Bagan, located on the banks of the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River, is home to the largest and densest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins in the world with many dating from the 11th and 12th centuries. The shape and construction of each building is highly significant in Buddhism with each component part taking on spiritual meaning.
With regards to tour comparison between this immense archeological site and the other significant archeological gem of Southeast Asia, the Angkor sites, this analogy may be helpful:
Angkor ruins are like a Chinese Lauriat banquet where food is presented in spectacular servings with a suspenseful wait between items which are hidden beneath curtains of forests. On the other hand, Bagan is served in Spanish Tapas style, the ingredients exposed to the customer and shown in small bite-size servings, with the next attraction close and visible at hand, in shorter intervals.
Another analogy between Angkor and Bagan Sites when distinguishing temple structures is through their stupa and spire shapes.
Artichokes and corncobs = Angkor while gourds and durians (or pineapple) = Bagan.
An example is gourd for Shwezigon Pagoda and durian for Ananda, Thatbyinnyu, and Mahabodi Temples. In another way of imagining, Bagan temples are like topped with inverted ice cream cones.
What makes the temples look romantic is the process of graceful aging. For some reason, there are no windbreakers around as shown by the barren, desert-dry mountain range to the west past the river, spinning occasional micro twisters that spawn loose dust particles everywhere from the eroded earth to the structures. This phenomenon had peeled off so much the stucco coating of the temples to reveal the brick structural blocks with its rusty, reddish, and sometimes golden brown-like patina when hit by the sun's rays.
Erosion is a significant threat to this area, not only the wind chipping away the buildings' plastering but also water from the mighty Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River threatens the riverbanks. The strong river current has already washed away half of the area of Old Bagan. It used to be a rectangular-shaped piece of enclave protected by a perimeter wall. Now what remains is roughly the triangular eastern half part.
Other images of Bagan which make a lasting impression to tourists aside from the spire-fringed skyline; stupas sporting that tumbledown look yet crowned with glitter-studded golden miter-like sikaras; the ubiquitous pair of ferocious stone lions flanking a temple's door; the spiky and lacy eave fascia woodcarvings lining a monastery's ascending tiers of roofs; tall palmyras or toddy palms with willowy trunks, bougainvilleas, exotic cotton trees, and the likes bringing life to the arid landscape and abandoned ruins; squirrels playfully and acrobatically scampering on the walls and pediments of temples; horse drawn carriages lazily carrying drop-jawed tourists; sleepy moving grandfather's bullock carts grinding on a dust-choked trail; not to mention the garbage left around, stray dogs loitering, longyi clad men spitting betel chews in copious amounts everywhere, overgrown weeds and the pestering dust.
Bagan became a central powerbase in the mid 9th century under King Anawratha, who unified Burma under Theravada Buddhism. It is estimated that as many as 13,000 temples and stupas once stood on this 42 sq km plain in central Myanmar, and Marco Polo once described Bagan as a "gilded city alive with tinkling bells and the swishing sounds of monks' robes". Approximately 2,200 remain today, in various states of disrepair. Some are large and well maintained, such as the Ananda Pahto, others are small tumbledown relics in the middle of overgrown grass. All sites are considered sacred, so when visiting, be respectful including removing shoes as well as socks before entering or stepping onto them.
Bagan's golden age ended in 1287 when the Kingdom and its capital city was invaded and sacked by the Mongols. Its population was reduced to a village that remained amongst the ruins of the once larger city. In 1998, this village and its inhabitants were forcibly relocated a few kilometers to the south of Bagan, forming "New Bagan" where you will find accommodation in its handful of cheap, quaint, clean hotels and religious centers.
Despite the majesty and importance of Bagan, UNESCO did not include it on its World Heritage Site, because it says some temples were rebuilt in an un-historic way. Nonetheless, the site is arguably as impressive as the Pyramids of Egypt: a dry, vast open landscape dominated entirely by votive architecture.
All tempels in Bagan are considered as sacred by the burmese. Therefore you should dress modestly (cover your knees and shoulders). This dresscode is also shown on many signs in front of bigger tempels, but mostly ignored by western tourists. It might not be too obvious, but the locals and other buddhists tourist are strongly offended by this behaviour. Since buddhists are none-confrontative, they will keep silent and just look at you. Be respectful and dress appropiately even though it is 40 degrees out!
The Bagan cultural authority has introduced a tax against all foreigners for $20USD, 20EUR or 24,000 Kyat upon arrival. Since the USD is the best value of those options, it is best to bring the required amount in USD (in new bills) before arriving. If you are lucky to enter Bagan without buying it, it will not be asked again except at the entrance of a couple of temples, notably the most popular sunset temple.
Here are the TIPS for avoiding the payment:
- From the airport, upon landing, note the taxing desk straight ahead as you exit. If flights are coming and going, you might be able to sit as if waiting for a plane and wait for the employees at the fee table to clear.
- If arriving on the river ferry it is quite easy to avoid paying the fee. When you exit the boat you walk about 200 metres before arriving at the main, paved road. If you continue another 200 metres down this paved road you will see the fee collection booth to your left. But instead of continuing down this paved road, turn immediately to your right where there is a small side road which brings you on some winding back streets, eventually bringing you back onto the main road without going anywhere near the fee collection booth. Since it is dark when you arrive, and their is a large group of people exiting the ferry, it is very easy to turn down this side road without being seen. So make the effort, it is worth not giving any money to this government.
- If you are coming from Pyay or Yangon you might be able to avoid the fee by transit in Magwe and catch the local minibus to Nyuang U. The ride takes about 4h, costs 7000K and is really uncomfortable, but if you sit in the back or in the middle the chances that you avoid the fee are not low (at least if the bus is full of burmese as it was in the low season).
For any methods of arrival, ask around beforehand where the check points are and try to walk around them. It's a bit of a hassle, you might need to walk for an hour or so both to Nyang U and New Bagan from the bus station, less from the boat to Nyuang U, tho. Travelers who were trapped in buying the ticket, please consider passing it to someone else you meet on the road. If you get lucky and a kind soul shares the ticket with you remember: you might be asked several questions: where you were coming from, how (bus/plane/train...) in which hotel you previously stayed in (they can call and check your passport number) and also some pictures on your camera to prove you have already been to Bagan. Do your homework accordingly.
Notice: As of at least May 2015, they seem to be stopping all taxis and motorbikes entering the city from the highway that connects the bus, rail, and airport terminals to charge foreigners the US$20/Euro20/Kyat24,000 entrance ticket there. It doesn't seem to be avoidable anymore.
Staff at the ticket booths sell pirated copies of George Orwell's Burmese Days for around US$5, though if you negotiate you can get them down to $2.
Maps are also sold at 1000 kyats. You can also print the online version shown here beside. It is not necessary to buy as these are available free from big hotels, if you happen to pass by and ask even if you are not their guest.
There is only one travel agent selling tickets online in Bagan. Sara Travels & Tours (Bagan Travel Bureau).
You can pay through Western Union or else.
The Airport is called Nyaung U (IATA NYU). You can fly to Bagan from Yangon on Air Mandalay, Air Bagan , Asian Wings , Air KBZ for US$ 116 or Myanmar Airways ] with tickets starting at US$67. Air KBZ and Myanmar National Airlines both offer instant online booking.
Air Mandalay and Air Bagan also fly from Mandalay. From the airport to NYU costs 5,000kyat (fixed) unless you negotiate. To New Bagan, it takes about 15-20 minutes by car, and usually this will cost around 7000-10000 kyat. Some midrange and luxury hotels will provide free pickup from the airport.
