Best time to go: November – February
Journey time: 3 hours from Singapore to Yangon; 1hr 20 mins internal flight to Bagan
Duration: 2 days
There’s a Scottish phrase called “bagging munros”. It means trying to conquer as many Scottish mountains over 3,000 feet as you can.
Normally its a challenge that’s accepted over a person’s lifetime as they try and clock them up over various hillwalking trips and expeditions. In Myanmar, however, bagging temples is a easier affair and something which can be done over two or three days.
More than 2,000 temples still remain out of the 10,000 that were built between the 11th and 13th century. It is probably the most stunning place we’ve been from both an architectural and heritage perspective.
The beauty of Bagan compared to the temples you find in neighbouring countries is that they are all easily accessible, allowing you to get up really close and personal. There are also less crowds. At some temples, we were literally the only people there which just added to the feeling that we were explorers as opposed to tourists.
Unfortunately, some of the larger, most historic Temples – especially in Old Bagan – went through some very unsympathetic restoration attempts in the past – where the interior walls had been painted and garish tiles laid on the floor. They are still breathtaking from the outside and make for amazing photographs but we tended to whizz through the interiors, hop back on our bikes and make our way to other temples which retained the character and history of this amazing site.
That’s why two of our Top 3 temples are not in Old Bagan but in fact outside the main city walls. Some of these are now going through their own restoration but its good to see these are being done more seriously than previous efforts.
The most iconic image of Bagan is of the hot air balloons flying over the temples at sunrise. If you want to do this, be prepared for an early start at 5am and paying more than $300 per person. You also have to book well in advance.
We were too late in trying to book but at the same time were pretty thankful (a) because of my fear of heights and (b) neither of us like to get up early, especially on our holidays! The sunsets are just as amazing as the sunrises and as we managed to find a perfect spot to catch the sunset we didn’t feel we had missed out too much by not going ballooning.
Watch our ultimate video diary from our trip to Myanmar