Bagan

Introducing Bagan

View Gallery

Bagan is located on the banks of the Irrawaddy River in Central Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) and is the site of the densest collection of Buddhist temples, stupas and monasteries in the world. The haunting beauty and juxtaposition of the stupas and spires rising above the Bagan plain veiled in morning mist creates an unforgettable panorama which rivals any of the more famous and renowned attractions in the world such as the Egyptian Pyramids or Machu Picchu in Peru. In addition to the visual beauty there are also the cultural wonders to experience as many of the ancient temples and pagodas are active and living sites of devotion in this country of colour and warmth where religion is the life blood of society.

The monuments seem to overwhelm the landscape. There are about 2,000 of them covering an area of 16 square miles on the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwady in central Myanmar. They are in different sizes and in a bewildering variety of shapes. They are also in varying stages of preservation and disrepair. Some of them throb with life, visited by devotees, a few have become little more than piles of bricks.

Why Bagan (Pagan) is special

Bagan is notable for its expanse of sacred geography, the number and size of their individual ancient monuments. The ruins of Bagan cover an area of 16 square miles. The majority of its buildings were built in the 11th to 13th centuries, during the time Bagan was the capital of the Myanmar dynasty. Bagan is also the first place to have transformed into a religious and cultural centre, by Shin Arahan who brought Theravada Buddhism to this land. Bagan is full of ancient architectural designs, mural paintings, precious frescoes and stone inscriptions to see for yourself, and also it is the centre for the manufacturing of lacquerware products in Myanmar. Hence it is marked as a cultural heritage of the Myanmar People, and also a landmark full of ancient pagodas and monuments which can be rarely encountered today. Bagan is one of the major historical landmarks of Asia and represents the outstanding achievement of Theravada Buddhism. Most of the site were damaged by the 1975 earthquake and cooperation with UNESCO projects help some experimental conservation work, restoration of mural paintings and maintaining some of the rare monuments.

Experience Bagan

Every day at precisely 7am the streets fill with monks dressed in maroon, and not the normal orange as one would expect. The monks parade in lines from tallest to shortest, with some of the small monks as young as 3 years old and parade through the streets barefoot. The nuns, are female monks, who wear pink robes, bright orange skirts and caramel and burnt orange towels that are wrapped from their shoulders down to their armpits and back again. 

The Moon Vegetarian Restaurant is a gastronomic experience like no other, and of course the best vegetarian restaurant in all of Bagan. The menu is huge with a diverse choice, and every day there is a chefs special to choose from. Everything is made by scratch in this tiny restaurant that only seats 15, which is a bonus, because then you don’t have to sit with all the other hundreds of tourists that are also eating in Bagan. 

Mahar Bagan serves traditionally authentic Burmese food as well as many Chinese dishes in their restaurant. The festive atmosphere and the lively owner, who is cheerful and friendly and speaks excellent English, loves taking time with his patrons, many of whom are visitors, and telling them tales about ancient Bagan. Because Burmese food takes so long to make and because everything is made from scratch, you will need to place your order at least 5 hours before you want to eat. 

Weather Spoon’s is the place you want to go for literally the best hamburger in Asia. The new modern café/restaurant has an excellent menu with a substantial Western menu to choose from as well as other Chinese and Burmese dishes as well. 

When touring around Bagan, your best item to take with you will be a cheap pair of plastic flip flops (thong sandals). It is incredibly dusty there, and hot and very dry, and if you have to undo shoelaces and remove socks and shoes every time you enter a temple, as you are required to remove your footwear before going inside, you are going to be very frustrated by temple number 3, and there are more than 2200 to still experience! The overwhelming landscapes will both overwhelm and astonish you, the surroundings a visual feast for the senses. Take your time and savor each temple, with its own, unique story and personality and be whisked away into another era, which almost seems to be standing completely still. 

Essential information