Myanmar’s premier attraction, the stunning ancient site of Bagan in rural countryside beside the Irrawaddy River. Photo by Christopher Michel.
How to get the best from Bagan
Few ancient sites have such incredible 360 degree panoramic views or have great sunrises and sunsets like Myanmar’s Bagan (formerly Pagan). In one of the world’s most peaceful, spectacular locations, Bagan is one of the three best Buddhist archaeological sites in the world, along with Angkor (Cambodia) and Borobudur (Indonesia).
Thousands of tourists still come here every year – in spite of the disgraceful government – but quickly disappear into the 40 sq km (16 sq miles) mass of 2, 500 pagodas and stupas built between the 11th and 13th centuries, surrounded by the Irrawaddy River (aka Ayeyarwaddy), peanut and sesame fields.
It’s not difficult to feel alone here, except at the best sunset spots, but even then, sitting on a temple, watching the shadows lengthen and the oxcarts trundle home, it’s simply stupafying.
Pagan is probably not included in UNESCO’s World heritage sites for due to Myanmar’s unsavoury government and their erratic restoration procedures.
December-January, the Ananda Festival, when thousands of monks and locals gather for a huge pagoda festival. Three days at the full moon.
The full moon time around May-June and November-December. Two big spiritual festivals (Nat Pwes) are held at Mt. Popa.
Lacquerware is the most popular Burmese souvenir and mainly made in Bagan.
There are many workshops and sellers in the area though you can buy the same stuff in Yangon or Mandalay, and the price is not so different.
n. b. the finest quality goods are often kept in back rooms of many shops so ask if you are interested in the best items.