Day trips and what to do

A magnificent Buddhist getaway in Myanmar (Burma).

When traveling in the country virtually all roads and flights somehow leads to the place to find spectacular Buddhist shrines, images and monuments.  This ancient city should be visited at least one time, hotels are plenty. 
Buddhist temples in Bagan

Bagan is in Burma and built on the eastern banks of the Irrawaddy reachable from Yangon, Mandalay and Heho (Inle Lake) via several airlines every day, they all use small turboprop aircraft. There is also a rather exotic bus service from Mandalay and Yangon.

Since a few year now plenty of good hotels have been pulled up in every price range also the electricity problem is somehow under control. Now nothing really hinders anyone to make a trip to Bagan in Central Myanmar at the Irrawaddy River. 
  • This was once the capital of the First Empire located in the dry zone of the country on the left bank of the mighty Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River. The empire was a glorious two hundred years long epoch. In the heart of Burma stands a partly ruined city, which is regarded by everyone in the country and elsewhere as one of the wonders of the world, read more
Bupaya Pagoda and Irrawaddy

In our website are the latest information about attractions, sightseeing, how to do travel preparation, get a guide and tips.

This old town has a special place in the history but it was the British which who brought Bagan on the modern travel map when they were in Burma. But the period from the 11th to the 13th century is, as chronicles and other sources indicate, Myanmar‘s Golden Age. They were the "Hay Days" of that time by any means, but especially of culture and art

Only narrow minded English and US politicians who cant get rid of the colonial times pattern always blocked the attempt in the past to declare the town as a cultural heritage by UNESCO. For lousy political reasons since the old and the new colonialists don’t like when others don't do what they command. 

When purchasing a ticket for the trip try "Vegas Travel" in the Central Hotel in Yangon, they have the best prices and work fast dontt buy it from the airline direct.
Irrawaddy river cruise
  • A Irrawaddy river cruise should be made to see the monuments from a different perspective a 42 square kilometer area dotted  with thousands of ancient pagodas stupas Buddhist shrines ordination halls and monuments read more.
Lacquer shopping in Bagan
  • Going shopping people sell their goods, handicrafts, lacquer-ware, ceramics and other items and services there are plenty of them specially the lacquer cottage industry is well known and appreciated for their beautiful creations read more
On top of it the driver usually also functions as a tourist guide showing scenes along the road via a short side trip a foreigner will never see since many of the interesting places are not listed in any guide book. Such a journey is not made every day for many this is a once in a lifetime event.
Marching nuns
  • Buddhist nuns, monks and novices are constantly "in the picture" they enrich the colorful countryside and have plenty of other mostly social function some are not real nuns but they wear the robe because they live in a monastery style environment read more
People are very poor and many have no place to go.
No easy living
  • There is no easy living in the city unless you have plenty of money the whole infrastructure and living conditions for local people is not good at all since salaries are real low, that means around $ 100,- for a normal job and who can live from that read more.
The top hotels are charging this per night and they make good profit. Nevertheless people come from everywhere because compared to other places in the country even that is better. This is one of the reasons why there are so many monks and novices since they cant survive otherwise. Monasteries have a high level of social function they look after the people who have no chance including kids and the old.

This sacred structures are very impressive and in this way nowhere in the whole world also Angkor Wat cant match that although they have some places such as Phnom Chisor with very similar buildings also made from bricks.
Bagan Myanmar Pagoda and Temple City
  • The silhouettes of the pagodas and temples are very similar but in details is quite a difference visible this is especially with the temples because the pagoda form is very dogmatic there is no space for variants. All are built with bricks, real stone structures from the quarry are very rare since the material was not easy to carry at that time, read more

Now what to do in Bagan the main Myanmar travel destination.

Bagan Golf Hotel
Which is a must see destination, other attractive trip possibilities are many browse our website to discover them. 
  • The hotel spectrum is wide cheap and medium price range plus high end luxury the main difference with them is do they have a UPS or not since power break downs are still normal every day although the government is working on it to bring a sustainable solution read more.
There are luxury ones, cheap ones, everything is available and some are just beside the Irrawaddy river. To get an idea what's there just have a look at the pictures.

