Why Visit Bagan, Myanmar

„What brings you here?” – asked a fellow traveller when meeting us on top of one of Burmese temples.

„Adventure!” – I replied and asked back: „How about you?”

„Poverty … and unique temples.” – She said while smiling.

Sunset in Bagan.

Sunset in Bagan.

With a limited time spent in Myanmar, we decided to narrow down the number of places to explore here. We were recommended to start from Bagan, a city that was the capital of the first Burmese empire. Located in the dry central plains of the country, Bagan is well known for having over 2,000 stunning and unique pagodas and temples, most of which were built by the ancient kings and leaders of Burma. Being so curious about Bagan’s ancient history and architecture, we took a 8-hour bus from Yangon to Bagan. As it turned out, it was a great choice. This typical old Burmese city took our breath away and made us stay there most of the time we had for Myanmar.

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Stunning view of Bagan in the morning.

Why visit Bagan? We have a long list of reasons why you should add this city to your travel bucket list when visiting Myanmar:

„One of the finest sights in the world”

This is how Bagan was described by Marco Polo. Despite plenty of wars and natural disasters, Bagan’s temples and pagodas still remain unforgettable, stunning and unique.

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Sunset in Bagan.

The world’s greatest archeological sites

This ancient city is home to a markable architecture that you will be amazed by, more and more each day. When visiting Bagan you will be taken back to the era of Kublai Khan between 1057 and 1287, when most temples and pagodas were created. By entering this city you can embark on a spiritual and historical journey from one temple to another as all the buildings are beautifully and uniquely designed.

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Architecture of Bagan. A typical Burmese pagoda.

Hot air balloon flight

When in Bagan, you will have an opportunity to experience air balloon flight. There is no better way to see those towering monuments, ancient architecture and ruins than from inside a hot air balloon. In this way you can see the monuments from a different perspective while taking amazing pictures.

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Plenty of air balloons in the air.

Unfortunately we missed this chance. Spending unexpectedly over $640 per ride (two people) in one day was a bit too much for us. Nevertheless, that is something everyone can do in Bagan, given their budget allows them to.

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Balloons in the air.

More information on hot air balloon rides:

  • The best time to do that is just before sunrise, and that’s when most companies depart anyway.
  • The flight starts at 7 am and it is about 45 minutes to an hour long.
  • It costs between $320 – $380 per person, but booking in advance or bargaining hard may get the price down to as low as $290.
  • If you don’t arrive on time you will lose your money (booking it online may be a bit risky. We’ve heard a story of a group of people stuck on a boat from Mendeley to Bagan for 39 hours instead of 10 hours. This made them late to attend the flight on their pre-booked day. They were refused a refund and lost money).
  • There are plenty of agencies around the city where you can purchase air balloon tickets. You may try to bargain, but locals are not willing to lower down the price. Most of the prices are fixed.

Plenty of activities to do

Whether you are staying one day or one month in Bagan, I guarantee you will never get bored in the city. Temple and pagoda hopping are indeed major activities in Bagan, but not the only things that draw visitors there. Bagan can be explored in more ways than one, and it simply is not enough to visit the sacred temples to fully appreciate what the city has to offer. You can rent an e-bike (7 000 Kyats for a full day) or a regular bike (1 500 Kyats for a full day) and cycle around the city or perhaps go hiking, play golf or take local cooking classes. If not, why not speak to locals or indulge yourself in a local cuisine that differs a lot from what we usually experience back home.

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Exploring Bagan’s temple and pagodas by e-bike.

More information on e-bikes:

  • Travelling around the city on electric bikes is quite easy as there is not a lot of traffic on the roads.
  • You can rent one e-bike from any local store (Bagan quickly becomes very tourist-friendly).
  • Make sure you pay no more than 7 000 Kyats for a full day. More than 9 000 Kyats is a rip off.
  • Full battery lasts for a day (7 hours of constant riding) but you may want to carry a charger to charge it when stopping for food.
  • E-bikes are extremely small. The max speed is usually 30 km/h (our shown us up to 60 kph, but in truth they were going a maximum of 20 kph).
  • Ask for helmet as it is not always given with your e-bike.
  • it is freezing cold between 5 am and 9 am so put some warmer clothes on when driving (at least in January).
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E-biking around Bagan.

Biking was actually one of our favourite activities in Bagan. It combined adventure and culture in one activity. We had a lot of fun exploring the villages and learning more about the locals. We had a chance to explore the back roads between empty fields, the scenic countryside and of course the ancient temples.