Overnight trains run daily from Yangon, departing at about 4:00 pm and arriving in Bagan at about 10:00 am the following day, at prices ranging from a few thousand Kyat (a few dollars) in second class, to US$50 for a "luxury" sleeper. The trains are somewhat old and the ride can be rocky, but that is part of the experience of travelling in a developing country. The train includes a restaurant cart that serves food and beer. In winter you may want to bring an extra blanket.
There is a direct train service running from Mandalay to Bagan with two departures daily. Tickets are available directly at the railway station and cost about US$6 one way. The journey takes about seven hours. (April 2013 - Trains have been reported to take up to 10 hours for this route)
Most train routes in Myanmar are fairly nice, however when going on the Mandalay-Bagan route expect the train to be incredibly crowded. You will also have limited room to store your stuff, as well as cramped uncomfortable sitting conditions. The night train to Bagan has lots of room and feet space in the 1st class carriage US$10.
Since April 2014, foreigners pay the fare in kyat at local price.
Buses now arrive at the new bus station located 7km from Nyaung-U center. Transfer cost should be 1,500 - 2,000 kyats by local shared taxi, though once you get off the bus, drivers will mob you and quote ridiculous prices. (May 2015: I heard anything between 10,000 to 4,000 kyat before exiting the bus terminal and walking a few minutes along the highway, where a taxi stopped and offered 1,000)
Comfortable bus links from Mandalay are available from 8,500 kyat (coach) and minibus. Coach takes as little as 5 hours as a new highway is available for part of the route. There are many bus options to choose from. As of Mar 2015, there are 4 daily minibuses (8am, 10am, two in the afternoon), and 2 daily coaches.
The highway from Yangon is modern, but the bus ride is made significantly less enjoyable by the very loud Burmese music and TV shows that play until midnight. The buses departing from Yangon at 6pm or 7pm also arrive in Bagan at a rather bizarre time in the morning (between 3am and 5am). The trip is 15,000 kyat with regular bus. VIP buses (JJ Express or Bagan Minn Thar Express) leaves Yangon at 8pm (9 hours, 18,500 kyat including snack and drinks). Be sure to book more than 24 hours in advance because tickets typically sell out quickly.
There is one bus a day from Inle Lake to Bagan leaving the junction at 7am -at this time of the morning you have to get a private pickup to the junction (6000 kyat) because the public ones aren't running yet. From Yangon to Inle Lake there is an overnight bus costing 15,000 kyats (including pickup at hotel)
A daily "express" ferry service leaving at 7 a.m. runs down the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) from Mandalay to Bagan taking 8-9 hours (or something like 20 miles per hour). One-way ticket is US$40 + US$5 commission (as of October 2014). It is more of a slow pleasure cruise than a rush express trip for the priceless river views and fresh air, a glimpse into the Myanmar country life with locals waving at you and acknowledging your presence non intrusively, and the overall soothing and relaxing atmosphere detached from misery and distant from poverty. Price includes a boxed breakfast, coffee, and lunchtime stir fry. Arrival times vary from 3 p.m. - 5 p.m. Water (500 kyat) and beer (3,000 kyat) is available onboard. The ferry can be booked by most hotel front desks. (Disagree: the views are far from spectacular from the middle of the very wide river. Frankly an overnight bus ride might cater to many more people at a fraction of the cost.)
A (very) slow ferry covers the same route frequently and costs US$10. Takes anything from 14 to 17 hours, but is a great opportunity to mix with the locals. Plastic chairs are available to rent on board. Otherwise, bring something to sit on and a cover for the early hours (leaves around 5am) and evening. Locals will be very happy to share theirs if you ask or if they see you shivering. Be aware, especially during dry season, that it's relatively common to get stuck on sandbars. If this happens, the trip may take two days. However, it's a great experience; the quintessential Burmese travel style.
The ferry services from Mandalay to Bagan will be shut down, except for the slow ferry ( available only on certain days in the week), during the months of April, May and June when the water level in the river is low. Please check with local travel agents while planning the trip.
You can take a hot air balloon ride at sunrise through 2 companies in Bagan one is called Balloons Over Bagan, around US$ 320 per person and the other is called Bagan Ballooning, US$ 350 per person with less people in the basket. The 2 companies operate from October till April.
You can rent a horse cart with a driver for around 10000 - 15000 Kyats (May 2013) for a full day. The horse carts are slow, shaky, bumpy, and not exactly the most comfortable mode of transportation. Passengers are however sheltered from both sun and rain, so that's a huge plus in hot and wet Myanmar. Still, a half-day is best recommended. The horse-cart driver is obviously a local, and will be able to bring you to little shops in small villages for a cold beverage as a respite from a hot afternoon of temple-hopping. Not a bad way to spend a day. One good option is to rent a horse cart for 1 day to see the major temples, and then visit the remaining sights on bicycle the next day. Horse carts drivers also make for good guides to Bagan and bring to many smaller sites we would never have found as well as to good cheap hidden restaurants. Unfortunately, we learned from several of them, that due to the advance of electronic bicycles, horse carts are disappearing from Bagan as many drivers don't get much business nowadays and lack the funds to properly feed their horses. Horse carts are also available for transport to the airport at the same price as a minivan seat, but the journey is slow and long. You're much better off going by bicycle instead of horse cart.
You can rent a private air-conditioned taxi for 35,000 kyats for a day and 20,000 kyats for half a day (Nov 2013). You could enquire at the hotel lobby or get one from Nyaung U airport, please check around and get the quote from driver direct, Airport office / Travel agent tend to charge more for their service fees. You could check with friendly taxi driver who speak fluent english Aung Myint at 09-2042701 in Bagan.
Travelling around on a rented bicycle is quite easy (although you have to compete with much vehicular traffic on the almost one-lane roads) and economical (as little as US$1.5 per day). In the morning, before it gets hot, is a particularly pleasant time at 7:00 am to 9:00 am to do this. People tend to rise late around Bagan, so touring early really emphasizes the sense of Bagan as "abandoned". Later in the day, particularly during the warm season, it may be uncomfortable beyond sanity to do this. In the wet season, be aware that there shelter from the rain might be hard to come by, and you could be thoroughly drenched before you find a suitable shelter. In the dry season, bicycling through the sandy paths connecting the more remote temples can be tough, but this is still the best way to get to where you want to go cheaply and freely. The main roads are all very good, easily passable, and near impossible to get lost on; with enough water packed, it's actually quite pleasant though you do need to be sure to have sunblock with you.
E-bikes (electric bicycles) and e-scooters are available from many shops in town from 3,000-6,000 kyats for a full day. These are a more pleasant option compared to a bike, given that it can get pretty hot (30-40°C at noon), roads are sandy and you can cover more distance. It's also a good way to get out to sunrise and sunset spots. Quality and speed can vary greatly. Ask to test the bike before renting and pay close attention to brakes, current charge and whether or not the bike has a functioning headlight. The best option is the new E-bikes that are being rented at some places, that can carry two people ( you can recognize them because they are the only ones displaying the actual speed on a screen ). Low season price is 5,000 kyats if only one person rents it (easy to cheat) or 8,000 kyats for two people. They can go up to 80km/h and easily last a long day, whereas the more common ones run out of battery after half a day.
Shared pickup leaves from the market in Nyaung Oo to Old Bagan (200K)and New Bagan (400K). They sometimes attempt to charge 1000k for tourists but it can be fought.
All temple signs are written in Burmese. Only a selected few are in English, and if there is, it's written at the back of the sign.
The three basic building blocks of typical Bagan temples are stupa, block base, and vestibule. Anywhere you go, you may undress down the structures to its basic shapes by the first one, or a combination of two, or all three of them.
