The main reason why I wanted to go to Myanmar is to see Bagan and its famous pagodas. Imagine my devastation when a strong earthquake hit the province recently.
There are still thousands of pagodas left but most of such are being renovated when we got there. But upon seeing these sights, I can’t help telling myself:
Yep, still got my temple obsession satisfied.
There are no direct flights to Myanmar so we decided to take advantage of Air Asia X‘s seat sale months’ prior our trip. Catch is, there will be hours of layover in Kuala Lumpur to get to Yangon.
From Yangon, we took a JJ night bus to Bagan. Bus ride will take almost 10 hours.
WHAT WE DID
Bagan Sightseeing Part I
We arrived earlier than expected in Bagan and saw that our tour driver was already there. It was still 5:30 am at that time. Would you believe that we started the tour that early?! If you are a sucker for sunrise and sunsets like me, you will truly understand.
Our Bagan tour package is from Green Myanmar Travel and they provided a very reliable tour guide. Thinhar was a History major way back in college and he shared to us the backstories of the pagodas we encountered.
Guess who learned a lot?!
My make-up free face fresh from the 10-hour bus ride. Sa ngalan ng sunrise, gora!
Bagan Day 1 Spots to Visit:
Sunrise at Shwesandaw Pagoda
From the bus station, we went straight to this pagoda to watch the sunrise, it was nearly 6am and many other tourists were waiting as well. We almost didn’t get through because box-office ang temple. Dameng tao!
It was cloudy and I even expected to rain that time. And though we knew that the sunrise will not be as remarkable as what we see on pictures, we still waited. Malay mo di ba?
No flying hot air balloons, no golden sunrise but are we disappointed? Look at the photo below. Will you be when you see this kind of sight? I thought so.
A cloudy sunrise view from the Shwesandaw Pagoda
After resting for only 2.5 hours, we continued our tour just as not to waste time. We weren’t there to sleep, aren’t we?
So, our next stop was Shwezigon Pagoda and as per our guide, the name of the pagoda literally means ‘Shwe’ – gold and ‘Zigon’ – sandy beach.
This pagoda is also said to be very noticeable because of being gold plated. However, we didn’t see that having seen that the pagoda is under renovation not because of the earthquake but they do such every 2-3 years.
Pagoda still under renovation
Literally means ‘big painted cave’ and it showed because the ceilings and walls are beautified with ancient mural paintings. Such illustrates the passages from the stories of Buddha’s previous life known as Jataka tales.
We continued walking around the area and endlessly admired the structures of the pagoda. Temple obsession, I know.
Every side of the square pagoda has an entrance that are all splendidly finished. The porches are fitted with an arrangement of tiles or plaques with scenes from the Jataka stories.
Unfortunately, huge numbers of the tiles have not survived.
Another fun fact from our guide, he told us that big temples are called pagodas, medium ones are stupas and the smaller kind are zedis. Yes, attentive student po tayo kay kuya.
Since he observed that I was really fascinated with temples, he showed us the Khayminga Group, to which is comprised with rustic stupas and zedis. Ang saya ko grabe!
He too showed us a stupa where a foreigner named C. Dietrich’s signature was etched on the wall. It even had a glass on top of it to preserve such. Why so precious you may ask?
History dictates that this person has stolen artifacts and other important relics all over the temples in Bagan.
Though there are also rumors that he eventually had the stolen items back. Bad karma bit his ass, maybe?
C. Dietrich’s signature on a stupa’s wall
One of Bagan’s popular temples, Ananda Paya was said to be one of the first temples that has been built in Bagan. The exteriors of the pagoda are quite elegant and was laid out looking like a Greek cross.
The temple is also being renovated at the time of our visit but we can still see its beauty. Our guide told us that since it is being refurbished, people were surprised that there were ceiling paintings hidden behind the white paint.
This gate is the only remaining entrance from the 12 original ones in the Old Bagan city walls.
Just took some photos and left. There are still vehicles that can get through here so it was kind of difficult to pose in the middle.
Dubbed as the tallest temple in Bagan, this pagoda was still under renovation as it was damaged during the earthquake. We couldn’t even get near it so as there are falling debris so we just admired its beauty from afar.
We also didn’t stay long as it started to rain as shown by the dark clouds from this photo.
‘Shwegugyi’ literally means ‘the golden cave’ in Myanmar but since it is located directly in front of the royal palace, it is likewise being called ‘Nandaw Oo Paya’ which means ‘pagoda in front of the palace.’
Our tour driver ushered us into a narrow staircase going to the upper level and once we were there, I was surprised with the rusticness of the environment.
Partida, the pagoda was under renovation at the time of our visit. It only goes to show that may igaganda pa yung temple.
One of the most famous but also the most damaged pagodas during the recent earthquake, I was quite sad that we didn’t get to go inside this temple. You couldn’t even get to be near it because of possible falling debris.
Though also under renovation, the beauty of Sulamani Pagoda is apparent. The backstory was that a king saw a small ruby on the same spot where the temple was built. ‘Sula’ means ‘small ruby’ hence where the name of the pagoda was later named after.
Once outside of the pagoda, we met Didi here where I had the most interesting conversation with.
Didi: Where are you from?
Didi: Give me Philippine money.
Quite surprised with the remark, my bf and I looked at each other. Didi then reached for his pocket and showed us his collection of different currencies.
When we saw that, we then try to find if we have peso with us. Di kasi namen dala yung wallets namen. Then si bf may nakita sa bulsa niya na bente and we gave it to Didi.
I was amused by him because I also have my collection of different currencies and I don’t even have some of what he had! I helped Didi fix his currencies then I told him na papicture kame. Katuwa di ba?!
The Hill for Off Beaten Sunset Viewing
We were supposed to go to Pyathadar Temple, a place famous for sunset viewing but our guide suggested to go to somewhere we could enjoy the sunset minus the bountiful of tourists.
He then brought us to a hill, parallel to Pyathadar and we could see the tourists flock in the temple as the sunset time came closer. The golden sunset never came. We already knew that because it is still cloudy and experienced rain showers the entire day.
As for us? Kame lang yung andun and we had fun doing plentiful photo op with my yellow umbrella. It’s always good to have a local guide talaga, they do know where the good spots are.
Photo op with my yellow umbrella. I didn’t really stop until I bought one. Hihi.