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Bagan, Myanmar

Magic from Sunrise to Sunset!

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On my first trip to Thailand in 2006 I first heard that there were as many as 3000 remaining temple ruins from the 9th to the 13th centuries at a place called Bagan. I heard that when you look over the landscape, there are temples as far as you can see. I have always wanted to go!
large_EEC4EF73-81CA-4BB8-A0DD-C4BD9BDFD4D1.jpegBagan Sunset 2

Bagan Sunset 2

Myanmar politics and human rights issues aside, this year was our year! Visitors are noticeably low. Everywhere in Myanmar it was uncrowded for the December “cool dry season.” Local folks welcomed us and thanked us every day for coming to their country.
Since 2016 (the year President Obama visited) tourism and tourist infrastructure has been growing. This makes it a more comfortable trip for older Westerners like us, but still, we wanted to get up there and see the Bagan historical sites before there are 100’s of tour buses and thousands of daily tourists like in Siem Reap at Angkor Wat. It was uncrowded and at many sites, we were the only people there!
UNESCO has been working with the site, but it is not a designated UNESCO location, and might not even become one. We learned that the main temples (from around the 12th century) have been kept up by the Burmese people. They are deeply religious and they have been mostly in continuous use as shrines and for powerful prayer ceremonies. So there have been repairs and rebuilding with new materials that have changed theses temples from their original historic remains. UNESCO doesn’t agree with this approach. They require a different level of archeological integrity.

We had an interesting conversation with Arkar, our very knowledgeable, fun guide who was born within the Temple walls of Old Bagan, about this.
I disagree with UNESCO’s position. I think it’s a lovely and important cultural statement that for example in the most beautiful of the temples you can see a towering original 12th century Buddha that’s facial expressions still change depending on your viewing point. And I appreciate that the other three big Buddhas (one at each entry) that have been reconstructed after damage from various earthquakes, are in place. As a visitor we can more easily imagine how the temple looked and functioned with the newer Buddhas in place, as we watch the visitors and locals from Myanmar worship there. I think the fact that the local communities of Old Bagan & New Bagan have been very responsible in seeking grants and help outside of Myanmar to do the best they can to keep up the main temples here. That’s cultural sensitivity and should be rewarded.
You can read more about the Bagan Burmese Empire here:

We stayed at the Tharabar Gate Hotel in Old Bagan town and we liked the hotel and the location. The hotel is about 10 years old but it’s well kept up. It was really funny. Walking up the path to our one story brick cottage room took me back to my childhood walking up to my front door on Waterman Rd. It wasn’t a twin of course, but it definitely seemed strangely familiar. We found 3 vegetarian restaurants a quick walk away. We tried two of them, Moon and Khaing’s and both were good. And we started our day of biking around the temples right at the hotel. It was really close to everything.
Tharabar Gate Hotel, Bagan

Tharabar Gate Hotel, Bagan

Our bike tour was wonderful! We got lots of exercise and we toured and learned all about the 3 main temples, the most beautiful, the tallest, and the biggest. Of course we stopped at many other ruins too.
We ended that spectacular day (Bagan Day 1) with a climb up to a viewing point for sunset over the temples.
But first I have to tell you how we started the day. We had a 4:45 AM wake up call and we were taken in the dark to a field in a golf complex. Yes golf- popular with the British, lots of Burmese play also. We were served tea, croissants and banana cake on candlelit tables.
FF073729-5669-40B1-99F3-32A28ADF356B.jpeg72882CE0-3CF3-4D50-968A-C1EEE64F290D.jpegB2FF5808-41FB-4549-9451-07CB460F27D5.jpegBaloons Filling

Baloons Filling

Every 10 of us were assigned a pilot - we were Team Nick! We had safety instructions and we watched while many hot air balloons were inflated in the field.
Nick, Our Trusted Pilot!

Nick, Our Trusted Pilot!

Then we boarded and sailed over the 2200 Temple remains, Old Bagan and New Bagan, and watched the sun rise over the Temples. I took way too many photos so please indulge me!
What a treat! Mark hesitates when having to cross a street in the car and motorcycle traffic over here, but decided on the balloon ride. We were assured that all of the pilots were foreign and well experienced. And that’s indeed what we found. This was our first hot air balloon ride ever! What a special experience!Balloon Ride Special Treat

Balloon Ride Special Treat


We started Bagan day 2 with a private yoga class in a garden park overlooking the Irrawaddy River. Our lovely teacher, Ting was from China, did her yoga teacher training in Nepal and she is currently teaching her way around her travel habit! She tailored the class perfectly to our needs and we both enjoyed practicing with her!
From there we asked our driver to take us to Sharky’s Bagan for lunch. You read about Sharky’s in my Yangon entry. Bagan’s food is just as local and just as good. The space is larger with an event space too. We met Jane, the Bagan manager and learned more about Sharky’s Clean food efforts and enterprise. The bakery wholesales 200 croissants and loaves of banana bread daily to the balloon ride operation. When we ate them we knew they were yummy, we did not know they were from Sharky’s. I had a quick tour of the large organic garden behind the restaurant. The gardener lives right on the premises. I learned that there is a 25 acre organic garden not too far away also. Sharky’s plan is to continue teaching locals how to grow, source and eat good healthy food. I asked if the gelato comes up frozen from Yangon. No! Sharky’s Bagan recently got its own gelato equipment and it is made on the premises! Yum!
Sharky’s Bagan

Sharky’s Bagan

We like Sharky’s food. We didn’t know this!

We like Sharky’s food. We didn’t know this!

We managed to squeeze in a couple hours to stretch, swim and rest before we were on the go again. We had a private sunset cruise on the Irrawaddy River scheduled. We motored out in a teak boat, with wine and drinks and snacks with our guide. It was a sandy, steep climb down to the river to board the boat. Then, as we were leaving shore, our boat driver hit a submerged rock really hard. The snacks and drinks went flying. We weren’t hurt but our guide bruised his tummy on the table end.:( The driver and guide decided to continue the cruise. I had visions of the Titanic and wasn’t so sure about it. But there were other boats around so I assumed if we needed a rescue it would be easy. Off we went. We learned all about the Irrawaddy and took lots of photos too.
large_F4A75D3D-D867-4FB1-8F0D-6330E220BC13.jpegSunset on the Irrawaddy

Sunset on the Irrawaddy

We were really glad we got to visit Bagan! It’s so very interesting and we are learning so much! We actually skipped dinner that night as we were tired and we had to meet our driver at 7:00 AM for our 8:30 AM flight to Mandalay.
Keep reading! Mandalay is next!
Love, Nancie

Posted by Nsevers 09:06 Archived in Myanmar Tagged temples food hotels bagan yoga

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