Bagan is a popular temple town and one of the main attractions on the Indochina tour packages visiting the country. The Bagan region is spacious and covers a land mass that totals 26 square miles, and located 429 miles north of Yangon and 118 miles south of Mandalay. On the north and west of the ancient city is the Ayeyarwady River.
The preferred part of the town is Nyaung U which is in the NE corner and part of the main transport hub. There are plenty of villages to explore in the local area such as Myinkaba and Old Bagan. But, this region of temples is completely different to what may be found on other parts of the Indochina tour packages, such as Siem Reap in Cambodia. A visit to Bagan gives the traveller a much quieter destination that looks and resembles an overgrown village. While it does have the basic traveller amenities, there is nothing in town that can resemble a night scene.
The towns are connected by paved roads, bumpy dirt roads and trails that create an oval shape spanning nearly 12 miles. Most of the Bagan attractions are located around and in between these towns, which includes most of the temples that are worth exploring.
A typical stay in Bagan on the Myanmar tour packages is in the region of two days, which gives more than enough time to explore the sites. A tour usually starts in the Old Bagan area which has the greatest concentration of monuments. Some of the finest attractions in the local area include the Abeyadana Temple, the frescoes in the Upali Thein, the delicately shaped Ananda Temple and the mysterious Dhammayangyi Temple, which is the most well-preserved in the region.
The preferred time to explore the temple town of Bagan is when the weather is cool which runs from November to February. The time to avoid is February to May when the weather is at its hottest and can reach 40° C. This type of temperature isn’t practical for walking around and exploring the temples on the Myanmar tour packages. But, if tourists are in the area at this time of the year, it is best to limit the sightseeing to the early morning and late afternoon, which should help to avoid the most intense heat. Also, June to October is the rainy season, which is certain to experience a lot of rainfall.
How to get there
Bagan is relatively easy to travel to with transport options including air, bus, trains and boats.
Bagan is a popular destination on the local bus routes with arrivals taking place day and night from locations across Myanmar like Pyay, Yangon and Inle Lake. A standard bus ride costs in the region of $8 to $10 – although it can benefit to upgrade to the VIP bus for the most comfortable ride. The bus service is easy to book via a guest house or hotel.
A regular train service runs from Yangon and Mandalay, but is can be a quite uncomfortable and slow experience. This type of travel isn’t recommended with bus or air flight more favourable.
A regular air service is available from Heho (Inle Lake), Mandalay, Yangon and others. Flights must be booked via a travel agent and tickets cost in the region of $120. From the airport there is a short drive to Nyaung U which takes about 10 minutes in a taxi.
Where to stay
The cost of the accommodation in Bagan varies with the location. For instance the cost in Old Bagan is the most expensive, while midrange prices are possible in New Bagan, and the low-cost or budget places are close to Nyaung U.
A stay in the Nyaung U is a popular choice with plenty of travellers because it gives easy access to the local life and markets, and is close to a lot of the restaurants. New Bagan doesn’t have the most to offer, and in Old Bagan there is a lot of the older generation of travellers and a few fancy resorts.
A stay at the Shwe Na Di is a popular choice and easily found in Nyaung U near the Shwezigon Pagoda junction. This is a great location and within walking distance from the great tea shops, restaurants and places for hiring a bicycle. The rooms include the basic amenities and cost in the region of $10-$25 per night (the most expensive rooms have the private bathroom).
Eat and drink
Aroma 2 is located in Nyaung U on restaurant row and a great place for the Indian cuisine. Most of the vegetable dishes are priced in the region of $3-$4 and served in season on a banana leaf. This is a great restaurant in the evenings with its open air setting.
For the travellers in Old Bagan, a visit to the Starbeam Bistro is certain to appeal. It serves great local cuisine with dishes like steamed fish and chicken curry.
Also, in the same spot is the vegetarian restaurant - Be Kind to Animals - The Moon - which has a nice list of seasonal specials that includes in-season fruits and vegetables. Popular dishes served include spicy chapatti and tamarind leaf curry.
Bagan has a varied shopping choice in the Myanmar travel guide with the small handicraft stores to a local market.
One of the best places to shop includes the Mani-Sithu Market, which is open from 6 am to 5 pm, but is most active in the mornings. The market is great for buying gifts or souvenirs for friends or family, such as T-shirts, wood carvings or vintage items. Other great items at the market include the gorgeous flowers and colourful fruits and vegetables. Plus, it is possible to pick up cheap sheets of fabric of other textiles that are perfect for a sarong to wear on temple visits.
Things to see and do
Bagan is a perfect destination for tourists on the Myanmar tour packages that love to explore the archaeological sites with plenty of monuments, pagodas and temples that are easily seen throughout the area. Pagodas can be seen everywhere and the best way to explore the local area are by hiring a bicycle from one of the local guesthouses or hotels.
A one day tour is usually enough time to see the largest of the temples, while extending the stay for an extra day makes it possible to also see several of the smaller temples, as well as watching the sunset. For the travellers with plenty of time, a two day stay is more practical to avoid rushing things.