Sunset in Bagan, Burma

Exploring the Temples of Bagan

After ten months in Asia we’d definitely seen our fair share of temples by the time we arrived in Burma. In fact, after our temple-hopping experience in Cambodia we thought we’d seen the absolute cream of the crop – how could anything top the mighty Angkor Wat? Despite all this we stepped off the bus into a sweltering, dusty Bagan afternoon with open minds, ready to explore the thousands of ancient pagodas which litter the countryside.

A field full of temples in Bagan, Burma

Breakdowns and Beauty in Bagan

Now, we haven’t had the best luck when it comes to capturing sunsets and sunrises on our journey. Normally the ones we set out to see are a cloudy mess while we occasionally find ourselves spontaneously experiencing something beautiful – the lollypop-pink sunrise on the way to Milford Sound in New Zealand for example, or the purple-bruised sunsets of the Philippines. Despite all that, we got up at the crack of dawn in Bagan, shivering as we sped along at 20 miles per hour on our e-bike to watch the sunrise over the temple-studded fields.

Sunset in Bagan, Burma

This time, miraculously, we weren’t disappointed – the sun rose and the sky turned from shades of milky grey to orange, illuminating the spikes of pagoda-tops stretching far into the distance as hot-air balloon silhouettes sailed by. The sunrise wasn’t a fluke and we were blessed with more beautiful sunsets during our trip Burma, it’s one of the things I loved most about our time in the country. I also cherish meeting some Burmese tourists while we were in Bagan; groups of women were keen to have their pictures taken with me and at one temple parents brought their kids over to greet and shake hands with us – the Burmese people are incredible.

Statue in Bagan, Burma

The beautiful scenery, kind people and good food we enjoyed in Bagan was countered by some tricky situations concerning touts. I’ve already shared the story about our e-bike break down which led to us being befriended by a boy posing as a student who turned out to be an unfriendly salesman in disguise. After this episode we were much more on guard during our time in Bagan, we were polite but firm with sellers and locals who approached offering to show us around – we’d definitely learnt our lesson the hard way.

Bagan Pagodas

The Temples of Bagan – in Pictures

Despite having seen so many temples during our time in Asia, Bagan was unique in that there are so many pagodas in one place; stand atop one  and you can see them stretch off for miles into the distance. Many are simple red-brick, hat-shaped structures while others are larger and contain Buddha statues; some are gothic in appearance and there’s even a Hindu temple.  We took hundreds of pictures while visiting Bagan, particularly of the  spectacular sunsets and sunrises, here are some of our best shots.

Golden Pagoda in Bagan

Gothic Temple in Bagan, Burma

Pagoda in Bagan, Burma

Sunrise in Bagan, Burma

Colourful Buddha Statue in Bagan

Red Temple in Bagan

Hindu Temple in Bagan, Burma

Gold Buddha Statue in Bagan, Burma

Sunlight in a Temple in Bagan, Burma

Pagoda in Bagan, Burma

Huge Statue in Bagan, Burma

Pagodas in Bagan, Burma

Visiting Bagan – the Logistics

Dinner at Be Kind to Animals in Bagan

  • Bagan is one of Burma’s most popular draws for both international and Burmese visitors and it was the most touristy place we came across during our time in the country. Be prepared to be hounded by touts and sellers, some of whom will offer to show you around for free and then try to charge you later on or get you to buy their goods.
  • There are plenty of Bagan hotels, most are overpriced due to growing demand and expensive government licenses; you may need to book in advance, especially during peak season.
  • There are three areas to stay in; Old Bagan, New Bagan and Nyaung-U, which is the cheapest area. We opted to stay at Shwe Na Di Guesthouse in Nyanung-U, which cost £15 per night.
  • To get around the temples we rented an electric bike and caused a commotion by insisting they give us helmets to wear, this cost us £5.50 per day.
  • There’s a smattering of decent restaurants in Bagan and the aptly named vegetarian place, Be Kind To Animals, served the best food we had during the whole of our time in Burma.