The simplest structure starts with a stupa just like a chess pawn piece casing a sacred teeny weeny piece of anatomical remains or relics of the Buddha. Or it may just be a simple commemorative votive piece. Some stupas have a single pierced niche housing a Buddha icon, which can be viewed by the devotee from the outside. As complexity kicks in, the niche becomes bigger and no longer fits in the stupa so a cube block base is introduced to accomodate the enlarged niche which eventually becomes a cell. With the cube block casing the cell now fully defined, the stupa become its topping. Then, the cube's cell's entrance develops a vestibule, while the cell increases to two (back to back), eventually completing all the sides, one for each cardinal point (north-south-east-west), and eventually as it becomes bigger, a dark claustrophobic ambulatory connects all four cells. Becoming more articulate and intricate, the cube's top taper into two to three tiers and decorated with smaller corner spires on each while the vestibule protrude outer and outer, the doorways decorated with pediments, some with upturned, others with downturned haircomb teeth-like decor, etc. (some describe it as flame-like). In others, the tiers become prominent to evolve like a multiple stepped pyramid. Meanwhile the stupa becomes more elaborate as moldings multiply and another set of tiers and niches are introduced. From a simple gourd-shaped stupa, it has now evolved completely to a complex structure.
Both to the trained (as explained above) and the untrained and not so eager eyes, the temples may appear similar. For lovers of the beauty of Bagan, each structure has its own distinct personality. Just as what the French architect Pierre Pichard who inventoried the 2,834 structures in 8 thick volumes in 1996 described the whole menagerie, "a balance between uniformity and diversity", is achieved, contradicting the assumption of anarchy and monotony. Bagan architects mixed and matched prominent and subtle features but toed the line while nature enhanced it in over 1000 years of construction, depreciation, and renovation.
Nobody would be expected to visit more than 20 of these structures, let alone all 2,000 plus.
These are the important temples recommended by all tourist maps and agencies:
Ananda Temple - Bagan's holiest temple, built by the third king, Kyan-zit-tha in 1091. Ananda comes from the Pali word "anantapannya", which means "boundless wisdom". The temple houses four Buddhas facing the cardinal directions, which represent the four Buddhas who have attained Nirvana. The fifth, Maitreya, is yet to appear. This is the most important temple in all of Bagan. Location: Left side on the southern stretch of the Bagan-Nyaung Oo Rd. just before the road heads to Tharaba Gate of Old Bagan.
Shwesandaw Temple, . This is the "sunset temple", where foreign and Burmese tourists alike gather every evening to view the spectacular Bagan sunset. Get here early, as the top levels are small and space is scarce. There are many peddlers around the temple selling T-shirts, drinks and souvenirs. The climb up is a reasonably easy 5 minute walk up a flight of stairs, but the steps get narrower and steeper near the top. Not recommended for those with vertigo, but if you can make the climb, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking sunset as the the temples and landscape are set ablaze in golden sunrays. A good compromise is to climb to the 3rd or 2nd highest level, where the steps are much more manageable than the topmost level, is less crowded, and the view is just as good. It starts getting crowded here as early as 4:30pm, so consider taking a view from the Shwe-Gu-Gyi temple nearby instead (easily passable if on bike).edit
Shwe Zigon Temple - This gourd-stupaed golden pagoda is the first and prototype monument (including for the iconic Shwedagon Pagoda of Yangon) built in Myanmar style in 1087. Careful on the stall vendors, they are the pros employing hard sell psycho tactics. Location: Heading south, right side on the northern stretch of the Bagan-Nyaung Rd. after passing the bus station. A long covered walkway with souvenir stalls starts from the road to the compound.
Thatbyinnyu Temple - The tallest pagoda measuring 66 meters built in the 12th century. Location: Left side after entering the Tharaba Gate of Old Bagan, the second road.
Shwegugyi Temple - Commissioned by King Alaunsithu in 1131, one of the most intact temples in the site that needs a little less of imagination to appreciate Bagan's olden days. Nearby the Shwe-San-Daw pagoda, this temple is just as good for watching the sunset and far less crowded; a great alternative for an astounding view. Location: This temple sits closely in front of Thatbyinnyu Temple.
Manuhar Pagoda - This complex has some attached drama into it. It was built by King Manuhar from the nearby kingdom of Thaton, a POW of King Anawratha. He sold his jewelry and poured out his pent up sentiments by constructing this temple. Location: The last major Temple at the southern end of Myinkaba Village along Bagan-Chauk Rd. and marked by a towering free-standing column.
Dhamma Yangyi Temple - Another complex with an attached drama, this was commissioned by King Narathu to atone for his sins of assassinating his father, brother, and wife. The eccentricity of this king is reflected in the building's finely set brickwork (it was noted that he executed a bricklayer for his not too perfect masonry work - gaps are too wide) and its unfinished construction (work abandoned after he himself was assassinated). These generate so many riddles and mysteries that lead to be known as ghost haunted temple for some inhabitants. From estimates, there were roughly 6 million pieces of bricks used in the construction of this temple.
Su-la-ma-ni Pahto - Nearby Dhamma Yangyi, but even more impressive since of the same architectural style but even better preserved.
Additional: The decreasing six terraces and the main structure resemble the plan of a pyramidal shape. It was the copy of Ananda temple, and has two corridors inside constructed in a plan in perfect Greek cross. But the interior passage has been closed by bricks for unknown reason. The masonry job of this temple is so remarkable that even a needle can't penetrate between two bricks. Besides, the complicated architectural style of this temple creates the arguments on the number of floors and on the completion of the building. Location: A kilometer southeast off the southern stretch of Anawratha Rd.
Gubyaukgyi Temple @ Wetkyi-Inn Village - This durian-shaped stupaed temple was modeled after Bodh Gaya in India. It has also murals depicting scenes from the Jataka tales. But the best feature in this temple is the rooftop view of the surrounding area even if it's not as high and acrophobic as those in its category. Access is guided by the caretaker who will reveal his intention after such a wonderful tour by soliciting appreciation for his sand paintings. Remember, nothing is free in Myanmar. Location: Better accessed through Bagan-Nyaung Oo Rd. although Anawratha Rd. is nearer but remote, just north of the dry creek.
Gawdaw Palin Temple - A fusion of Myanmarese and Indian styles, this temple has a beautiful courtyard with a medium-sized stupa and interesting bell hangers. Location: Inside Old Bagan, just north of the Archeological Museum.
Bupaya Stupa - This lone golden gourd-shaped structure is sitting on a complex temple by the river. Location: Inside Old Bagan, a north bound road leading to it branches out from the main road as it turns south, the stupa is visible from the outside and not necessary to explore the temple complex.
Shwezigon Pagoda - on the North bank of Nyaung U, this is one of the most important pagodas in all of Myanmar that was built 11th century and served as the original model for the pagoda of the same name in Yangon.
Almost 3,000 other temples, monasteries, libraries, ordination halls, etc.
Expert guides recommend the tour of the archeological site in five parts:
Along the Bagan-Nyaung Oo Rd. (North of Old Bagan): Bulethi Pagoda, Shwezigon Pagoda, Gubuakgyi Temple @ Wetkyi-In Village, Thagyarhit Temple, Upalithein Ordination Hall, Htilominlo Temple, & Ananda Temple.
Inside Old Bagan: Tharaba Gate, Maha-Bodi Pagoda, Pitakattaik Library, Thantawkyar, Shwegugyi, Thatbyinnyu Temple, Gawdaw Palin Temple, Mimalaung Kyaung Group
Along Bagan-Chauk Rd (South of Old Bagan): Gubyaukgyi @ Myinkaba Village Temple, Manuhar Temple, Nonpayer Temple, Abeyadana Temple.
East Off Southern Anawratha Rd.: Dhamma Yangyi Temple, Sulamani Temple, Meenyeingone Temple, Lawkahteikpan Temple, Shinbinthalyaung Temple, Shwesandaw Pagoda.
