Bagan is a massive site containing a vast number of ancient ruins. Nowhere in the world is as many temples as there are here. Due to its enormous number of ancient ruins, it has become one of the major tourist attraction of Myanmar. The ruins in this city are not only old but has great historical significance. Throughout the Bagan Valley, there are more than 2000temples. During ancient times, it is said that the valley had more than 10000 temples, which makes its present temples seems quite small. According to legends, Burmese kings always tried to outdo the previous king each time monarch was crowned between the 11th and 13th Centuries. So, during this time, Bagan flourished the most. Bagan rivals the more renowned ancient city of Angkor, among the highlights of Southeast Asia. Some even believe that Bagan is much beautiful than Angkor. This city has very few tourists compared to the Angkor, so you can travel without the worry of lines for photos and crowds of wannabe instafamous fools.
The area houses the largest concentration of Buddhist structures in the world, with the oldest ruins dating back over a thousand years. Now named as Bagan Archaeological Zone, you can explore the temples around freely with just 25000kyat. The tickets will be valid of three days, and as it is less crowded, you can easily explore within three days.
It is an adventure itself to travel to Bagan. After the highway from Mandalay to Yangon, the whole road is bumpy and dusty. Drivers in Myanmar also seems quite fearless as they will always attempt to pass a slower vehicle, no matter if the road is full of craters, or lined with people and livestock. If you don’t prefer this type of travel, you can also get a flight from Yangon or Mandalay. The train is also available from Yangon, but they are very slow.
The Bagan Archaeological Zone is a huge area that surrounds the ancient city. Before entering the zone, buses stops to get passports checked, and you also should purchase a ticket here. For foreigners, the entry ticket is 25,000 Myanmar kyats (MMK), about USD 16. The ticket will be valid for 3-5 days. It is mandatory to buy a ticket for foreigners, and if you stay for more than five days, you can purchase passes from the hotels. So, you don’t have to get back to the Bagan Archaeological Zone entry point.
Source: Indochina Tours
The foods you get in Bagan is like most of Myanmar. Food and drinks are good and cheap and the restaurant hours are weird. During the low season, restaurants close early, however in the peak season, they can open up to the late night. Most travellers stay at Nyaung-U or New Bagan as it is generally the more local, budget-friendly option, but eating options are limited. For best eating and drinking, RI Pyitsaya 4 Street is the best area. Here, you will find enough restaurants and a small variety of western and other foreign foods.
Source: Daniel McBane
It is pretty easy to get around Bagan. There is no regulation to travel around this city, and you can go in any direction you want. But remember, you cannot explore the city on just foot as it is too big to challenge on by foot and in the stifling heat. It would have been great to rent scooters or motorbikes as they are quite cheap and you can travel around as much as you like. But, tourists are not allowed to use motorbikes in Bagan. But, there is the choice of electric bike that you can get for about 8000kyat per day.
In the cooler months, you may also choose to rent a bicycle and explore the city. You can rent a bicycle around 2000kyats per day. Almost all hotels and guesthouse offers bicycle for rent. If you want to avoid dust and heat completely, you can hire an air-conditioned taxi which is much more comfortable, and many drivers also speak English. It will generally cost between 20USD and 50USD per day, depending on the season.
Each temple, pagodas, and stupas in Bagan has its own unique story to tell, and you can freely explore the interiors of most of the temples. However, from 2017, it is prohibited to climb the temples; however now there are many viewing platforms. You will get the most stunning view of the temples during dawn or dusk when the sun mesmerizingly rises or falls over the plain. There have been significant damages due to the earthquake of 2016, but the earthquake ironically damaged more of modern structures that the ancient ones. There are so many temples, pagodas, and stupas here that many of them casually blend in with surrounding towns and villages. The numbers of monuments can be overwhelming and are not possible to say which to visit first. So, it is best to wander around and explore the city.
Also, you will be baffled seeing that city this gorgeous can be this empty. It is quite weird to see one of the most popular sites of the world to be this empty. Lack of tourist in Bagan is great for tourists, as most of the time, crowds ruin places, but Bagan doesn’t see much crowd in most of the year. Visitors can freely wander, explore and take unencumbered photos at every turn. Except for the greener, slightly cooler times of the year, life in Bagan is calm and quiet.
The only disadvantage would be you will not know where to go. In an area, this huge, crowd could lead you to some places that you might have otherwise missed. Despite the confusion in this empty, overwhelming historical site, the positives of a few people definitely outweigh any benefit of a crowd. Wandering is the best way to explore.
Hot Air Balloons have gained huge popularity in recent airs as a way of seeing Bagan. The view from the sky is absolutely gorgeous, with thousands of pagodas insight and the Burmese landscape beyond. However, the rides of the balloons are quite expensive; you will be paying around 300USD per person. Even then, it can get a bit crowded. If you want smaller groups, expect to pay much more. Also, hot air balloons only fly between October and April. So, if you wish to ride a hot air balloon, plan your trip during this time.