Hot Air Balloon at Sunrise in Bagan, Burma

Exploring the temples of Bagan, Pinterest

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  • Catherine
    Posted at 18:59h, 30 July Reply

    The sunrise looks and sounds incredible! Love the photo.

    • Amy
      Posted at 12:15h, 31 July Reply

      Thanks Catherine, we were so spoiled by all the beautiful sunsets and sunrises in Burma, particularly in Bagan.

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
    Posted at 01:54h, 31 July Reply

    Bagan looks so beautiful and I’m so glad it gifted you with so many lovely sunrises. I know how frustrated you must feel on that front because until we visited Sri Lanka, we also had the WORST luck with that kind of stuff. Just another reason for you to visit SL and for us to visit Bagan! 😀

    • Amy
      Posted at 12:11h, 31 July Reply

      True Steph, we are definitely talking about how we can fit Sri Lanka into our time in Asia. All the beautiful sunsets and sunrises we saw in Burma really made up for the failed attempts elsewhere on our trip!

  • Helen
    Posted at 21:09h, 04 August Reply

    So excited to see that you went to Be Kind to Animals, we liked the food there too when we visited Burma last year. You’ve brought back happy food memories for me 🙂

    • Amy
      Posted at 22:04h, 04 August Reply

      Glad to bring back happy food memories for you Helen! We absolutely loved Be Kind To Animals, it was the perfect place to finish up after a day of temple-hopping!

  • Alyson
    Posted at 19:37h, 05 August Reply

    Burma and Bhutan, the two top countries on my bucket list. Burma is more achievable and yet we STILL haven’t been there. I’m drooling over your photos. Next year!

    • Amy
      Posted at 12:49h, 06 August Reply

      Bhutan sounds interesting Alyson. I think you’d enjoy Burma, I’m sure the people there would love to meet your kids especially!

  • Heidi @WagonersAbroad
    Posted at 05:10h, 06 August Reply

    Absolutely gorgeous. It is wonderful when you can see the sun come up as as well as set, in such beautiful surroundings. I think you may have helped add another country to our “to see” list.

    • Amy
      Posted at 12:50h, 06 August Reply

      Thanks Heidi, we got some of the most beautiful pictures from our entire trip in Burma, especially of the sunsets and sunrises.

  • Erin
    Posted at 08:57h, 06 August Reply

    I’ve never heard of it, wow. It looks beautiful. Would love to visit.

    • Amy
      Posted at 12:50h, 06 August Reply

      Bagan was pretty awesome Erin, probably one of our favourite places in Burma.

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    Posted at 09:01h, 07 August Reply

    […] Htun and our two tours in and around Mandalay were overpriced and underwhelming. When entering Bagan and Lake Inle your bus will stop at a checkpoint and you’ll pay the entry zone fee, for us this […]

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  • Katie
    Posted at 12:54h, 20 February Reply

    Beautiful photos guys! I am just doing some research for our trip in a few weeks; e-bikes sound like a great idea! Did you rent them from your guest house?


    • Amy
      Posted at 08:49h, 21 February Reply

      Hi Katie, I think we rented them from a little shop down the road, they’re pretty easy to find and I’m sure your guesthouse can help you locate one. Have an awesome time, when you’re in Bagan be sure to eat at ‘Be Kind to Animals’, the food there was really good 🙂

      • Katie
        Posted at 06:09h, 22 February Reply

        Thanks for the tip Amy – we’ll be sure to!
        Hope you are enjoying your last couple of months in Hanoi. Where is next for you guys?


        • Amy
          Posted at 06:43h, 22 February Reply

          Thanks Katie 🙂 We’re off to Thailand in June, back to the UK in July and August and on to the U.S for three months – exciting!

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    […] How to get from Mandalay to Bagan […]

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    […] from the famous, glittering Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon to the many crumbling, ancient stupas of Bagan. We skimmed over the incredibly vast Lake Inle, explored the historical Mandalay, saw some of the […]

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    […] On our way back to Yogyakarta, we stopped at another UNESCO site, a Hindu temple called Prambanan. Both these temples remain some of the most impressive we’ve seen in Asia, along with Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the hundreds of stupas which decorate the countryside in Bagan, Burma. […]

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