North and Around Minan Thu Village: Nandamannya Temple, Phayathonezu Temple Group, Tayokepyay Temple, Dhamayazaka Temple, East & West Petleik Temple, Lawkananda Pagoda.
If you're staying in New Bagan, it's fully possible to hit all of the main highlights in a single very full (and tiring) day by bicycle:
1) Starting North, pass through the village where
2) proceed further North to Shwe San Daw, Mya Zedi, and Mingalar Zedi.
3) head East to see Dhamanyangyi & Sulamani.
4) Return back west to enter Old Bagan where you can see Shweguygyi, Gawdawpalin, Mahabodi, and Bu Phaya on the bank of the Ayeyarwaddy. Grab a snack in town and refill your water before as your next stretch will take you until Nyaung U.
5) Exit NE of Old Bagan on Anawrahta RD to Ananda temple.
6) Continue NE to see Alo-pyi then take your left to the road for Htilominlo. Where this road hits Bagan-Nyaung U RD, make a stop at Upali Thein.
7) Head back to Anawrahta RD, and return on your NE journey until you reach Gu-Byauk-Gyi.
8) As you enter Nyaung U, head left to go further north and make a stop at Shwezigon Pagoda.
9) Continue Eastwards through Nyaung U and stop for lunch and refill your water (plenty of great places to eat on the 3rd street parallel to the east of Shwezagon).
10) Take Nyaung U-Kyaukpadung RD South, a highway that passes the Bagan Golf Course towards the airport.
11) Turn Right at Myat Lay RD that leads back towards New Bagan.
12) Pass by the Bagan Tower, and traverse through Min-nan-thu village. At the entrance to Min-nan-thu village, you will see Lay-Htaung-Ken (the only fully white pagoda); stop in Min-nan-thu for more water/snacks after the long continuous ride from Nyaung U).
13) Continue westward to the Paya-Thone-Zu group of temples (some of the few which you can see the carvings inside since natural light permeates).
14) Head West and you're back to New Bagan.
A note on murals - some temples became elaborate and have murals but the majority have their interior in pitch darkness so bring a flashlight. The only ones with enough natural light are the Phayathonezu Temples, the Gubyaukgyi Temple, the Upalithein Ordination Hall and some with electric lights (given it works/is switched on).
Bagan Archeological Museum - this very ugly museum building - a sad, nauseating result of the fusion of old and new architectural styles with the overemphasis on the profusion of lotus ornamentation - keeps all the salvageable and portable finds from all the temples in this region. A grand hall has a coffered ceiling of dizzying Myanmar patterns and unusual color combinations.
Palace Site - consisting of purely excavations of the ancient royal palace, not a single post is left standing to attest any authenticity or to whet the tourist's curiosity. The entrance fee is US$5.
Although it's not as bad as Ankor Wat (yet), the place is pretty crowded and popular with tour groups.
To avoid it a bit it's advisable to visit between 6-8 AM (you'll have most places to yourself, expect the ones which are also popular around sunset) or between 13-15 PM (when most tour groups will have their lunch).
Around sunset (17-18 PM) most places will be free of tour groups, expect the popular sunset watching temples (in order most busy to medium busy: Pya Tha Da, one unknown very near the south-west side of Dhammayangyi, Shwe San Daw, Buledi and one unknown very close to this and also close to the road). Those places will be deserted between 15-16 PM, which is an excellent time to visit (no vendors, a cool breeze, and good light for photographs).
The mood of the village is laid back and, after a day biking around in the stone forest of stupas, the evening entertainment is entirely DIY.
Rent a bike : Most midrange-luxury hotels offer bike rentals from 2500 Kyats per day. Most of the area in and around Bagan is flat and very easy to bicycle your way around.
Rent a E-Bike: Most hotels offer E-Bikes for around 6$ or 5,000 kyats.
Rent a horse cart with driver : The classic way to visit interesting sites in Bagan. A day tour around the temples will cost about 15-25.000 kyat per cart (up to 4 people). You can either tell the driver where you want to go, or let them decide for you. Usually, they will try to take you to a cafe where they get a commission, but this is not always a bad option.
Rent a car with driver : This is the best for the marathon option of getting to the five-part tour mentioned above and attainable in two days. It is also dust and dirt (although you still have to take off your shoes and socks) but definitely sweat and sunburn free at a price of US$35 per day per car (fare can be split to a maximum of 4 passengers). Cars are private owned but they have to be government accredited as indicated by a big sticker approval on the door of the car. Of course, the government has a cut on this. The rental office is on the tourist information office (i) at New Bagan township.
Rent a boat: Watch the sunset in your private boat. The price per boat for 4-6 people is around 14$ for 1-2h on the river. I recommend "Ko Hla Khaing" Boat Trips (Taungbi Village, Old Bagan, Phone: 09-402501013), in Old Bagan. Coming from New Bagan you will use the main street through Old Bagan and immediately after you left Old Bagan you should see signs for "Bagan Boat Trips" on the left side. Follow the signs for 5-10min with your bike.
Monks and Monkettes : If you haven't get your fill of the early morning monks alms begging and blessing when you were in Luang Prabang, get out to the street exactly 7:00 am and see the monks, this time wearing their vests in burgundy (not in orange). There is even a herd of little monks as young as 3 or 5 to 10-year olds parading bare foot with the tallest down to the smallest toeing the line and with the eldest and the shepherd of them all brotherly escorting the last and the youngest (a heartwarming sight to see). By the way, the first in the parade is the announcer carrying his little bell and beater. Other spectacles are the also bald-headed female monks or monkettes with their pink robes, orange skirts, and beige-ochre shoulder-to-armpit wrapped towels. Their way of begging is different. They use woven cane trays carried over their head and receive only one spoonful of uncook rice from each donor. These spectacles are best seen along the Nyaung Oo road from Thante Hotel to the Shwezigon Pagoda.
Novice monk initiation rites : During long school breaks, boys are inducted into monkhood with this ritual. This can be observed with the first signs of loud temple music blaring out a day before and on the day itself coming from a monastery around (in and out of the walls of) the northern side of Old Bagan. On the day itself, the boys are brought to the monastery by parents and relatives dressed in gowns, crowns, flowers, sequences & glitters, stockings, and make-up. A big audience is gathered. The place itself is colourfully festooned. A small show consists of songs by hired singers accompanied by ensemble music, a pep talk by a layman and some rituals. After some photos with their parents, the boys are brought again to another monastery (Myoe Daung Monastery) to be stripped, head shaved, and bathed. Finally they are assembled in the hall in front of the abbot for some prayer recitation, oath taking and robe-blessing ceremonies after which they are totally stripped and dressed in their new robe vestment by their parents. They will stay the rest of their school holiday in the monastery.
Night Market + Carnival. There is a small night market cum carnival in the middle of the small town. While there isn't much to buy or play compared to night markets in more developed countries, it is a good way to see first hand how the locals entertain themselves. There is an indoor stage where concerts are held (free), and an especially eye-popping Ferris Wheel, which is amazing for the fact that it runs not on electricity or gas, but on human strength. Young men clamber up and down the Ferris wheel with no protection or safety equipment of any sort, and use their own body weight to rotate the wheel. One wrong move and they could be fatally injured. This would be unthinkable in most countries, but it's just another night at the carnival for the Burmese. Quite an eye-opener.edit
As of October 2014 are many ATMs accepting VISA, +PLUS, Mastercard and UnionPay cards in Nyaung U and Bagan, you can look for KBZ bank, MOB bank, CB Bank, and many others. They are pretty easy to find in the more populated areas. Some stores and nicer hotels accept credit cards, although will typically charge a 5% transaction fee.
