I’m always fascinated to ancient and historical site. I could remember how excited I was, pedaling my bike in the middle of the heat in Angkor Wat, Cambodia. I could also remember when I climbed the stairs up to Borobudur Temple, another magnificent historical relics in Indonesia. One more ancient site to complete my “Big Temples Trail” in South East Asia is Bagan.
I came a long way to Myanmar to witness the most famous ancient site Bagan, home to more than 2000 temples. My aim of this visit was to catch the sunrise and sunset moment. I had seen quite a lot of awesome pictures in Bagan, and I was tempted to see them for real. So, I did some research on which is the best temple to see sunrise and sunset. I didn’t want to get disappointed after all. So after reading many resources from websites, blogs, I came up with few names of potential temple to catch the sunrise and sunset.
Catching My First Sunrise in Bagan
Most of the tour groups will head to Shwesandaw Pagoda. It has the advantage on the elevation and great view of the surroundings, however I didn’t want to get distracted by the crowd so I chose another off-beaten path temple, Low Ka Oushang. There’re still a small group of people, I would say it’s still busy but better than the bigger pagoda.
I woke up 5 a.m. and with my e-bike and maps ready, headed to the pagoda. Sunrise was still around 6.30 a.m. at that time but I wanted to secure the best spot. The pagoda was still locked, but an elderly man showed up and opened it for me. I saw other six people had their seat on the top of the pagoda. I walked around the first floor of the pagoda, looking for a way to climb to the second floor. With a bit of a hard work, I made it. Satisfied and sitting on the top.
As it went on, more and people were coming. I didn’t expect to see so many people. The elderly man who is the gatekeeper of the pagoda shouted to us, telling not to go down from the top. Eventually, it’s not okay to climb up to the top, there was a sign not to climb but I didn’t see that. The sky got brighter, and the horizon started to shine. Slowly, I could see different shapes of pagodas, many of them. I walked around, to all corners of the pagoda and spotted so many temples as it started to get clearer.
Later on, I heard chanting. I saw the sun started to rise above the horizon. It was a big red sun. Everything seemed surreal, I even got goosebumps. Not long after, the hot-air balloons filled up the sky, and made the view even more dramatic.
Second Sunrise at An Unknown Temple
During my first sunrise in Low Ka Oushang Pagoda, I saw another pagoda nearby with a small group of people standing enjoying the sunrise. Curious, I tried to find where that temple was. The next day, I woke up early again and made my way to that pagoda. It was smaller and lower, but facing the same view like yesterday. However, there were not many people around. It was only 6 people including me at that time. This is exactly what I was looking for, a peaceful private spot to enjoy the sunrise.
The sun wasn’t as clear as the day before but I really enjoyed the moment. Leaving the temple, a young boy, the gatekeeper led my way down and lit some candles on each steps down. “Nice hat”, he said to me. I asked him if he wanted my hat and he nodded. Did I give it to him? Yes, I did.
Sunset in Bagan
I felt like at least I had to try the famous temple for the sunset. They’re busy for a reason, so I decided to follow the crowd to Pyathada Paya Temple. The good thing about this temple is it has a big terrace so there’s enough room for everyone. The bad side is there’s only one way up and down, so you have to line up and walk through the tiny passage. I would say that this is a good spot for sunset because it’s located a bit far so you can get the overall and wider view of the other temples. The second temple for my sunset is Shwesandaw Pagoda. I climbed to the highest floor and waited for the sun to set. In my opinion, the sunset wasn’t that breathtaking as the day before. I heard North Guni has a good view for sunset as well, you might wanna check it out.
Other Favorite Temples in Bagan
There are so many temples in Bagan and I really enjoyed driving my e-bike around, no matter which temples as long as I found it cool, I would stop and took some pictures. Small temples are still interesting. I found out each pagoda has Buddha Statue inside. But personally I really like Sulamani Temple because of the paintings on the wall. Shwezigon Temple is quite different than the rest of the temple. Ananda Temple is known as the most beautiful temple in the zone and there’re more cool temples around.
- The entrance fee to Bagan Archeological Site is 25,000 kyat for five days. I didn’t see any official ticket booth to pay for the entrance fee but you can get the ticket in the checking point of the big temples.
- I prefer going around Bagan with E-Bike because in some road it can be sandy and hard to pedal a normal bike. The price for renting e-bike is 6,000-8,000 kyat, while bicycle costs 2,000 kyat. Make sure you rent the e-bike the night before if you want to see the sunrise.
- You can choose to stay in Old Bagan or New Bagan. I prefer Old Bagan as it’s closer to the main temples. I spent two nights in Shwe Na Di Guesthouse and happy with it. The room is spacious, clean, and affordable. Good breakfast. If you decide to stay in New Bagan, Ostello Bello might be a good option.
- I traveled with buses all the time in Myanmar and never got any problems with it. Overnight buses leaves from Yangon to Bagan (9-10 hours), Mandalay to Bagan (4-5 hours).
Traveled in 7 – 17 February 2017
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