Saturday, August 15, 2015


We headed from Inle Lake to Bagan by giant bus the next morning - while it's not that far, the infrastructure is constantly changing and some of these roads are not so speedy to travel along (i.e. bumpy dirt roads).  We got into Bagan in time to head to one of the pagodas and climb to the top to take in the sunset.

So. Many. Temples.

What It's All About:
Bagan was the capital of the Bagan Kingdom (formerly called the Pagan Kingdom) from the 9th to the 13th centuries. Accordingly, between the 10th-13th centuries, thousands (literally. thousands. Maybe even tens of thousands) of Buddhist temples and pagodas were constructed in the city (the largest ones were commissioned by kings).

Today, 3,226 of the pagodas/temples remain - a lot were lost to earthquakes and such over the years, but it still leaves a ton that you can go through as a tourist. They're spread out over a pretty large area, and you can easily spend days, if not weeks, going to visit them all.  

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • After our bus arrived, we headed to one of the tallest pagodas you can climb, called Shwe San Daw, to take in the sunset. 

Climbing the stairs to the top was an adventure. Imagine the narrowest, steepest steps ever

View from the top


Waiting for the sunset at the top

 The sky was pretty cloudy so there wasn't a full sunset, but still gorgeous

  • The next day, we had a full free day to tour wherever we wanted to in Bagan.  This brings me to the most magical word of the day: E-bikes!!!  Has anyone ever heard of this word before in their entire life?  They're electric bicycles, and are magical and wonderful and look like scooters (and function like scooters) - except they also have pedals on the side like a bicycle.  I'm not sure what the point of the pedals are - I tried pedaling them once and it was like riding a stationary bike with no resistance. It didn't do anything. So our crew rode them around like scooters, which to be honest, was part of the fun of the entire day. 

    My adorable e-bike in front of a temple whose name I do not know

  • Our group guide had highlighted 10 must-see temples/pagodas in the park, so the five of us concentrated our efforts on those for the day.  It's crazy though, because you literally drive along these rando roads and the temples are EVERYwhere, and you can choose to turn in and go into any of them. I can see how you could spend two full weeks just touring all the structures, though you run a risk of getting totally templed-out. Ok. Time to prep yourselves for a boatload of photos of temples.

Our e-bikes parked outside a temple. Adventures on an e-bike involved a lot of issues parking, driving, steering into ditches, running out of power, running into things, etc.

Abeyadanar temple - this one had gorgeous murals painted inside that you got to shine flashlights on to see. But no photos allowed.

2nd stop, the Manuha Phaya temple. This is one of the oldest temples in Bagan; and has three seated Buddhas inside.

Here is a gigantor gold Buddha inside the Manuha Temple


Here is another giant laying down/chillin' Buddha inside the temple.



Stop 3. The Nanpaya Temple, which has intricately carved walls and pillars

Driving between temples. Stephen looks fab and Clare seems to be carrying a map in her mouth (you're welcome)

Stop 4: Gaw Daw Palin Temple

Stop 5: Mahabodhi Temple

Some of the pagodas had....interesting names

Boats parked outside Bupaya temple; Stop 6

Pulling up to Thatbyinnyu Temple, Stop 7

Doing our best Buddha poses

And there were four giant golden Buddhas

What was stop 8 called. 

Stop 9; Shwe zi gon pagoda. This apparently houses Buddha's frontal bone and one of his teeth. 

By this point, our group had lost two members to the 150 degree heat

Dhammayangyi Temple, the largest temple in Bagan and our last stop. We actually found this temple completely on accident while searching for another one. Also fun fact, there seems to be a giant bat colony living inside. This one has crazy seamless brickwork and looks like a pyramid from certain angles

After taking a rando brambly side road where we almost got stuck in mid pits and taken out by bushes, we hiked back up to Shwe San Daw to overlook all of Bagan


  • Bagan was one of the most beautiful, crazy, stunning places ever - the sheer number of structures, as well as the insane intricacies of each one was so, so cool.  The fact that we only went to 10 temples of 3,200 of them and each one was so different and interesting was crazy to me.  Add to the fact that we rode the funnest form of transportation known to man (e-bikes), and that we were the only ones in so many of the temples we went to, and I loved Bagan.

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • Differences between temples and pagodas: pagodas are solid and temples are hollow - you can't go inside pagodas, and you can go inside temples.
  • UNESCO was going to protect Bagan as a World Heritage Site, but they put stipulations on the preservation and restoration of many of the temples. However, the current government (you know - the corrupt, military one) kind of ignored all the stipulations and weren't true to historic authenticity in many of the restorations or did them completely shoddily, all while building new buildings and ruining a lot of the feel of the place.  Therefore, Bagan is not a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Shoulders and knees need to be covered in all temples.  Also, you always need to remove your shoes before entering. There were a lot of moments it was like walking on hot coals given the heat + concrete combination. (Also, they don't let you wear socks. Which is weird. What's wrong with socks??)

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