Perfect weather all year long

Unlike other cities in the lower parts of Myanmar, Bagan does not experience a rainy season. Thus is the perfect climate of Bagan that enables its visitors to discover and explore the ancient city with ease all year round.

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“I’m on top of the world” feeling.

Local cuisine

The food of Myanmar is a combination of Chinese and Indian cuisine. If you like one of these, you will love dining out in Bagan. The whole city is filled with local restaurants and food stands where you can order any kind of spicy or mild meat, fried vegetables, fried egg rice, warm soups or grilled seafood.

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A typical Burmese breakfast: deep fried samosas with sweet milky coffee.

Every restaurant serves deep fried samosas filled with onions and garlic, accompanied with a cup of sweet milky coffee for a breakfast. If not, you will be given Chinese you tiao to taste. These are deep fried bread sticks, mostly consumed in China early in the morning. Lunches are usually fried noodles or rice served with chopped onions, carrots and green peas. If you wish you can add some spicy meat or seafood slices. As for the dinner, you can expect grilled veggies, BBQ chicken or pork or any kind of soup that will warm you up as it gets cold after 7 pm in the city (at least it did when we were there towards the end of January).

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Vegetable soup.

What we liked the most in Bagan in terms of food were roasted peanuts and sunflower seeds served as a starter in almost every dining place. Moreover, we enjoyed steamed duck served with mushrooms, local toasts with jam, cashew pancakes with local honey, and sweet milky coffee. All of these may not sound healthy at all, but trying them is definitely a must when dining out in Bagan.

Example of food prices:

  • Coffee/tea – 300 Kyats
  • Steamed duck – 5 000 Kyats
  • Scrambled eggs – 1 000 Kyats
  • Pork/chicken served with rice and any kind of veggie – 3 000 Kyats
  • Water – 300 Kyats small bottle, 500 Kyats large bottle
  • Samosa – 100 Kyats
  • You tiao – 200 Kyats

Affordable living and travels

The good news for every budget traveler visiting Bagan is that this city is very affordable. If you are travelling on a tight budget of, for example, $25 a day as we do, Bagan will be your favourite place. Private rooms are available for approximately 20 000 Kyats (2 people can share), temple hopping is free of charge and the food is less than 10 000 Kyats per day, including drinks and snacks during the day.

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Sightseeing in Bagan.

Humble locals

For us, travelling is not only about where you go and what you see, but also who you meet on the road and how you get treated by locals. In Bagan we met amazing people who always helped us find the right way or share some tips on best sightseeing spots. Despite the fact that we got scammed once (more about it soon), the locals treated us nicely and politely without trying to rip us off at every corner. Burmese people are poor, but extremely humble and kind-hearted.

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Picture time. Local ladies seem to like Cez.

I miss Bagan more and more with each letter I type on my laptop flying to Kathmandu, Nepal. I miss sitting on the back of Cez’s e-bike going from one pagoda to another. I miss climbing high pagodas to see the sunrise and sunset. I miss Steven (a guy who we explored Bagan with) and our jokes. I miss binging on roasted peanuts when sipping on a black coffee. I miss chatting with little boys in the street.

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Local souvenirs.

Have you ever visited Bagan? If so, what do you miss the most?

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{ 28 comments… add one }
  • Tricia @ The Adventure List January 28, 2016, 6:36 pm

    I’ve never considered going to Myanmar but your story has me reconsidering. I’m dumbfounded by the non-refundable hot air balloons. Man, that group was out so much money. Urgh, I’d be mad.

    The roasted nuts as an appetizer/snack sound yummy.

    Reply
    • Agness Walewinder February 2, 2016, 3:59 pm

      The food and activities in Myanmar are amazing. You should add it to your bucket list for sure.

      Reply
  • Katie Featherstone January 28, 2016, 10:31 pm

    Yay! I’m so glad you guys are back travelling together :) -very jealous you’re in Myanmar too! I need to get back to Asia.

    Reply
    • Agness Walewinder February 2, 2016, 3:58 pm

      We’re so happy to travel together as well. We really looked forward to that. Get back to Asia! :)

      Reply
  • Katarina January 29, 2016, 4:21 pm

    Can’t say I’ve been there, but I’ve always wanted to go! Those e-bikes look so cute. It’s too bad those hot air balloon rides were so expensive. Maybe some other time!

    Reply
    • Agness Walewinder February 2, 2016, 3:58 pm

      They were quite expensive for us, but if we had known the price, we would have saved a bit more money for that.