How to build a Temple
  • Here is a description how to build a temple in the 13th Century, It's also a bit of the philosophy behind, the material used and the environment. Understandable only very wealthy people were able to do this and it often went on for many year. Finally so many people very involved in creating this monuments that the whole kingdom declined since they neglected all other activities, read more.

Since there are already enough websites listed on Google who have just the same tour programs, hotel listing and dozens of monuments listed we do it different, we tell you also about the time and how Burma's people lived.  

Why to build a pagoda
  • Why build one? This is somehow a interesting subject worth to look into it. It is similar as to ask this days why someone buys a Mercedes, well, why? Because they want to show their wealth and in the old days this was one of the real reasons why they did it. Everyone is telling that was to gain merit, but this is only part of the story, read more.
What is the next best to a balloon tour? Fly a drone but be careful since this is a rather exotic stuff there the authorities will become suspicious and you get problems.

Lokananda Pagoda on the Irrawaddy
  • The Lokananda is just beside the Bupaya and it is a interesting place to watch the life on the river, it seems there was no change in the last few hundred years. But the buildings are very impressive indeed. Other stupas are closer to the Irrawaddy River which makes a marvelous image, read more.

The river also influences the weather in Bagan.

Bagan Myanmar and temples
  • Holiday travel in Myanmar has always a culture element although beaches and high mountains are plenty elsewhere and a trip very diverse if someone likes read more
Central Myanmar's and Bagan weather is very similar and that means dry, only from August until October the monsoon floods come down but the temperature is still in the high twenties. The positive effect is that the whole area turns from brown into green and stays like that until late January which means that's the best time to visit. 

Some of the most impressive monuments are the Shwezigon Pagoda and the Ananda Temple, visiting this places are highlights on every trip.

Monumental temples and pagodas. 

  • To visit Buddhist shrines and explore Buddha images (mainly murals) is what most of the visitors come for the monuments form a surrealistic landscape in the dry and flat area read more . 
Old Bagan and IrrawaddyAt sunrise and at sunset great visual impressions are around in particular in composition with the Irrawaddy or Ayeyarwady river behind. The old inhabitants have set plenty of monuments into the plains. A reason to built them is is a usual way to accumulate merit in the current life to be in a better position in the next life, most people pray to Buddha, .

Thatbyinnyu Temple
Bagan Mural Paintings Art and Sculptures
  • Here three versions of Myanmar art come together and form an impressive symbiosis this is painting (usually in form of mural or wall paintings) sculptures ( Buddha related) and architecture (usually temples and pagodas) read more
This is not very visible in the very early period  but from the 12th century onward this arts become more and more inter dependent. Bagan has a special place in the history of Myanmar; this period was the “Hay Days” of the country by every means and especially in culture and art.

The monuments withstood monsoon floods.

Some even earthquake but not many monastic complexes resist the teeth of time, the reason is they were built from wood and fires erased them from time to time. The monuments where made from bricks now those are the remains of the glorious hay days of the city.

This place has long been abandoned as a capital, only the monuments remained, the place was also called Arimaddhapura or Pukam and was once the center of a huge state whose territory stretched over the borders of today. 

Bagan Monuments
The count of Monuments is still around 2000 and the extent and size of buildings and monuments brings the city "au par" with the biggest cities of the Middle Age. The number were extremely exaggeration in some chronicles, some even write about 5 million temples which is simply impossible the total area of around 40 skm this would allow 8 – 10 sqm for each temple and they would have to build around 50 buildings per day, sometimes they talk about 5000 buildings which is also an exaggerated count.

Bagan Temples
In the 13th Century the number of buildings were probably about 4000, among them stupas and temples, between the 11th and 13th century the main pagoda building period saw both small and gigantic structures. 

Even today  most  temples still have magnificent mural paintings and Buddha sculptures.

Reclining Buddha Sculpture
How, why and when this unique complex of several thousand buildings come into being? Where people lived, who constructed the temple and prayed in it? What was their everyday life beside of pagoda building? Was there any basic idea of the urban buildings related to the environs   Since plenty of research went into these subjects today we have a good picture of the formation and evolution of the city.

