Bagan is an incredible magical place that you need to see when visiting Myanmar. The dry savanna-like landscape with its countless temples and pagodas, tamarind and acacia trees and small rattan-house villages is especially beautiful when the sun rises in the early morning.
Stay: New Bagan is about 10 minutes away from the most popular temples. It’s nice to stay here because there are many restaurants, shops and hotels so that there is a lively, vibrant and younger atmosphere in the small town than in Old Bagan. The Amata Garden Resort has tasteful rooms, delicious breakfast, a huge pool and the warmest and friendliest staff! They also organize E-Bikes and ballooning for you.
Do: There are three main areas in Bagan. In the town Nyaung U you find the small airport, an interesting market and the Shwezigon temple. It’s a beautiful busy complex with a huge golden stupa and colorful old wood statues. Around Old Bagan, Anawrahta main road and on the way to New Bagan you find most temples and pagodas. Also around the small village Myinkabar on the way to New Bagan are great temples like Manuha with a long Buddha statue lying down. It’s great just to explore the area by driving along the sandy paths and stoping at any building that seems interesting. When exploring the temples at dusk, you’re alone with the old, mystical Buddha statues and the tranquility around them. The biggest and most unique temples are Thatbyinnyu, Ananda and Dhammayazika but there are beautiful buildings every few meters. You’ll see golden Buddhas, old mural paintings, embellished temple-walls and a unique, dusty, golden landscape. A highlight is to rise early before sunrise and drive to one of the temples to see the sun coming up behind the magical landscape of Bagan. After the earthquake in 2016 it’s forbidden to climb most buildings but there are a few that are safe to climb. Open are Ta Wet Hpaya Temple 863 and Loka Oakshang Temple. They also built two viewing platforms, or rather small mounds, where you can enjoy sunrise and sunset, both is equally beautiful. A ride with a hot air balloon is certainly also a great experience but staying on the ground and only seeing the balloons in the morning sky is just as good. Balloons Over Bagan, Oriental Ballooning and Golden Eagle Ballooning all offer flights. Or make your way from Old Bagan through Leya village to the Ayeyarwady river and take in the local life or jus sit in the shade under the trees and watch the slow ships on the water. A calm spot is next to the cafe Fantasia Garden. Nice villages where you don’t see too many tourists but a bit of local life are Minnanthu and Pwazaw.
Eat: In New Bagan you find a lot of simple tearooms and restaurants. Kyaw Kitchen located in a side street a bit away from the main road in New Bagan cooks excellent curries and local specialties. It’s lovely to sit in the garden under the bamboo roof and traditional umbrellas and eat tea leaf salad and prawn curry. The Moon Be Kind to Animals is a lovely vegetarian restaurant with traditional simple dishes. They have two restaurants but you sit a bit nicer in the second newer one in New Bagan, than in the one in Old Bagan. Another option in New Bagan is The Golden Bamboo where you get simple rice and curry dishes.
Shop: Take a look inside the Win family’s shop where you find everything from handbags to chairs made of rattan. You find it next to Thatbyinnyu temple.
Getting around: Flights with AirKBZ or another local airline are cheap and the fastest way to get to Bagan, otherwise it’s possible to take an overnight bus, find tickets here or here. In Bagan I highly recommend renting an E-Bike. They are cheap, easy to ride, bring you to the most remote temples fast and are just so much fun to drive. Some people prefer to rent bikes but the heat and the sandy roads are not ideal for them.
Notes: All around the main tourist hubs there are many Burmese, especially kids that try to talk to you and want to sell postcards or souvenirs. You get used to it and it’s always friendly but it can be annoying after some time.It is extremely dusty, hot and dry in Bagan during the day. Make sure you wear functional clothes and maybe a scarf to protect your face against the dust. In the early morning when leaving to see the sunrise it can still be quite cold and dark so you might want to bring a jacket.