Bagan is hands down one of the most spectacular places I have ever visited. Any trip to Myanmar HAS to include this place on your itinerary. Bagan is an ancient city where over 10,000 Buddhist temples were built on the land, and thousands of these temples still survive. Consequently, any high-ish spot gives you an incredible view over the plains and the temples scattered throughout. Most of these temples are accessible and deserted and you are allowed to climb up into them to look around and gaze at the view. It is truly awe-inspiring.
I stayed in New Bagan (the village was relocated here from where all the temples are in Old Bagan in the 1990s), it is a small village with only the basics available. I really enjoyed the quiet and laid back vibe of the village. The main transport around this area is by horse and cart or bicycle. I recommend trying both. I decided one morning to watch the sunrise so organised a local to swing by my accommodation with his horse and cart to pick me up. It was a neat experience in the deserted early morning with only sound being the clip clopping on the cobbled road. I climbed up into a temple and watched the sun come out, which was a really nice way to start the day.
I also enjoyed renting a bicycle and simply weaving in and out of the various temples. You can grab a map from most accommodation places and they are pretty simple to follow. Although I did have an encounter with a large black snake that decided to slither right in front of my wheel. We both got a huge fright. I was further put on guard when I observed a large python snaking its way into a temple I had just poked my nose into. I decided not to enter any more deserted temples on my own that day!
Catching a view of the sunset over the plains is another must-do while in Bagan. I got a lot of recommendations from various people about the best spots to see the sunset from. It seemed that most people had got the same memo, because when I reached one of the biggest temples there were already a lot of people there waiting. But that was okay, it was still a beautiful site.
This area is also known for producing lacquerware, which is bamboo covered in black-dyed sap and intricately decorated. So it’s a good place to pick some up cheaply and makes for good gifts. I also came across a lot of puppies, there are dogs everywhere in Myanmar but I particularly noticed a huge amount of them here in Bagan. I love dogs so I was pretty happy about it.
Overall my time in Bagan was magical and interesting and relaxing and beautiful. I would come back in a heartbeat. Cost wise, it was pretty similar to Inle Lake, if not a bit cheaper. You are looking at approximately NZ$60 (US$40) per day.
Editor’s Note: Visited Myanmar in 2012, updated in 2017.