Bagan Chronicles in a monastery
Chronicles date the founding of the city in the year 850 when a ruler had the city encircled with a wall the town had a square layout and a very favorable position by any means read more

The trading road from India to Indochina ran from west to east through the city. Since at 832 the Pyu kingdom (today Prome od Pyay) and its capital Thayekhetaya  was destroyed by troops of the northern neighbor Nan Chao which belonged to the Khmer empire, .

Stupas in the sun

This is Myanmar Travel at it's best.

Irrawaddy River at BaganThis road was revived by the British during colonial times as the Ledo Road but abandoned after WW2. Only recently, in 2012, the prime minister of India and the president of Myanmar agreed to open this road again by 2016, which is a Hercules task since around 80 bridges must be rebuilt and the road extended since right now 2012, this is only a better dirt road. 

  • A day trip on the Irrawaddy River in Bagan with small boats every traveler to the city should make it's easy just hire a boat at the Bupaya Stupa and to a up and down trip. It is low priced and present a new perspective if you have some money left make a balloon tour it could be the real highlight at your days in central Burma, read more.

The Irrawaddy is the north – south waterway.

It also functions as a natural wall, towards the plains  an approaching enemy could be seen from the 10 km Touwa Hills to the south already far away.

  • The streams from the northern mountains also created a favorable climate in the area allowed growing millet and peanuts, to cultivate palms and rear cattle. There also was plenty of clay around for making bricks used as building material. Teak came down from the north using large rafts, actually many teak trunks were fixed to bamboo rafts since teak without cutting the sap wood and leaving them to dry at location is too heavy to float, read more.
Monastery made from Teak Wood

Originally, this town was not a large one, total barely around 1.5 skm but the fortification was gigantic. The thickness of the walls reached almost 4m and even 9m high at certain places. 

Who founded the city? 

  • Maybe Pyu, maybe Mon or local people nobody know for sure. What is known is at the turn of 10th to the 11th Century it was already in the hands of the Burmese and famous far over the country's borders.
Bagan Monumental Buildings are pagodas and temples
But until the mid-11th Century the creation of monumental buildings not exceed the construction of fortifications, and temple building was rather minor. 

Around the middle of the 11th century Bagan was an ordinary a feudal city under the protection of brick walls and moat, surrounded by villages with agricultural orientation.

King  Anawrahta on an official tour
  • The data specified in the chronicles of the kingdom, 1044, fall together with the year of the coronation of King  Anawrahta, who transformation of the small state into a mighty one.
The economic base of the empire were agriculture, domestic as and also by trading with other countries as well. A well-organized system of irrigation whose preservation was one of the main duties of the king in peacetime rendered twice rice crops per year and rice farming was the main crop.
Bago or Pegu east of Yangon
  • Bago or Pegu east of Yangon was one of the busiest port and trading place in the past. Until the 17th Century all traders from the west such as Portuguese and other came here to barter for the treasures of the country, read more.
The wealth of the state and the port cities of Pegu, today Bago, in the Gulf of Martaban and Sittwe in Rakhine State on the Gulf of Bengal drove an extensive maritime trade with India and the countries of South and East Asia, the city was in the center of this important trade routes in Indochina, especially Cambodia. The chronicles say that the residents knew several languages ​​and were known for their courtesy and business capabilities.
Bagan Empire
All this found its reflection in the cultural development, in a relative short time a Burmese script was created, which has strong similarities to India, a literature arose and achieved a respectable level.
  • In the time of the Bagan Empire Burmese contributed to the grammar of Pali and with comments on Holy Books of Buddhism.
By subjugating other areas wealth grew and the increasing number of prisoners of war, who were used as cheap labor forces increased and made the building boom possible. This reminds me to the building boom in Phuket and other places in southern Thailand which is mainly fueled by workforce from Myanmar, now it’s just the other way around as it was the last three hundred years thanks to lunatic communists and military. 

The result of such prosperous time is always expressed by art and monumental architecture intimately connected with Buddhism. Today (2015) one more parameter is added and this is nightlife to spend money for pleasure.

Bagan Arts and Crafts

The history could be divided into three periods.

  • The first part until the 12th Century, Then the time until the start of the 12th Century the first period. It is the time of the Union of Myanmar to integrate the influence of the Mon culture. The second period until the beginning of the last third of the 12th Century was to some degree a "time of troubles" in the history of the kingdom.
when in the  provinces of Arakan and Tenasserim insurrection started and they were cruelly suppressed, raged as bitter power struggle between the King and the political opponents.

