Bagan: Chasing Sunsets, Temples and Pagodas
bagan temples in myanmar

It’s been a month since we came back from our Easter holiday in Bagan – a sleepy little village in Myanmar. The slow internet that is available only in selected ranges. The lack of gadgets or advance technology. The absence of electricity in some areas. The early start and end of days that seem to slow down life. Now back in Singapore, it feels as if I have traveled back in time.

I know it sounds like an adage but I couldn’t come at a perfect term to describe Bagan in one word. It is magical, breathtaking and surreal all at once. There’s something about it that transports you in a dream-filled history and culture. It isn’t just a destination, but an experience. Unforgettable one, if you ask.

bagan temples in myanmar
The Bulethi Pagoda from a distance

At 5:30 AM, we rented an ebike for 8000 kyat (US$ 7) and made friends with a local guide, Poant Poant. She met us from our hotel in Nyaung-U and lead the way for our first sunrise at Bulethi Pagoda.

I am not usually afraid of heights but climbing Bulethi made me feel a bit anxious. The steps are high and narrow, just about half the size of my feet (I’m size 8). There are no hand rails, too. You’ll need your trusty pair of hands to hold onto the bricks so make sure your hands are free when you climb.

bagan temples in myanmar
The early morning mist hovered on the Bagan plains.
bagan temples in myanmar
Hot air balloons also started to float from afar which made the sunrise even more sensational.
bagan temples in myanmar
Yes, a view like this is worth the scary climb up!

“During the kingdom’s height between the 11th and 13th centuries, over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the Bagan plains alone, of which the remains of over 2,200 temples and pagodas still survive to the present day.”

After sunrise, we continued our temple run/ebike marathon with our guide.

bagan temples in myanmar

The valley of Bagan has thousands of temples. You can easily find one to explore on your own. Here are some popular ones you shouldn’t miss.

ananda temple in bagan myanmar

ANANDA TEMPLE

The most famous, most beautiful and best preserved temple in Bagan. It has four standing Buddha statues in each of the corners of the temple. It also has the finest examples of Burmese architecture, stone sculpture, wood carvings and wall drawings. Our guide told us, “You’ve never been to Bagan if you haven’t seen Ananda Temple”.

dhammayangyi in bagan myanmar

DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE

The most massive temple in Bagan and has a similar architectural plan with Ananda. It was told that the King who requested to build this temple murdered his father and brother to ascend to the throne. Yes, he was a bad king. So he was executed even before the temple was finish.

shwesandaw pagoda in bagan myanmar
Yes, those are humans. A huge crowd waiting for sunset. :)

SHWESANDAW PAGODA

Or also known as the Sunset Temple. This pagoda offers a great view of Bagan plains but gets crowded during sunset. Unlike Bulethi, this one has hand rails that make it easier to climb for elders but the stair steps are still steep and narrow.

shwezigon pagoda in bagan myanmar

SHWEZIGON PAGODA

One of the oldest pagodas in Bagan that is like Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. It consists of circular gold stupa surrounded by smaller temples and shrines.

thatbyinnu temple in bagan myanmar

THATBYINNYU TEMPLE

“Thatbyinnyu” literally means omniscience. It is the tallest temple in Bagan that is towering above all the other monuments.

htilominlo temple in bagan myanmar

HTILOMINLO TEMPLE

One of the greatest temples in Bagan named after the King who built the temple. It has an impressive structure and design, and decorated with the finest plaster carvings.

sulamani temple in bagan myanmar

SULAMANI TEMPLE

This temple represents some of Bagan’s finest ornamental work. There are carvings on moldings/plasters which are in still in good condition until today.

bagan myanmar sunset

bagan myanmar sunset
Sunset from Shwesandaw Pagoda

At dusk, we headed to a lesser known temple. One hidden in bushes and ruins. Not as tall as the famous, but with far less crowd than in Shwesandaw Pagoda. Along with two other couples, we almost had the temple on our own.

We watched as the vivid orange sun made its slow dance on the white washed sky.