Bagan offers lacquer ware, cloth paintings, T-shirts and other handicrafts. As elsewhere in Asia, it is "friendly" to grant a client 10% off. It is common for initial prices to be double what you can get with bargaining. If you probe further, remember to always keep the bargaining friendly.
Hnin Hnin, Shwe Gu Gyi Pagoda, ☎ 09403714982. editA friendly middle aged couple who sell the usual assortment of sand paintings and lacquer at the Shwe Gu Gyi Pagoda. They are putting their children through school, and are always up for a nice chat about their lives and their thoughts on the changing times. If you really spend some time with them, they might even invite you to lunch behind their shop.
Jasmine Family Lacuqer Ware Workshop, Myinkapar Village (down the road and to the right from Golden Cuckoo, off the main road - if you ask someone for 'Jasmine' they can direct you), (firstname.lastname@example.org). edit An excellent lacquerware experience. The prices are more than fair, especially considering the craftsmanship that goes into the pieces - about $7 for a tea cup, $15 for a medium-sized box and $25 for a large plate. They also have soft-bamboo and horse-hair (!) pieces that are rare to see in other shops. Highly recommended.
Maung Pa,Sand Painting, Gu-Byauk-Gyi Temple (Myin Ka Ba), ☎ 092043011 (email@example.com), . You can get a high quality of sand paintings. He is a sand painting artist. name is Mg Pa.edit
There are many places to eat in Old Bagan serving the traditional Burmese dishes, especially good old noodle soup. Some of the buffets are excellent; for about USD 4 you can eat to your heart's content from dozens of different traditional dishes.
At the southern end of Bagan-Nyaung Oo Rd. where a dirtroad leads to Ananda Temple, there are al fresco restaurants lining this road serving complete budget meals. A meal priced at 3000 kyats or at US$4 at that time (Nov.'12) consists of rice with the main dish - two bite sizes of beef, pork, or two small chicken pieces, or about a dozen smelt pieces, plus clear broth and 4 small plates of appetizer-veggies - beans, salads, pickled veggies.
Golden Myanmar Restaurant, New Bagan. Traditional Burmese curry meal for 3,000 kyats (they will give you a wide variety of dishes and more food than you can possibly eat).edit
Black Rose Restaurant, New Bagan (on Khayaye Street between 3rd street and 4th Street.). Standard fare (curries, stir fried and soups. Good fried rice for less than 3,000 kyats. Very friendly staff. Free but slow wifi is available.edit
La Min Thit, (Near new Bagan market). Myanmar typical food ('can get healthy fresh Myanmar home food, tasty and reasonable price')edit
Mahar Bagan, Khayee Road, Khan Laung Quarter, New Bagan. One of the better restaurants in Bagan, with a cheerful and friendly owner who speaks good English and seems happy to indulge customers in stories about the area. The menu consists primarily of Chinese-style dishes. The restaurant serves an excellent array of traditional Burmese food, but you have to visit 4-5 hours in advance to let them know your order, as most Burmese dishes take a long time to prepare.edit
The Moon Vegetarian Restaurant, North of Ananda temple, Old Bagan, ☎ 061-60481. Not only the best veggie restaurant in Bagan, but overall just a great eating experience. All food on the extensive menu is freshly prepared, and there's always a special dish of the Day. Dishes from 1500 to 4000 kyat. If it's (too) full try Yar Pyi on the other site of the street, which has good vegetarian food as well at the same prices.edit
Yar Pyi Vegetarian Restaurant, North of Ananda temple, Old Bagan. An excellent family-run vegetarian restaurant across from The Moon. While the food is about equal at both restaurants, the service is better and more personal at Yar Pyi. The guacamole with papadams and Tomato Peanut curry are house specialties and both are excellent and the owners are friendly and helpful.edit
Weather Spoon's, No. 5 Main Road, Nyaung Oo (Opposite Pann Cherry Guest House on the main road heading to Old Bagan), ☎ 09-43092640. Restaurant & bar with European, Burmese, Thai, Chinese. The burger is really impressive (coming from an American frequently disappointed by burgers abroad), fries are good too. The Thai food is better than in most places in Thailand! Drinks like Iced coffee, Lassis and Juices stand out and everything is reasonably priced. (Dishes 800 to 3500 kyat) Free WiFi, friendly service. Many consider this the best place to eat in Bagan area! Avoid the toilet if you can though (no reflection on restaurant's cleanliness, it's a public squat down the road). As of at least January 2014, this place appears to have moved down to the middle of the restaurant row in Nyaung U, roughly across from Novel Restaurant.edit
Star Bistro, North of Ananda Temple, Old Bagan (next door to The Moon Vegetarian Restaurant). Run by a friendly man with over 15 years experience in Myanmar hotels, the restaurant offers beautifully presented Burmese food and a few western favorites. Best thing is his crunchy and fresh french baguettes!edit
La Min Thit Myanmar Typical Food, New Bagan (Near New Bagan Market), ☎ 061-65313, 09-43008221. Real Myanmar home food, fresh and healthy food, clean and away from dusty main road, family style, Newly open.K.3000 to K.5500. edit
San Carlo Restaurant, (Behind Thiri Malar Hotel). In New Bagan, a small, reasonably priced, family-run restaurant with tables on a quiet back street near some of the mid and high range hotels. Although not for the gourmet, good quality for money, and different cuisines on offer: Chinese, Burmese, Italian. Free Wi-Fi. They also rent bicycles (1500 Kt/full day, 1000 Kt/half day), have laundry service and in general can provide good advice and other tourist services on demand.edit
Bibo Bar & Bistro, Thi Ri Pyitsayar 4 St, Nyaung OO, Myanmar (on Restaurant Row about 1/3 down if moving east). A very cozy, small restaurant run by a very nice and soft-spoken young couple. Thant and his wife prepare all the food themselves, fresh on the spot. Thant waits on customers and mixes cocktails while his wife does the cooking. They will also do off-menu dishes. Just ask Thant and he'll make recommendations based on your likes and what he has bought from the market that day. Extremely friendly and personable service, and excellent food at very reasonable prices. The restaurant itself is small and cozy with soft warm lighting, and tables placed far apart enough to give diners some privacy. Two of the walls are removed to give the restaurant an open, airy feel, which will appeal to those with claustrophobic tendencies. The Burmese curries (esp pork, fish and pork, slightly less so the chicken) are the standouts. Buy one get one cocktails at happy hour 17:30-19:00.edit
Pwind Mar Lar, New Bagan (east of New Bagan Market: Follow the little road between the market and the Yadanar supermarket. The restaurant is a little hidden behind the supermarket.), ☎ 061-65325; 09-43132213. Very friendly family run restaurant. Do try the all you can eat set menu (3000 Kt per person). 12-16 different dishes for 4 people. When you have finished, the "I make" lady will offer home made sweets. Really good fruit juices too (ask for them, might not be on the menu).edit
Wonderful Tasty, Nyang U (street almost in front of bus station, follow the Holiday sign). On the same street as where Pocho Thai Restaurant and Dagon beer station are, this place offers delicious Nepali, Tibetan, Indian, and Thai in a place that started as an Italian restaurant, all very cheap and in generous portions. Good vegetarian option. Great place to stop as you refuel before making the bike ride back to Old or New Bagan.edit
Yuzana Restaurant, New Bagan (on Khayaye Street between 3rd street and Sabae Street.). Standard fare (curries, stir fried and soups. Do try the delicious chicken meat ball soup for dinner for less than 3,000 kyats. Free but slow wifi is available.edit
New Idea, No. 4 Main Road, Nyaung Oo (in the main restaurant street). Good Asian food and very friendly staff. Prices around 1500-2500 kyat per dish.edit
