The Fairytale Temples of Bagan – Even better in real life

Bagan, Myanmar

There’s a photo on the inside cover of our Myanmar guidebook. It shows a landscape dotted with temples as far as the eyes could see. Ever since I saw that, I’d wanted to come to Bagan and see it for myself.

Fast forward to short while after, we arrived in Bagan.

We arrived at 3 in the morning in the dark and deserted bus station. All the locals immediately got off and disappeared into the darkness, leaving behind a handful of sleepy, confused tourists still on the bus. We weren’t scheduled to arrive until 5 am.

“This can’t be it. We have 2 more hours to go,” we said to each other. I even turned around and got ready to go back to sleep.

But the bus driver came back up, “This is Bagan. The bus goes no more.”

And that was how we arrived in Bagan. As soon as got off the bus, the horse cart drivers descended upon us. Stumbling in darkness with our stuff, rubbing sleep off our eyes, and being pursued by horse cart drivers wasn’t a welcome we had in mind.

(Btw, Bagan is so small we got together with other tourists and ended up walking to where all the guesthouses were.)

But in the end, it was all so worth it.

The Temples of Bagan

Later on that day, we rented a horse cart to take us to see the famous temples of Bagan. Individually, they are not as intricate as Angkor temples but I like these temples in Bagan so much better.

Exploring the temples in Bagan, Myanmar

For one, they’re almost completely deserted. Almost eerily so. We didn’t have to compete with busloads of sweaty tourists, jostling elbows to get inside.

As a matter of fact, some of the people we jostled elbows with were the locals. Some of these Bagan temples are being used daily as a place of worship so we got to see how much religion played in the daily life of the Burmese people.

A temple in Bagan with praying attendees

And lastly, they are just so many of them. So, so, so many.

Seeing the sun setting over dozens, no hundreds, of temples dotting the grassy landscape of Bagan was probably one of the most amazing sights I’d seen. My brother and I climbed up one of the temples and simply enjoyed the view. It was one of truly unique landscapes I’d ever seen. How did I get so lucky?

The temples of Bagan in Myanmar

I was utterly enchanted.

I was afraid I’d be disappointed in the real thing after seeing the postcard perfect version. But in Bagan, the real thing was so much better.

See more pictures from this amazing place.

Bagan, Myanmar

How to get to Bagan from Yangon: Bagan is about 10 hour ride from Yangon (15000 Kyats). Buses leave from a bus station 45 minutes away from center of Yangon. Far from ‘bus from hell’ experience, it was a decent, air-con bus and the road was paved all the way.

Where to stay in Bagan: Just like everywhere in Myanmar, there’s a shortage of guesthouses at that time. Booking ahead is recommended. We stayed in May Kha Lar guesthouse. It was decent.

Valuable Resources

  • Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders, for those who love anything weird and offbeat.
  • Resource Toolbox: How I find cheap flights, accommodations, and other travel hacks.

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26 Replies to “The Fairytale Temples of Bagan – Even better in real life”

  1. Love the shot of all the many temples all in different areas but near to each other. It's unworldly. Reminds me a lot of the fairy chimneys in Cappadocia!

  2. These photos are gorgeous! My boyfriend and I are currently planning 2 year backpacking trip through Europe and Asia (we set off in September) and we are hoping to spend a month in Burma. What month were you there in? How was the weather?

  3. I've been hearing a lot of Myanmar lately, mostly good thing. Now I can see why.

  4. I have been reading my SEA guidebook and "To go to Burma or not to go" has been crossing my mind a lot & after reading this I think it's "TO GO". I have always wanted to and even if I am low on money I know I wont regret it. This place looks amazing. Thank you for sharing this. I loved this post & loved the photos!

  5. I only had a short time in Myanmar last January and only managed to visit Yangon. I wanted to go to Bagan, so bad! But everyone that I asked told me that I don't have enough time to go from Yangon to Bagan and back again to Yangon. That leaves me with unsettled curiosity, meaning another visit to Myanmar is a must for me! Judging from your pictures, I think you cannot go wrong with Bagan. Every corner is beautiful!

    1. How many days did you have? We took an overnight bus and that saved us time. One day is enough to see the temples in Bagan (especially if you're not into temples too much), but of course, longer stay is better. But hey, there's always next time 🙂 Hope you'll make it here soon.

  6. Oh wow, that is enchanting. Lovely!!! Thanks for sharing. btw, how is it being back in the States? Hope you two are doing well. Took us over a year to feel settled. Still have itchy feet though.

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