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Nov. 24, 2015

After an early morning (6:30am) 1.5 hour flight from Yangon, we arrived in Bagan, Myanmar. Bagan is home to 60,000 people and over 2200 pagodas and temples, scattered over a 26 square mile plain along the Irrawaddy River. Bagan is the largest temple city on earth and one of the most important archaeological areas in Asia. They were constructed between the 11th and 13th centuries when Bagan was the capital of the first Burmese empire. As we drove from the airport to our first stop, we could see them poking up everywhere. These look very different from the ones we saw in Yangon. They are made of brick and cement.

Our first stop was to the Shwesandaw Pagoda. There we took off our shoes and socks (a requirement of every pagoda and temple in Myanmar) and climbed up very steep, uneven stone steps to the top for a view of the area. While a difficult climb (and even worse coming down!), it was definitely worth it. Pagodas and temples stretched in all directions as far as the eye could see. To view a video pan of the area, click here.



We then drove to Ananda Temple, a terraced temple peaked in gold. It was built in the 11th century by a Burmese King and is in the shape of a Greek cross. The architecture inside was also interesting with fancy arches and alcoves. Inside each arm of the cross are 4 giant gold standing Buddhas.

Just before lunch, we stopped at a local market where villagers were busy shopping for fresh produce, dried fish and spices. As we wandered among the stalls with the local people, the sights, sounds and smells gave us a good feel for what is a big part of the daily activity in the village.


After lunch on a lovely outdoor terrace of a restaurant along the river, we checked into our hotel, the Myanmar Treasure Resort. This is very different from the multi-storied hotel in Yangon. It has multiple two story buildings spread around a lush campus that includes a restaurant and outdoor swimming pool. Our room was nice and large but the bed had a very, very firm mattress.

In the afternoon we visited the Ever Stand Lacquerware Workshop to learn about this local craft. It is a very labor intensive process with many detailed steps to complete the finished products. Watching the people at work we decided it would never pass OSHA!



Our final event for the day was a 1 hour boat ride on the Irrawaddy River. The boat was something else, with a long shaft for a rudder and a tiny propeller on the end. We pulled up onto a sandbar and the captain took the benches off the boat for us to sit on. Bunny had brought some beer and soft drinks so we had a nice relaxing time watching the sun set over the water.

Nov. 25, Bagan, Myanmar

We started the day with a one hour horse-drawn cart ride through the archaeological zone. Horse-drawn carts are a major form of transportation in Bagan, along with motor bikes and bicycles. There are alot fewer cars in Bagan than in Yangon. But they all share the same narrow roads which is a little scary. Our horse cart took us on some dirt paths off the highway where we could view the pagodas and temples up close. We learned that the difference between a temple and a pagoda is that you can go inside a temple, whereas a pagoda is a solid structure that you visit around the outside. Both are sacred sites for paying homage to Buddha.

After the cart ride, we visited the Damayangi Temple which still has original art drawings on the walls and ceilings from the 12th century. The drawings had been whitewashed over in the previous temple.


Our last stop before lunch was to a local village to see how palm sugar is made. The owner climbed up the sugar palm tree with buckets to get the syrup from the female flowers. This is then processed to make candy called Myanmar Chocolate, and drinks.


We took another optional tour in the afternoon which took us to a 14 story observation tower (the only building in Bagan that is higher than 2 stories.) It gave us some breathtaking 360 degree views of the pagoda studded plains as the sun began to set.



From there we visited a nearby village which has maintained the traditional rural Burmese way of life. The people were herding their cows and goats back from the fields to their homes which was quite a sight.

A dinner and show was included in the optional tour. It featured classical Burmese dances, music and a marionette show. It was very well done with very colorful costumes.


We really enjoyed our time in Bagan. It was nice to be out of a big city and into a more rural area. And the scenery with pagodas everywhere was amazing.

To view more photos from our trip to Bagan, please go to Bagan Photo Gallery. To read about the next location visited, go to Mandalay.

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