      Reply
  • Photo Cache January 30, 2016, 12:27 am

    One of the places that’s on everyone’s list.

    Reply
    • Agness Walewinder February 2, 2016, 3:57 pm

      Yes, indeed!

      Reply
  • Andrew January 30, 2016, 1:19 am

    isnt it simply awe-inspiring? Loved it so much! the only bad thing is finding shade when it gets hot in the middle of the day.

    Reply
    • Agness Walewinder February 2, 2016, 3:56 pm

      That’s true, Andrew.

      Reply
  • Ted January 30, 2016, 11:12 pm

    You’re not the only one in Myanmar, a friend is there as well at the moment. While I’ll never get to that part of the world, it’s interesting to see images of the place. Food looks good.

    Reply
    • Agness Walewinder February 2, 2016, 3:55 pm

      Many thanks, Ted!

      Reply
  • Victoria@ The British Berliner February 1, 2016, 7:02 am

    Love this post guys and the wonderful photographs. I especially like Cez on the e-bike near the temple and pagodas looking through his bike mirror. That’s a really cool look and Agness “on top of the world!”
    I’ve not been to Myanmar yet, but can’t wait to visit in the future. Why not!

    Reply
    • Agness Walewinder February 2, 2016, 3:55 pm

      Thank you, Victoria. It’s a wonderful country that should be put on your bucket travel list for sure. We are both glad you liked the pictures we took.

      Reply
  • Miriam February 1, 2016, 8:46 am

    Such stunning photos, Agness! I’ll be traveling around Central Europe this spring, but I hope to visit Myanmar in the fall. I’ve heard so much good about the people in Myanmar, especially how warm-hearted they are so I’m excited to hear you say the same. Meeting locals and getting to know their culture & history is definitely a big part of traveling for me.

    Reply
    • Agness Walewinder February 2, 2016, 3:54 pm

      Yes, locals here are extremely kind-hearted and they are so friendly. Meeting locals and getting to know their culture & history is definitely a big part of traveling for us too!

      Reply
  • Becky Padmore February 3, 2016, 11:08 pm

    We missed this out when we travelled around South East Asia but this post reminds me why we need to go back, love the photo of Cez with his groupies ;-)

    Reply
    • Agness Walewinder February 4, 2016, 11:31 am

      I hope you will visit Myanmar in the near future. Totally worth it!

      Reply
  • Cool Travel Blog February 16, 2016, 4:37 am

    Definitely one of the best places we visited. Planning to write about bagan soon.

    http://www.cooltravelblog.com/myanmar-travel-diary/

    Reply
    • Agness Walewinder February 17, 2016, 7:20 pm

      Can’t wait to read about it on your blog.

      Reply
  • Pedro @travelwithpedro February 19, 2016, 6:25 pm

    Bagan! I miss the sunsets there and the people. I must say, I’d return to Myanmar just because of the locals.

    Reply
    • Agness Walewinder February 19, 2016, 6:29 pm

      You’ve been there? Amazing! :) I also miss the sunsets and the people of Myanmar!

      Reply
  • Vanessa @ The Travelling Colognian February 24, 2016, 12:23 pm

    I love this article, Agness. Burma is definitely on my list of places to visit one day especially after my parents have been to different parts of the country three times, in 2009, 2010 and 2013. After reading this post my desire for a trip to Burma is even stronger and I have to admit that your foodie photos really make me hungry and water my mouth. Bagan is high on my list as are the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, the Golden Rock in Kyaiktiyo, Mandalay and the Inle Lake.

    Reply
    • Agness Walewinder February 24, 2016, 6:33 pm

      Great to hear, Vanessa!

      Reply
  • Lily La February 27, 2016, 10:21 am

    I’m glad you had a good time here in Myanmar. Bagan is beautiful and now is really the time to go. Also – don’t be fooled by people saying it’s got perfect weather all year round – Bagan still experiences pretty bad rain at times during the Myanmar monsoon season.

    Reply
    • Agness Walewinder February 28, 2016, 4:36 pm

      Great to know about the monsoon season, Lily.

      Reply
  • Backpacking Panda April 8, 2016, 4:30 pm

    Myanmar is definitely on my travel list, Bagan looks like a really special place…I know well how it feels to miss a place even if you just left it for another adventure, some places have an enormous impact on you and you’ll forever miss it…(=

    Reply
    • Agness Walewinder April 9, 2016, 6:49 pm

      Let’s hope you can make it there soon! Amazing country! :)x

      Reply

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