Marco Polo was a relatively experienced backpacker, and it took something special to impress him. Still he was taken aback by this vast and mysterious world of more than 2000 temples and shrines. For more than 300 years, the old kings competed to manifest their superior devotion to the Great Buddha, and the result is among the most unforgettable travel destinations in the world. Some people fall so much in love with this place that buy new flight tickets – because you can truly spend oceans of time getting lost in these dazzling structures of divinity. When you see pagodas after your close your eyes, we recommend getting on a boat on the Ayeyarwaddy River for a quick refreshment as the day finishes its last chapter. Like Inle Lake, if you really want to experience a wide array of the sights here, we recommend you stay for three nights if you have the time. Two nights will also suffice, but you will probably have to move with haste, which is not really what you want to, is it?
Where should I stay?
There are roughly three different areas around the temples: Nyaung Oo Town: Clearly the backpacker place in town but there are also more and more posh places to stay here. The selection of restaurants, beer stations and travel agencies here is great, and if you go around by bicycle, you will only have to pedal 10-15 minutes before you reach the temple-clad plains. Old Bagan: There is no way around it: this place used to be full of villagers, but at the end of the 1990’ies, the old junta forcefully moved them to what is today New Bagan (see below). In this way, the Generals themselves and their business cronies had all the land they needed to build luxurious hotels, and therefore Old Bagan today comprises many luxurious hotels that overlook the Ayeyarwaddy River and that are all only a few minutes from the temples. If you are not driven by political convictions when you travel – and you have enough money – this is a great place to stay. But for Myanmazing Travel Agency, it is important that you know about this as this is not really the place where you “support the local family”. New Bagan: In the southern part of the Bagan area, you find this little town that in many ways gives you everything from A to B. There are some extremely nice places to stay here, and they range from around $20 to $300+ per night. New Bagan also has a wealth of restaurants and many other services that provide everything you will need while in Bagan. The town is close to the southernmost temples from where you can follow the trails on your way north. If we had to recommend a place to stay, this would likely be it.
How do I get there?
Like Inle Lake, Bagan is really well integrated in the Burmese infrastructure. You can fly here from anywhere in the country, and busses and trains also arrive here from most other interesting destinations. Many choose to take the boat cruise from Mandalay around 06 am and they arrive in Bagan around 5 pm. This is a great way to travel – and even better if bring that novel you never got to read or a fully charged iPad.