I chose to travel to Myanmar in 2018, solo. When I saw what I now know is Bagan online, I was intrigued by the ancient temples, the sights of monks walking around, and the overall sense of being in an “untouched” land. Despite knowing very little about visiting Bagan, I decided to make the trek to Southeast Asia to find out for myself what Myanmar was all about. When I finally did get to visit Bagan, my wildest dreams were met. It was the perfect, ancient, and almost unspoiled place in what is a divisive country.
Why You Should Visit Bagan, Myanmar
There are many reasons why you should make it a point to visit Bagan. The history, the beauty, the sense of being lost but also finding yourself in such an ancient place. My most vivid memories of Bagan weren’t the planned moments, but instead the spontaneity of the trip. The early morning wakeups to watch hot air balloons rise above pagodas. The stray dogs you avoid as you ride your motorbike through town. The vivid sunsets and the moon that guides you as you set off back to your hotel for curfew.
If you’re looking for a sense of adventure, then Bagan is an ideal place to visit. It’s a place where extreme tourism hasn’t yet affected the city. The locals are intrigued with tourists and are friendly, offering a warm smile or a kind wave. Most people aren’t looking to rip you off, but instead, they are helpful and kind, offering advice on which pagodas to enter or how to get around.
History of Bagan, Myanmar
Bagan was founded in the second century AD. It’s located in Central Myanmar, four hours north of the capital – Naypyitaw. Today Bagan is split in two, Old Bagan and New Bagan, most famously being known for its ancient pagodas of which over 2,200 still stand. Before earthquakes hit Myanmar and destroyed much of the land, over 10,000 pagodas would have been found in Bagan. And while there was a big restoration that took place after a series of pagodas were damaged, trying to preserve what is left, because of the tools and techniques that were used Bagan has yet to make the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Practical Information About Visiting Bagan
- The currency used in Myanmar is the Burmese Kyat, MMK. At time of writing 1 USD = 1,646.27 Kyat
- In order to enter Bagan, you must pay a fee of 25,000 MMK (at time of writing – $15), which will allow you entrance into the Bagan Archeological Zone for three days. Entrance into some temples requires you to show your pass, and security will randomly ask you for proof you’ve paid to enter Bagan so make sure not to skip this step.
- Due to earthquakes and tourism damage to the pagodas, the government has started to seal many of the pagodas off. While the government is working on closing all of the remaining pagodas, there are still a few open to tourists.
- You’ll see many stray dogs and puppies in Bagan. Don’t attempt to approach them or pet them. If one of them bites you, consider getting a rabies vaccine.
- A common tourist trap in Bagan is that kids will tell you that they collect different currencies from around the world. They then turn around and sell the currency back to other tourists for Myanmar money, MMK.
- While many dialects are spoken through Bagan, the main language is Burmese. However, many locals, especially those working in tourist places such as hotels and restaurants will speak a few words in English to fluent English.
- To enter the pagodas, your shoulders and knees should be covered, and shoes should be left outside.
Bagan is a special place; a place that should be on everyone’s bucket list before it becomes an Instagram sensation. I urge you to visit before it’s too late… before the pagodas are sealed, or worse, ruined by natural disasters or tourists. I urge you to visit before the tourism sector burns locals to the point where they no longer what to help, instead they want to rip you off and charge exorbitant fees. Please, visit Bagan while it’s still a beautiful and untouched ancient land.
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