History and the King of Bagan in the Throne HallThus, in the late 12th Century the Mon language in literature and epigraphy was completely ousted by the rulers. The third, the Burmese period began by the end of the 12th Century and lasted the entire 13th Century until the fall of the Empire.  It was a time of a relative peaceful development of this feudal state with vast resources of men and material was particularly intensively developed during this time.
    Myanmar history monuments  in Arakan ArakanMyanmar Histort Rakhine
  • History seen at Rakhine's Mrauk-U, they charged the inhabitants of the conquered territories with taxes and duties to invest huge funds in the "faithful" temple and monastery. It is significant that the strengthened country, similar to ancient Rome, had no walls around, read more
With the Romans the exception was the Hadrian Wall in England. In the 11th and 12 to the early 13th Century, it was so powerful that  there was no danger of enemy armies, and it required no defenses.

Day trip on the Irrawaddy with big sailing ships
  • Day trip on the Irrawaddy with big sail ships and then, when the decline began, lacked the resources and people for the construction of defensive walls. The first signs of decline were already evident in the first half of the 13th Century. Centrifugal tendencies and separatism of the feudal elite plus a controversy between the king and the clergy began to smash the foundations of the state, read more.

Ananda Temple and Shwezigon Pagoda.

Ananda Temple
This two structures are probably the most impressive in appearance they easily can match the pyramid of Egypt, Boroboudor and what the Maya built, its a great exotic and monumental Buddhist environment. The monuments are optically very similar to Sukhothai and Ayutthaya in Thailand and a few places in Cambodia, but not Angkor Wat, that's more in the Hindu direction but the area is much larger, anyway check the pagoda pictures.
Shwezigon Pagoda Platform
  • Asking yourself what to do in Bagan? There is a a simple answer visit the Shwezigon Pagoda it's a splendid monumental impression because that's not only a stupa but a complete precinct on the platform with dozens of other other buildings and shops, read more.
The Shwezigon Pagoda is together with the Shwedagon in Yangon the most stunning implementation of a Buddhist shrine in the country. The building is incredibly impressive when you stand in front or looking from the Irrawaddy, its a great exotic and monumental environment read more.

The Shwesandaw Pagoda is another famous in the area, and one of the reason is, the building is perfectly situated to watch the sunset over the plains and the Irrawaddy >, it is allowed to climb up the pyramid. Every day dozens of tourist climb up shortly before sunset to watch beautiful tropical colors on the horizon. its a real "eye candy", it needs to come a bit more early since the crowd is dense, more.

Earthquakes (a major one every two hundred years) and the monsoon flood, have taken their toll on some of the most important monuments, but many have been restored to their original condition. People are continuously working to renovate more of the most historically important ruins.

Ananda Temple

    Ancient History of Burma
  • The Ananda Temple is probably the most impressive Buddhist temple structure, its always impressive to see what the people long time ago created without all this technical equipment we are used to work with today, the monument can be seen already from far away.


Day Tours

Around at Bagan.

Day tours in central Myanmar means not only pagodas and temples, there is more, for sure. Although this is the driest part of the country with all the negative effects. There are plenty of possible trips.

Trip to the Sale Monastery

With interesting destinations such as Mount Popa, the Abode of the Nats, Irrawaddy Cruises, visiting a monastery having a look for the famous "cottage industry" and more.Or maybe just climb up the Shwenandaw Pagoda in the afternoon and watch the sunset behind the Irrawaddy.

A tour to the Sale Monastery, this is one of the most popular because it's not to far (about 40 km) and the road is also not so bad. What you get in return?  A great insight into one of the most interesting Buddhist teak construction in Central Myanmar. When you are around give it a try, it's worth it, read more.
Irrawaddy cruise in the afternoon on turbulent water

A Irrawaddy Cruise either with a sail boat or a bigger one with an engine is one of the best turns around. The most interesting is to move along the banks in a distance and watch the people. Their live is dominated by the stream with lots of surprises and colors, give it a try, read more

Day Tour to Mt Popa abode of the Nats

A short trip to Mount Popa, during that drive you can get a good insight into the countryside and the real spiritual life of the local people. Because although Buddhism is the official religion in the country since at least more than 1000 years the believe in the ghost and spirit system is just as strong as it was thousand years ago. Interestingly it is identical in Thailand, no difference including the spirit houses in front of every building, read more.