The Library Restaurant, on main road sorta between Winner Guest House & bus station (its a big white building, you'll see it). Newly opened place with an Italian chef. Bit of a splurge for Bagan but a delightful meal (starter + 2 mains + bottle of wine = $40 in Nov 2013). Some teething problems with wine menu & service but sure they'll be ironed out soon. Especially recommend the rosemary & seasalt focaccia, best in Asia. edit
Kaday Kywe (ordinary restaurant), Main road Bagan, New Bagan (In New Bagan, on the 'roundabout' around the Pagoda. On the right side, going to the river), ☎ 061-65395/0943012895. Nice and helpfull staff. Nice Myanmar food. edit
Kaung Set Aung, (Nyaung Oo) Thiripytsaya block No 4, Yar Kinn Thar Hotel Rd, ☎ 09402682689. Local restaurant on a side road from the restaurant road of Nyaung U serving italian specialities, chinese and thai food. Very good thai curries and friendly staff at cheep price.1000-3000 Ky. edit
Taunggyi Shan Khao Sway, Nyaung Oo (Heading west in Nyaung Oo on the road to Old Bagan, pass the Pann Cherry Guesthouse and the first road to Shwezigon Pagoda on your right. There's a large patch of bare ground by the road.). Breakfast only--finished by lunchtime.. Had enough of free bananas and Wonderbread at your guesthouse? This breakfast Shan noodle stand is a basic affair: just a couple of pots and a stand beside the road, with portable tables and plastic chairs set up. But the noodles are great. It's a family-run joint and the owner, who comes from Taunggyi, speaks some English and can point you in the right direction if you're not sure where Shwezigon or the cave temple is. Don't look for an English sign--there isn't any.700 kyat. edit
HTI Bar & Restaurant, Nyaung U, between Thiripyitsaya 4 & 5 road (Located in a small side road near the well know restaurant row.). The only "real Bar" in Bagan. Wide range of cocktails with prices starting from 1500 Ks. Asian & Western dishes are served as well as BBQ. Shisha is available on demand!edit
7 Sisters Restaurant, 79 Nwe Ni Street, New Bagan (The restaurant is situated at the corner of 3rd Street and Nwe Ni Street), ☎ 061-65404, . Beautiful open air restaurant started by 7 sisters. Serving Thai, Burmese, European and Chinese foods. Extremely friendly and professional service, worth visiting. It is next to MOB bank. Try the tea leaf salad. Prices are a little higher than most restaurants, K2500-8000 per dish, K2500 Myanmar beer. But the service and comfort is worth it. Website of the restaurant is helpful.edit
Aroma restaurant on Yar Khin Tar Rd, Nyang Oo. Indian restaurant with a nice romantic setting quite packed with tables. It gets so full that people end up queueing for a table which is sad considering that so many places are empty. However for the person who knows well Indian cuisine and gets accustomed to a high quality dishes this restaurant's food will seem rather ordinary and a bit over-rated. They bring you 6 sauces ok, but the curries are not splendid, they seem to be just ok. Tandoori chicken comes with bones what normallty never accures. The menu hasn't got a bit choice either.
Ma Mae Naing, (Right hand side of the road when facing west, about two block from the west end of the road. Green sign out front saying Myanmar Food. Lots of illuminated stars hanging from trees out front.). Delicious Myanmar style curry. K2000-3000 for a meal including 4-5 side dishes and rice. K2000 for a large bottle of Myanmar beer.edit
Note: prices for hotels and guesthouses are rising very fast since some years. Expect the listed prices to be outdated and in some cases doubled or even tripled. It's hard to find private rooms under $30, and for that money you'll most likely get poor to average quality.
Most accommodation nowadays are found in New Bagan or Nyaung Oo. In Old Bagan, only some government-involved, luxury hotels remain. The most visited temples (but not necessarily the best) are located along the northern stretch of Nyaung Oo Rd. or at Nyaung Oo township and downwards before you arrive in Old Bagan. Don't forget that Bagan area and its 3000+ temples streches over a 20km x 20 km perimeter; if you really want to see and appreciate Bagan you'll need to rent a bike or a taxi or a horse cart, you can't do it on foot. Nyaung Oo town has the most budget accommodations.
Guest-house guests sometimes have no control of switching TV channels in the bedrooms. To change channels, one must go down and ask at reception.
Arthaka Hotel, 160 Cherry Road New Bagan, ☎ 95 61 60310, . Nice comfortable hotel with a large saltwater swimming pool .Very clean rooms with nice bathrooms . Breakfast served in the restaurant .Beautiful lobby /loung area . WiFi . The staff very friendly . Shops and Restaurants 5 minuets walk away .edit
Ostello Bello Hostel, Hkan latt Qtr, Main Road, New Bagan, Myanmar (In the exact centre of New Bagan on the roundabout. In front of the Aung Chan Thar Pagoda. Formerly known as the Thiri Sandar Hotel and At Bagan Hostel.), ☎ (+95-61) 65069, . checkin: from 10:00; checkout: 12:00. Newly opened in December 2014, Ostello Bello Hostel is the only hostel in the Bagan Archeological Zone. In the very centre of town it is surrounded by restaurants and travel services and e-bikes can be easily rented to see the sunrise and sunset nearby. Prices from $18/night in shared dormitory.edit
Floral Breeze Hotel, New Lawka Nandar Pagoda, Chauk-Nyaung Road, Anwratha Ward, New Bagan (South of New Bagan, walking distance from Law-kan-nanda Pagoda), (firstname.lastname@example.org), . checkout: 12. Newly rennovated with beautiful outdoor grounds, a great breakfast spread, and clean/comfortable rooms. Free wifi. A great place higher-end place to stay with bike rental and helpful staff to arrange visits to Mt. Popa.$75/night. edit
Kumudara Hotel, Corner of 5th & Daw Na St., Pyu-Saw-Htee Qtr., New Bagan, Myanmar (Northernmost end of New Bagan), ☎ (+95-61) 65142, 65402, . checkout: 12. A bit of a dated hotel with nice pagoda-style rooms and a great pool to relax at after a long day biking. Internet is not included. Cheap bike rental and northern location make it a great spot for starting on a ride to Old Bagan and the Northern temples. Considering that New Bagan is so small (can traverse on bike from one side to the other in 5min).$55/night + $20 for double occupancy. edit
NK Betelnut Hotel, Kha Yay Pin Street, Anwratha Ward, New Bagan. Clean and comfortable bungalows located between the eight-face pagoda and the morning market. Rooms are US$45 for foreigners, clean sheets, clean bathroom with much welcome hot shower, but WiFi is patchy at best, and there's a truck that goes around in the evenings and from 4am, playing very loud music and a Burmese monologue, for reasons unknown. When the gates aren't locked, there always seems to be plenty of staff members standing around the hotel grounds, presumably for security reasons. Helpful staff, outdated room decor, double beds available but confirm this if making a reservation, breakfast unknown but there are restaurants a minute or two's walk away where you can get a good meal for a dollar or two per person. One universal power outlet and a few satellite TV channels.$45/night. edit
Thazin Hotel, Hninn Pann Street, Kyansittha Quarter, New Bagan, ☎ +95 61 65 070, . Bungalows and rooms overlooking a (rebuilt) pagoda. There is also a salon, expensive internet access, a limited library, billiards, a scenic pool and a nice breakfast room. Summer may be more expensive of the year.$80-$120. edit
Kaday Aung Hotel, Hninn Pann St., Kyansitthar Quarter (Near Manuhar Temple, Myingabar village), . Garden and pool are ok but the cold environment from the shade of trees is priceless. The rooms are well decorated with woods and bamboo fixtures and arts, dinner and dance shows at outdoor restaurant, buffet breakfast with local and continental menus are so delicious. All staff smile all the time and manager is very helpful. Facilities are well suited for 3 stars level. Standard rooms at least are well below the quality their price should justify. Bathrooms are worse than in a guesthouse less than half the price: stinky, rotten and obviously never maintained. The management is far from friendly when reporting complaints of this nature, and fail to understand what to cater for tourists (charging Western prices in return) really should mean.$45-$90. edit
