#42 – Bagan, Myanmar

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Bagan, Myanmar at sunset with full blown edits.

Bagan stands as a 42 square kilometer plain in central Myanmar once said to have over 13,000 Buddhist temples with some dating as far back as the 11th and 12th centuries.  Now, an approximate 2,200 remain in a vast wasteland like field where backpackers and some few tourists come to marvel at the beauty of what is left.  Bagan is and was the highest concentration of Buddhist temples, ruins, pagodas, and stupas in the world.   There are heavy comparisons with the cultural and historical significances between Bagan and Angkor but I believe that the architectural differences between the both are very far and I was deeply impressed with both sites.  For sure, I felt a little more zen-like after each visit, there was no stopping it with the amount of visual immersion that I was surrounded with.  It was a great experience and totally do not regret visiting here.

When I arrived, I feared for the heat and sun that would be brought upon my tan lines and the option of having to be whisked around by horse and carriage all day seemed like a good idea.  However, upon arrival and finding a place to stay with an instant backpacker friend, Mo (from Austria), we decided to bike it since the weather seemed overcasty.  With an area that was probably bigger than Angkor, I was hesitant but with a friend I felt that I can oblige to a group decision.  Whatever, I would just fight through it.  Luckily, it never got too unbearably hot like Angkor was.

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11,000 kyats for bus ride from Mandalay to Bagan.

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The bus.

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The washroom stop.  Quite… basic.  <– Lady | Man –>

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They played Titanic on the TV.  Every single violence or sex related scene was cut/censored.  Movie ended to up to be half as long.  Had I not watched it before, I would have been so confused.

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Mandatory stop made for all entering Bagan.  Tourists required to pay $15 USD.  I had inital suspicions of this being a scam (my friend Mo slept through it and missed out) but eventually, a few of the bigger temples in Bagan acutally checked for tickets and turned away those who didn’t buy one.

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Stayed at May Kha Lar Hotel which luckily had a makeshift ‘dormroom’.  $10 USD per night.

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Basic basic.  Feet still gets dirty after showering.  Just have to live with dirty feet in Myanmar.

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A sign.

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All the dirt roads around the temples and Bagan.  And yes, you often have to be barefoot around them.

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Example of what a lot of temples are.  The few popular and big ones had small groups of shops for tourists but nothing near Cambodia levels.  Most of everyone was also very nice and non-aggressive where they would stop hounding you after your first no.  It was nice.

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Burmese trying to sell his “art”.  Unfortunately, the same design could be found on several “painters” around Bagan.  Although it was quite beautiful and on a piece of quality cloth, the fact that these were pumped out in a factory made any purchase much less worthy.

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Sleeper.  I remembered that the hallways of this temple was dank with the stench of guano and bats.  Ace Ventura.  Bumblebee tuna.  Alrighty then.

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Free filtered drinking water offer in most of the larger temples.  I drank some, felt fine.  OK to drink.

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Cute kid.

If y’all are wondering what’s on the kid’s face, it is called Thanaka.  A gold-white cream applied on the face of most commonly Burmese children and women to protect from the sun.  Thanaka is made from ground bark (just water and wood on a grinding plate) of the Thanaka tree.  The resulting cream has cooling properties and is said to be nourishing for the face and is often applied in various patterns and designs, especially girls and women.

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Mo + electric bike.  Was totally jealous of people that rented these and wish I had done the same 1 hour into biking Bagan.  Although most roads were flat and relatively easy to bike on, the idea of not needing to pedal was glorious.

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Extra “Golden Palace” that required additional admission to enter.  Didn’t go, but looked neat from afar.  Though, I doubt that this would have added anything to the experience and honestly probably one of the temples modeled in a fully touristy way.  UNESCO likely disliked this.

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Cute kid 2.0 flying a kite.

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Looking down from the top of one of the temples.  Higher than the picture suggests.

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Mo thought it was a good idea to climb up.

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Then again to the top.

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This was one of the really stupid things I tell myself not to do when travelling.  I climbed up.

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View from the actual top of the temple.

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Pano.

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Glorious view.

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After security told us to come down from the temple (some onlookers tattled on us), we thought we were going to miss the sunset from the famous sunset temple so we quickened our pace and rushed there.

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Luckily we made it and had some good shots of the colour changing sky.  It felt that with every 5 minutes the sky would be a different colour.  It was nice to see.

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At night, the surrounding temples (big ones) were ‘litt up’ and view of the Bagan plains with a beautiful sunset will always be something difficult to describe and definitely memorable to experience.

Suits reference… anyone?

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Pano.

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Heard of a good burger place in town.  I could do with a burger on tiring days like these.  Comfort food will always be comfort food.

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The hotel breakfast.

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The next day Mo and I opted to split up as he was an architect major and wanted to do some sketching whereas I wanted to hit several of the temples that was missed the day before.

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Smaller and narrower than it seems here.

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I do enjoy dem rooftop views.

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Looming presence of a giant Buddha/Guan Yin statue with Christmas lights on the side is always atmospheric no?

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Shwesandaw Temple or the sunset temple.

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Just endless fields of Buddhist temples.  I had heard that for every sin made, that person would construct his own temple which is the reason why there are so many in Bagan.  Thought this thought was interesting whether or not it is real.

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Cloudy pano.

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A horde of loud Chinese tourists urging some of the height fearing tourists to go faster.  Not that I’m hating on them, but sometimes the noise is just a little over the top.

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Different from my FB display pic.   See it?

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Oh, no sunset today.  Too bad for so many tourists waiting for it.

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Finished off the night with some Burmese food and chats with Mo and Ben, a teacher from the UK.

In conclusion, temples I would recommend in Bagan:

Ananda Temple

Shwesandaw Temple

Shwezigon Temple/Pagoda

Thatbyinnyu Temple

Shwegugyi Temple

Manuhar Pagoda

Dhamma Yangyi Temple

As I had previously mentioned, Bagan was not elected to be approved in the UNESCO World Heritage site protection list due to the fact that some temples were rebuilt in an un-historic way.  However, in my opinion Bagan contains so much more than the few that were rebuilt that way and it’s cultural and historical merits go above and beyond many World Heritage sites already on the list.

I think this should be reconsidered due to the influx of tourists coming in as Myanmar becomes more and more popular and the level of protection from people, and weather to be next to nothing.  I can already see a lot of damages done to many of the temples and much more to come if more and more people are coming through with each passing year.  It is a shame.

Myanmar continues as I hit #3 of the BIG 4 places to visit, Inle Lake.

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Posted in Tips, Travel
2 comments on “#42 – Bagan, Myanmar
  1. winkgurl says:

    ahh Titanic cut in half? gg

    dirty feet are disgusting. yuck

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