shwesandaw Shrine. Arriving from behind in Shwesandaw, we were asked by the officer to foot the bill if we just left the shrine - through the front door. This whole area is even more dramatic in reality than in the pictures.
You know, there are Literally a Thousand Tempels in Bagan. Though I have introduced many of the most beloved temples in these articles, while biking you will find stunning, smaller textures that will certainly charm you. Although I must confess that I felt freer and more secure in Bagan, I liked the site as much as Angkor Wat did.
To be precise, atmospheric pollution: if you go to Bagan during the drought period, the land and shrubs will be burned out everywhere. You can see the smokes from a heatballon. Talking about the hot-air ballons, that was the last thing that disappointed Bagan.
There was a beautiful view, but not much more dramatic than the view from the shrine at sundown. I wrote an article in this paper about my experiences with Bagan balloons.