Thiri Marlar Hotel, Ingyin Street - New Bagan, ☎ +95 61 65050, +95 61 65229, . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. A mid-range hotel in New Bagan, well maintained, recently renovated, with friendly and knowledgeable staff that can help organize things efficiently. The premises are well kept, very neat and with a welcoming terrace on which the bar is situated. Breakfast/Meals are served in an upper terrace with nice views of the surroundings, including some pagodas nearby. Taxis, Poeny cart can be organized through the reception, bikes are for rent at 2500 Kyats per day. Superior Rooms are large, very clean, well lit, with wooden floors, well furnished with 2 large luggage racks and a very nice bathroom attached. Standard rooms are in a separate building but very clean too and with decent if somewhat basic furniture with bathroom attached also (water heater included). Free Wi-Fi in the reception and terrace, and in Superior rooms too; the signal may be received also in some of the Standard rooms. There is a computer with internet access also in the hall.US$50. edit
Bagan Nova Hotel, No. 87, Yuzana Street, Khan Lat Yet Quarter, New Bagan, ☎ +9595018134, . checkin: 12:30; checkout: 11:30. A mid-range hotel in New Bagan, very new. One o the smaller hotels with fewer rooms. The staff is super friendly and will be helpful with organising anything you need in Bagan. The rooms have a small balcony, are quite big with their own bathroom. Everything is very clean. Breakfast is included and let you pick between some traditional dishes and omlet/scrambled eggs and toast.US$45. edit
Mya Thida Hotel, No. F-55, Corner of Nwe Ni Street & School Street Kyan Sitt Thar Township, New Bagan, ☎ +9450066777, . More of a hostel, with nice 4-bed dorm rooms and other private rooms. Definitely the best option for solo travelers, despite the lack of common areas. Breakfast is pretty basic. WiFi is free and the bathrooms are kept clean. Friendly staff you should not be serious with, jokes enlighten everyones mood 10$. edit
Be aware that if you arrive by horse cart, your guest house has to pay 1500ky commission even if you already have a confirmed reservation.
We arrived in the early morning 4am and got the old "that guest house doesn't exist anymore"or "its the same one but has changed names" from our taxi driver and gave us the tour of the city to all of his friends guesthouses trying to chock up a commission.
Amazing Bagan Resort, Adjacent to the Bagan Nyaung Oo Golf Club (About 10-15 min. from the airport with a taxi.), ☎ 95 61 60035, 53, 54, . checkout: 12:00. A luxury resort at a bargain price. It's located a bit outside "everything", so to get to the nearest town or even shop it's necessary to rent a bike or take a taxi. It's a very quiet, beautiful and tranquil place. They can arrange horse cart rides to see the temples with pick up from the hotel for 13 000 - 15 000 Kyats for a full day. Bikes can be borrowed free of charge. Nice and large swimming pool. Wi-Fi is free of charge as well in the lobby. The restaurant serves excellent food and isn't too expensive. Main dishes can be had for around 5-10 USD. The reception staff is very friendly, polite and helpful. The rooms are big, only problem with that is that the small air cons in the rooms have a hard time cooling the rooms. Owned by a local Chinese businessman.85-100 USD. edit
A1 Guesthouse, Nyaung U to Bagan Road. Open in February 2014, brand new room really clean, slow free wifi, staff really nice and helpful. 15$ for a twin room with air con and share bathroom, 25 $ with own bathroom and TV, breakfast include. edit
Eden Motel, Nyaung U (Near Nyaung Oo Market), ☎ +95-061-60815/60812/60639. checkin: when room is available; checkout: 12:00. Staff is very friendly, the rooms are nice, dorm is 10.000 for like 6 or 8 beds but no bunks, the beds are good and the dormitory is huge. This place is about 30 mins bike ride from the popular sunrise/sunset pagoda. Breakfast consists of 1 egg, toast, butter and jam, fruit, tea/coffee. In the store right next you can rent a bicycle for 1000 kyat. Wifi is provided but works very bad you can send and receive some messages. Double room 25/28$10 usd. edit
Inn Wa Hotel, Nyaung Oo, ☎ +95 61 60 902. Near the rotunda at the north of the Nyaung Oo Road, this hotel is clearly past it's prime. English speaking but unhelpful and generally unfriendly staff; seems resentful about something. Not much service. Free Wifi that doesn't work and apathetic staff that won't try to fix it. The location is the furthest away from restaurants and temples. Not recommended to stay here and there are better deals closer to the bus station or in the other direction past it.$20(May 2013) for aircon, no TV, private bath with no hot water and breakfast 7-9 am sharp. edit
Large Golden Pot Hotel, Ahnawyahta Road, Nyaung oo (Just past the intersection of the road to mount popa and the road to old bagan past oasis guesthouse towards mount popa), ☎ +95 (0) 61 60074 / +95 (0) 920 42028, . checkout: 12. This place was a little rundown, but not too much worse than anywhere else whilst being cheaper. Large double room with air con (when working the air con was ok) but the power was out often. No website for this place but photos and video available at the weblink$15 Double ensuite (Low Season), normally $20. edit
May Kha Lar, Main Road (Nyaung OO (location in Google Maps is accurate) about 10 mins walking north of Restaurant Row), ☎ +95-061-60304/60907. Friendly staff, clean with a range of rooms to fit different budgets. $20 rooms are pretty tiny but $25 got us a huge double room with AC, a hot (purportedly) shower. Check rooms before moving in as quality varies. Wifi only works upstairs balcony (breakfast area), can still be spotty and gets turned off at night and during breakfast in the morning (6:30-9:30) so that people don't linger too long at breakfast (since this is the only area wifi works, when it does. Accordingly, all guests use wifi at night, making access very slow. Breakfast is typical. Rent bicycles for the standard rate. Quiet. Nice mattresses. All and all a nice place to stay, but considering neighboring guesthouses offer better services for lower prices, this is not a good value for money (Aug 13). If arriving by bus they will offer a private transfer for you for 2,000 kyat. They had reasonable prices for buses/flights/ferries (the same as other places).20-30. edit
New Heaven Hotel, Nyaung Oo. A run-down hotel once rated as Lonely Planet's "our pick", New Heaven has been coasting on its Lonely Planet review for years. Dirty, small rooms are smelly and expensive. Electricity is inconsistent. Staff are rude.edit
New Life Guesthouse, Northern Nyaung Oo-Nyaukpadaung Rd (Next to Thante Hotel and Bakery), ☎ 06161035. Comfortable and clean guesthouse with ensuite rooms (w aircon, fridge, tv and good beds). Staff is friendly and helpful. Price for a twin room including breakfast $40 (November 2013). Free wifi. Good value for Bagan.edit
Pann Cherry Guest House (+95 (0)61 600 75), Nyaung-oo to Bagan road (10mn walking from bus station walking towards Mani Sithu market, on the left side of the road). (March 2014) 8$ for a single room / 15$ for a twin room with fan & shared bathroom with hot water. No breakfast. Basic but very clean and luminous rooms (at least 104 on the right side of the corridor). There is WiFi but it rarely works. You can refill your water bottle and they rent bicycles for 1500k/day. Staff is super friendly, and there is a local tea shop next door to grab an early morning chai.edit
Pyinsa Rupa, Lanmadaw 3 Road (Main Road), Nyaung-U, ☎ +95 61 60 607. Rooms on the roof are nice. The owner speaks very good English and is very informative and helpful. Located in Nyaung Oo, on the main road south-east of the market. Rooms are dated and in need of a thorough cleaning. Hot water is available. The rooms in the new building are a bit nicer and cleaner (2015).US$15 for a single room and US$20 for a double with shared bath including a standard breakfast and US$25 including Aircon.. edit