This is a detour into the past and gives an idea what happen in the country before Buddhism, when the Nat Spirits where the ghosts the people prayed to.

Nat Spirits are still very popular in Myanmar similar to Buddhism

About Myanmar Buddhism, this is a very conservative version since they even wont allow women to get ordinate similar to monks. Considering that this happen in the 21th Century it's a bit strange, read more.

Living Today

Living in the city of today is not much different to 500 years ago.

Before they had the oxcart and horses, buildings are a bit different and the medical environment is a bit better and no tourists long time ago, that's it more or less. Ok no computer, mobile phone and internet something else I forgot?

Bagan Today and the oxcart
Bagan Today and the oxcart
Today at the market
Today at the market

Transport and walking
Transport and walking
Sailing on the Irrawaddy

The city in the 18th Century
The city in the 18th Century
Irrawaddy river banks today

Bupaya Pagoda at the Irrawaddy
The Irrawaddy brings life although the water is not intelligently used since this is the dry zone. No need to be dry when such a huge body of water is flowing through.

This only happen when people don't know what they are doing. Anyway make a cruise, it's a great day trip to float along the banks watch how the people live and the glinting monuments in the back, read more.

Comparing the township and surrounding to any other in the country the closest is Mandalay. 

Mandalay Palace
Mandalay Palace a great piece of handicraft
One of the most important wood structure with carvings is the Mandalay Palace. Despite the important position this construction held not much is known about because of frequent destruction an exception finally but it got a hit from a Japanese bomb during WW2 and completely burned down. 

It took until the end of the 198X to have the palace rebuilt, it’s a very impressive structure everyone can visit there, there are also several teak monasteries in the city, read more.

Pretty horse coach
Pretty horse coach tour

Dhammayangyi Temple

A mighty Buddhist Shrine.

The building has a centrist  pyramidal structure which give this monument the characteristic silhouette. Since the building was never finished and plenty of rubble is still around in the interior there are some legends explaining why.

One is, according to the Ceylonese chronicles and rock inscription at Devangala indication that the king, Parakramabahu 1 sent an armada to the country to solve a dispute over trading rights. Actually they killed the king and conquered the capital.

Dhammayangyi Temple
According to chronicles it was believed that this king was Narathu and it seems that this massive shrine was his work. 

The dispute with the Ceylonese arose from an elephant trading problem where Myanmar was strong in business. But considering the distances it rather looks that the whole game was played in a the delta ports, maybe Pathein (Bassein)

Bagan Temples and many Pagodas

Bagan Temples and Pagodas, an inscription found in the north hall of the temple dates to 1165 indicates that King Sithu I also had something to do with raising the structure. Since then plenty of water moved down the Irrawaddy and treasure hunters had a look around they chiseled out pieces of Buddhist art and didn’t leave much for the other beside of piles of bricks, read more.

There is an inscription dating to 1205 in the main hall referring to the building of a gu (cave temple) and enshrining an image on the west face of the building.

The panorama over the city

Looking back all this remains mysterious. 

Nevertheless the impressive shapes dominates the plains just like Ananda and Thatbyinnyu

Bagan Murals or Wall Paintings

Most decoration inside the monuments are wall art or murals which are colorful, impressive and several hundred years old they are usually centered around Buddha themes but sometimes also illustrating palace life, read more.  

Bagan Travel via the road

If you are in the country travel to Bagan is a standard procedure since this is the main tourist destination in the country. As it is visible here most roads are not good at all so better take the aircraft. It costs around $ 100,- buy the ticket in Yangon maybe at Vegas Travel in the Central Hotel downtown, don't buy them with the airline direct, the agent is cheaper, read more

It’s a magnet for everyone to have a look, but nobody can enter, actually some have been into the place via some risky exploration and nobody found anything of interest. 

Locals tell stories of ghosts but that’s on a level with the Nats everyone know them but nobody ever have seen them. Bagan’s middle period was a time of architectural transition and experimentation, this was the end of the Greek-Cross architecture.