Words cannot sum up the feelings that develop for a place throughout the a visit to Baga, Burma. Once, the capital between the 9th and 13th century, Bagan is the symbol of the country’s widespread faith in Buddhism that remains prevalent today. I’ve seen many temples and pagodas throughout my travels in China, Mexico, Peru, Cambodia, Thailand and now throughout Burma, but nothing can prepare you for the jaw dropping number of temples in Bagan. I thought the temple complex in Angkor Wat was enormous, but Bagan dwarfs it in comparison. Nowadays, 2,000 temples remain in the area but I could only wonder what it would have been like to step back in time betwee at it’s prime, when the kings went on a building spree and up to 10,000 temples and pagodas were built.
For four days, we explored approximately half of the possible area, getting up at stupid o’clock (4:30am) and making sure we’d be in a suitable location for the sunrise. There are a handful of pagodas and temples that you can climb up and are usually full by sunrise. Afterwards we’d go off exploring again and be back to the hotel by 9:30am for breakfast and a siesta as the direct and reflective heat off the desert sand is too much to handle.
Despite some questionable renovations at the main temples, there are still plenty of crumbling temples that you can ride by, admire from the outside or explore. At times when we’d decide to explore a smaller temple we’d be rewarded by some impressive laying Buddha’s or smaller intricate carvings and paintings. The interiors of the temples are a great place to escape the heat which has a bite to it even in the early hours of the morning.
Like most tourist places, expect to be inundated by people selling paintings and handicrafts, especially children. Most would chant persistently in a melancholic voice and a couple would sell hand drawn postcards which some of us bought seeing they had made some sort of effort. My advice would be to buy some postcards off them only if they take you for a tour of some of the temples that visitors are able to climb. It’s where the kids can have a bit of fun riding on the back of your electric bike and will the best $2 you would have parted with.
Sunrise on our first morning in Bagan. We intended on going to a different site but ended up here by mistake. Still not a bad view don’t you think?
A view from the entrance to Tha Beik Hmauk . Shoes are not permitted on any of the sites so once you enter so it’s bare foot all the way.
Although some temples have been fully restored, the interiors of many others retain the original crumbling features.
A caretaker of the a small monastery chanting before she starts her day.
Sunrise on day two at Shwesandaw Pagoda. This shot facing away from the sunrise.
A panoramic shot from Tha-beik-hmauk. The area doesn’t have UNESCO World Heritage status due to the inaccurate restoration work that has taken place where the photo was taken.
We met these little kids selling postcards and the decided to take us around temple exploring.
The only life in the temples are pigeons and bats. Lots of bats
It’s possible to get up and close to the detail in the walls. Just don’t leave your grubby handprints on them like most people do.
Scootin’ around on our electric bikes. In the evening, my battery nearly died and I barely made it back to the hotel.
The entrance to Old Bagan
The sun sets over the Aye Yarwaddy River
As night sets in, some of the larger temples are illuminated.
Sunrise Day Three
Looking back into the sun at Shwesandaw Pagoda
Terracota tiles at At Mingalazedi Pagoda. Each one depicts a story about Buddha.
Gotama Buddha, the west facing Buddha with hands outstretched in the gesture of fearlessness. It is one of the four standing Buddahs in Ananda Pagoda, the largest Pagoda and considered the most sacred pagodas in Bagan. The Buddhas are carved from a single piece of teak and constructed in the 11th Century.
Worshippers pay their respects by layering gold leaf on the smaller Buddha statues. The left thumb as you can see is a popular place.
There are one thousand smaller buddhas in Andanda Pagoda.
In the nearby Taungbi Village where few tourists visit were there are crumbling temples remains.
Between the 10th and 13th century, there were over 10,000 temples in Burma,
A monk heads out for his daily collection of alms.
A child selling hand drawn postcards
One of the few vendors who weren’t pushy and selling shirts or touristy souvenirs. She had a gentle spirit and a beautiful smile that I had to take her photo with her wind chimes.