Bagan – Trampling on Enemies

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BaganI can’t remember when was the last time I was so excited and nervous about visiting a certain place. Well, I mean before visiting Bagan. Actually I am always a bit excited, because travelling is my biggest passion. But this time I had a different feeling, the few photos that I saw looked amazing, and the fact that is still largely avoided by tourists gave it a sense of a mystery. There is not much mystery about it, the place is simply unbelievable.

My visit to Bagan was a real luxury. We stayed in the middle of the forest, in a gorgeous hotel, not so far from the temples. Every day we would rent regular and electric bikes and wonder around Bagan from morning till late evening. Quite often we would find ourselves being alone in an ancient site, beautiful park or just driving around with no one on the site. You don’t get to live that often nowadays.

There are no words to describe Bagan, except maybe that it’s all about the temples and its people. Most of the temples date from the 11th and 12th centuries, and while sometimes heavily reconstructed, they still show the glory of the kingdom that once united the whole of Burma. Unlike Angkorian monuments that are displayed as museum pieces, here many temples are still used as places of worship. Local people are in charge of their maintenance and thanks to them they have survived, even when there was no income coming from tourism.

The natural setting is quite special. Thousands of temples were built on the plateau above the banks of the mighty Ayeyarwady River. Some of the biggest ones are located inside the city walls, in the town called Old Bagan, but most of the temples lie outside, in an area of around 100km2. While wealthier tourists stay in Old Bagan, those with a limited budget choose either New Bagan on the south, or Nyang U on the northeast.

The Thatbyinnyu temple inside the city walls is 61 m tall, which makes it the tallest in Bagan. Some 500m to the northeast, the Ananda temple represents a mixture of Mon and Indian styles and is one of the most sacred Burmese temples. South of the main road leading to Nyang U, the Dhammayangyi temple while not in great shape, it’s the largest in the area. Less than a kilometer away to the northeast the Sulamani temple is one of the most visited temples by the locals. The Shwezigon Pagoda in Nyang U with its gilded stupa is a prototype of a Burmese pagoda, while the Shwesandaw temple offers majestic sunset views.

In my experience there are nice destinations that you will never forget, and great ones that you will surely come back to. Bagan is undoubtedly in the second group. It is rather difficult to write about it, I would recommend visiting it first and then we can exchange our impressions. Tourist numbers are rising sharply and people are still happy to receive them. I am quite sure that pretty soon it will all change. The place is too adorable not to be visited!

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Bagan – Trampling on Enemies

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