Shwe Nadi, Nyaung-oo to Bagan road, about halfway between Main Bus station and central market., ☎ +95 (0) 61 60409 Mobile: +95 (0) 940 2510138. Very friendly owner, amazingly helpful and genuine. The new building out the back has large aircon rooms with a fan (twins and doubles), onsuites bathroom, fridge and a lcd tv. In case of a power outage there is a generator that will run the power points and lights (no air-conditioning) as a back up until power is restored. Breakfast is included, this consists of bread and jams, bananas and coffee or tea.$20 double room in the new building. In the old and main building: 14,000 kyats for a single room (11 dollars) or 17,000 kyats for a double room. In that case, bathrooms will be shared, turkish style and disgusting (July 2015, low season). edit
Thante Hotel, Northern tip of Nyaung Oo-Nyaukpadaung Rd, . Clusters of rooms set in bungalows all located in a garden around a central pool. Close to the market. Excellent service. Dispenses free map.US$50 for a single room (Oct 2013, low season). edit
View Point Inn, Nyaung U (walking distance from the bus station of Nyaung U. Just at the intersection of the road to mount popa and the road to old bagan past oasis guesthouse towards mount popa; next to Large Golden Pot Hotel). Basic but OK guesthouse; rooms and dorm are clean and some of the rooms were renovated recently. Dorm beds especially are good value. Breakfast included, free towel, wifi (though not always working). You can rent bycycles and e-bikes.10$ for dorm, 18$ for double room with fan; 25 and 30usd for double with AC (March 2015). edit
Winner Guest House, Wet Gyi Inn, Main Road (15mins walk from bus terminal (Turn right/Southwest of bus terminal)), ☎ 09-402501091 / 061-61069. Beside New Wave Guest house. Helpful Staff. Bike Rental at Kyat1500/day. Wifi provided. Recommended. $9/Single with fan and shared bathroom, $26 for double room with own bathroom (breakfast included). edit
Saw Nyein San Guest House, Nyaung U to Bagan Road. Recently opened in 2014 but already got smelly mattresses despite 4 air refreshers in my room, single room offered next day had exactly same odor. chinese-run guest house on the main street of nyaung u has a ladyboss that will knock you out of bed at 8am since breakfast is only served until 8:30. Convenient location to the bank, rent a bike and buy bus ticket. All rooms are new and modern, with green walls. Single room attached bathroom prices now raised to us$ 25, low season $17. Double $ 30. Tel: 09 4921 5305, 09 204 2865. Email: email@example.com edit
From Bagan, you can do a day trip to visit Mount Popa by shared minibus for around $10 USD per person. This attraction is a temple on a cliff. You walk the stairs up, about 100 metres), although barefoot as the place is considered holy. The stairs have not been very clean because of the presence of large numbers of monkeys, but are now being cleaned by a local society. The views from the top are good.
The Shwe See Kone bus station for Bagan is in the town Nyaung U.
Local (non-A/C) bus to Monywa costs 3500K (June 2014) at the new bus station (that's the locals price, haggle!), at hotels they charge you about 5000K. The bus starts at 9:00, then 10:30 and 12:30, and takes about 3-4 hours, including several stops.
A local bus to Pyay departs at the bus station at 1:30pm. Every second day you can catch a non-A/C bus for 11000kyat, which takes 10h and is a unique experience. Every other day there is an A/C bus for 13000kyat (March 2014).
The bus service to Inle Lake used to be one of the worse in the country but road conditions dramatically improved. note that the last part of the journey goes through the mountains, when many locals and some tourists fell bad and puke. There are 2 large buses per day at 7:30 am and ~19:30 (this bus arrives in the middle of the night), costing 11,000 kyat. It takes 7 hours to reach Kalaw and ~8,5 to reach Nyaung Shwe for Inle. The bus stops at the entrance of Nyaung Shwe.
There are several buses to Mandalay leaving at 8:00am, 8:30am and an afternoon departure. Buses are air conditioned (or, at least, have that capability in theory) and cost 15,000 kyat (Nov 2013).
It is nowdays possible to go bus to Mrauk U by changing in Magwe and catching the direct bus Mandalay-Sittwe without going South to Pyay. The whole trip takes 20-30h. See Mrauk U.
Ask for busses to Taunggyi, Mandalay and Yangon at
JJ express bus Nyaung U, Shwe See Kone bus station, ☎ 09 3211528 60 ~ 61 ~ 62. edit
As the Romans do, the best footwear to go about in this site is a pair of plastic slippers, flip-flops or crocs. It is so easy to slip on and take off as one hops from one temple to another. If you don't have a pair of slippers, your hotel might be able to lend you a pair. Wearing socks and tightly laced shoes are a hassle. At the end of the trip, your shoes and socks need a good washing.
Be extra careful when you climb the stairs of less visited temples, hidden beehives just above your head might make Bagan a painful experience!
Head gear is also important. A wide brimmed hat is recommended.
Bring lots of wipes, the best way of cooling off and getting rid of dust and sticky sweat in your face, arms, and feet. There are no air-conditioned buildings to take shelter during very hot noon breaks. Even banks are not air-conditioned.
Bring a bottle of water and once empty, refill it at your nearest travel agency or banks you happen to stop by. If not squeamish and tight on budget, refill it at the water stations (with local clay jars as water containers) ubiquitously and strategically placed all around the town.
Most sites, including all touristy pagodas/temples have water dispensers with purified water where you can refill your bottle for free!
A headlamp is useful for accessing internal stairways in many of the temples and for cycling out before sunrise and back after sunset.
Most of all, bring an ample sun lotion from the scorching sun.
Bagan may pose difficulties for those with respiratory illnesses as the air is full of dust and exhaust. You may consider bringing a bandana and extra medications if you require them normally. The air quality, however, is not significantly worse than elsewhere in Myanmar.
If you are using a bike for your personal tour, when you leave it by the gate, it is 100% assured that your bike will still be there when you get back. Pagan is a family-village setting and anyone who does harm to anybody will surely be known and humiliated, if not prosecuted. Being Asians, Myanmar people value face-saving as important.
As in anywhere, anytime in Myanmar, internet use is always a problem. Surfing is an exercise in futility - super turtle slow and excruciatingly being disconnected often. Ridiculous conspiracy theories such as the noontime heat on the main wiring causes overload during daytime, heavy traffic on Sundays when most people surf, nighttime as well, or because Yahoo has rubbed the government in a wrong way that's why it's favouring only G-mail and Facebook are expected from the shop owners.
Souvenir vendors - young and old, some as young as 6 years, are pros. They manipulate the heartstrings of the tourists using subtle and psychological techniques. They initially act as your bike minders, then guides, then tip providers eventually revealing their true intentions. They sometimes even offer to visit you at your hotel if you aren't decided or you have no available cash. Don't fall for their friendliness, and be firm in your refusal before they get too attached to you even if you insist that you are only a tourist on budget and had already coughed out $5 for each vendor at all temples you've visited. They are hard to shake off and will insist. But most Myanmar people are not crooks, and are fair dealers, as generally they are good Buddhist.
Money collection scam, some souvenir vendors nearby temple might ask you to get bank notes from your country saying they have never seen it or that they are collecting the different foreign notes.