Introducing the city

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3 * Hotel p/n £16.03

One-way ticket £0.16

Beer £0.79

Main Course £1.97

About Bagan

Land of temples, monks and spires, Bagan is an archaeologist's dream, flanked by the Ayeyarwady River and scattered with Buddhist sites.

Ancient Bagan, a historic city located in Myanmar's Mandalay region, is home to one of the largest array of Buddhist temples in the world. Drawing parallels with Cambodia's Angkor Wat, the area is characterised by its magical mass of spires, domes and statues. Home to around 2,200 restored temples (and thousands more that still need repairing), the town came to prominence in the 9th century. Old Bagan is home to the main sights, including the holiest of the lot - stunning Ananda Temple - which contains four Buddha statues and Shwe Zigon Temple which features a dazzling golden pagoda.

At dusk, head to Shwesandaw (Sunset) Temple which is the best spot in town to watch the setting Burmese sun. New Bagan to the south is home to some reasonable hotels and bars selling local curries - it's a popular base for those visiting the ancient sights. If you get bored temple-hopping take a boat cruise along the serene Ayeyarwady River or rent a bike and explore the surrounding villages.

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Weather

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When Should You Visit?

Come November the rains clear leaving lush green countryside. Its crowded but temperatures are more pleasant, making temple visiting manageable.

Bagan has a semi-arid dry climate with minimal rainfall and little variation in the temperature throughout the year. The hottest month is May with an average temperature of 30 degrees Celsius and the coolest month is January with an average temperature of 25 degrees Celsius. The wettest month is August.

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Travioor top tips

FLIP FLOPS
BICYCLE
WHERE TO EAT

Insider Info

  • Take flip flops or easily removable shoes as you'll need to take them off at every temple you visit.
  • Bikes are an ideal way to get around (despite dusty conditions). Roads are pretty clear and nearly all accommodation places offer rentals.
  • Most of the good restaurants are around Nyaung U, with a few in Old Bagan. Carry food with you when visiting temples as options are often limited.

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Food and drink

Main Course £1.97

3-Course Meal £12.77

Cappuccino £1.79

Beer £0.79

The Scene

Myanmar eateries serve up a range of food and many dishes are influenced by Thai, Indian and Chinese cuisine. Street stalls, tea shops and buffets are all popular and meals are traditionally served on low tables. Rice (t’ămìn) and noodles are the staple of most meals and are eaten with chopsticks. Hìn-jo, a leafy sour soup and ăthouq, a zesty salad served with peanuts and chickpeas are popular sides. Try the nangyi dhouq, a sort of noodle salad.

Mains come in many forms; two of the best are mohinga (rice vermicelli, fish broth, lemon grass, banana stem, fried fish and ginger) and ohn-no khao swè (chicken curry and noodles in a coconut milk broth).

Around Old Bagan you'll find plenty of local restaurants serving authentic Burmese dishes for very reasonable prices. These usually consist of rice, a portion of meat and a couple of side plates. Leading up to Ananda Temple are several al fresco restaurants and small bars, which are also good value for money. Bi eaters should opt for a big bowl of steaming noodle soup, a local favourite.

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History

Bagan's Story

Bagan grew in prominence during the 9th century when ruling King Anawratha - a supporter of Theravada Buddhism - unified the country. Between the 9th and 13th centuries around 13,000 temples and stupas were constructed and it became the head of the Pagan Kingdom. It attracted monks from across the continent and was considered a centre for religion, medicine and education. In 1287 it was invaded by the Mongols and Bagan was reduced to little more than a sprawling village.

It wasn't until 1998 that full restoration works began, with local residents being relocated to nearby New Bagan. Over 2,000 temples have now been rebuilt, however UNESCO has left it off its list, arguing that some reconstruction have not adhered to traditional design. The sight of other-worldly temples stabbing out of early morning mists attracts visitors from around the globe as it has attracted monks for centuries.

Language

မဂႆလာပၝ (min-ga-la-ba) | Hello
ေက်းဇူးတန္ပါတယ္။ (cè-zù tin-ba-deh) | Thank you

Burmese

Burmese is a Sino-Tibetan language that is spoken in Bagan and throughout Myanmar. Some people speak English although most of the temple signs are only in Burmese - English translations (if any) will usually be on the back. If you fancy giving Burmese a go, the following phrases might be useful:

  • Excuse me: ခင္ဗဵာ? (ka mya?)
  • How are you?: ခင္ဗ်ားေနေကာင္းလ (k'amyà ne-kaùn-là?)
  • Do you speak English? သင် အင်္ဂလိပ်လို ပြောသလား? (shin aaingaliutlo pyaw lar?)

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Need to know

+95 Dialling Code
199 | 192 Emergency Services

Get The Low-Down

  • All visitors to Myanmar require a visa before travelling. 
  • Travel advice should be read before going as some parts of the country are considered off-limits to foreigners. 
  • All visitors to Bagan Archaeological area need to pay a $15 fee; after paying you'll be issued with a plastic card which you need to show when checking in to your hotel or guesthouse. 
  • Respect local Buddhist customs by covering arms and shoulders around temples. Any depictions of Buddha can be seen as offensive (including tattoos). 
  • Beware of snakes and beehives hiding among the temple stones. 
  • Pack ample supplies for surviving the midday sun; suncream, a hat, water bottle and wet wipes are all handy. 

 

VISA INFORMATION

Find out about the visa requirements for Myanmar here

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Travioor Recommends

1. RIVER BOAT

If you're coming from Mandalay, opt for the 8 hour boat along the Irrawaddy/Ayeyarwady River. Take in rural Myanmar whilst Bagan's temples creep closer.

2. UNCROWDED ENTRANCE

Enter Ananda Temple from the east rather than the more common north side. There are less hawkers trying to flog you stuff and fewer crowds.

3. SUNSET VIEWS

If you do decide to visit Shwesandaw Temple at sundown, prepare for a narrow climb and crowded top level. If you get vertigo, try level two or three.

4. SECRET ANTIQUES

Visit Shwe War Thein Handicrafts for trinkets, local lacquerware and ornaments. Ask the owners for a look at the back of the shop - it's where the antiques are hidden.

5. LOCAL FOOD

For a smorgasbord of traditional dishes, try Myo Myo Myanmar Rice Food restaurant which constantly gets rave reviews and is guaranteed to fill you up.


See What's On In Bagan