It was peaceful. Quiet. Monumental.

bagan myanmar sunset
Sunset from North Guni Temple

As I recall the experiences and local encounters we had on that day, I realized that Burmese are the simplest people I’ve met. Locals dressed modestly. Women don’t wear makeup. Residential houses are not extravagant. No expensive appliances. Some even cook in firewood. Technology, of course, is not prevalent. There was no hint of luxury in their living, not even a desire for it.

And you know what the best part is? They are genuinely happy with what they have.

It was humbling.

bagan myanmar sunset
Sunset from Shwenanyintaw Temple

We lingered for a bit until the sun has gone… feeling extremely blessed to be able to travel, explore beautiful places, and meet amazing people in the world.

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  • Wow ang ganda! I’ve been waiting for this post because I know you wouldn’t go to a place that it isn’t interesting. From sunrise to sunset you’ve captured the moment beautifully. I will definitely add this place to my wanderlst. Btw, how far these temples from each other?

    • Thanks Joy! <3 The temples are near each other but it's not walkable. I don't recommend walking because it's really hot and dusty. And you need your strength to climb the temples. Haha! By bicycle or car, you can hop from one temple to another in 5-10 mins or so.

  • I love seeing your photos. All of the temples are so beautiful and it’s great to hear about people that are disconnected from the rest of the world and totally happy with it. Pretty soon I’m going to need to take a vacation to somewhere where there’s no wifi and I can unwind a bit.

    • Aah, it helps to be “unplugged” sometimes, isn’t it? Happy to know that you had a wonderful time in DC with the fam! Were you able to get that much needed rest? I hope you did, Cori! :)

  • Okay, you’ve convinced me that I need to go to Myanmar. Those views and places and that disconnection from technology. I need that. :)

  • I am in the process of planning a trip to Myanmar in June! This is such a useful guide; saving it for later!

    Best,
    Sarah

    • Thanks Sarah! Myanmar is wonderful. I’m writing another post about Bagan, it’ll be up next week.

      Enjoy your trip in June! It maybe a lot hotter by then, always bring water. :)

  • Sandra Henriques Gajjar

    The more we travel, the richer we are with experiences. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s the only way I can describe it. And experiencing time slowing down and people being happy with simple things is priceless.

  • Andrea Berkholtz

    I’m with you on the heights thing! Bulethi would not be my thing if I thought I might topple over the sides lol! So jealous of the hot air ballon pics, those are incredible!

  • Jessica Vitorelo

    This post made me so happy because it brought me back to my trip to Myanmar! I also rented the electric scooters to get around and felt so funny on one. Also, love all your photos. I hope to go back when it’s hot air balloon season! No one was riding them while I was there :/

    • Glad that this post reminded you of your trip. :)

      We only got to see the balloons once. We’re supposed to ride on the following day but trip was cancelled because of unfavorable wind condition. Better luck next time. :)

  • Your photos are amazing! Those balloons at sunrise are so out of this world. It makes me dream for a serene place. I would love to be in one of those balloons, but I am so afraid of heights.

    • Thank you, Joanna! It really looks like a dream. <3
      I hope you get to conquer your fear and be able to try at least once. ;)

  • Nicki McLaren

    These photos are awesome! I’ve always loved the sun in the horizon with the hot air balloons. I appreciate that you were able to power down there – as a travel blogger it is often hard – but I’m glad you had a magical time. These are the times that change our lives

    • Reaally hard! As they say, as bloggers we don’t vacay, we document! :))
      Thankfully, the internet connection in Myanmar is not that good, so I was forced to just go offline and let life be. ;)

  • The Nerdventurists

    I really need to get here before it’s entirely overrun by tourists. So much history and culture here, I just want to soak it up!

  • Europe Diaries

    Gosh! What a place! And Hot air balloons too!! I have been longing to take a ride on one of those:)

  • What a beautiful! Cant wait to go here one day. And you have the most beautiful photos ❤❤❤

  • Bagan is high on my list of places to visit and your photos are seriously beautiful! Saving this for when I eventually visit!

  • I came back from Bagan 2 weeks ago and didn’t get to see those hot-air balloons as they weren’t in season. Lovely trip and photos you have in this post!

    • Thanks Kristine! We were supposed to take the hot air balloon but the winds were not on our favor during our schedule. :))

      Next time! :)