Bagan is the garden of Earth. 2,200 temples sprawl over this vast territory of unquestionable natural beauty. Once the capital of the Burmese region, Bagan is now the cultural hub of Myanmar and it is beautiful. Mother Nature has free reign here, making it an ideal place to grab an e-bike and go exploring. This is a guide to ensuring you make the most of your stay in one of Earth’s most stunning landscapes:
Go Biking in the Wild:
The best thing to do in Bagan is to hire an e-bike and head into the wilderness. It is no exaggeration to say that there are temples absolutely everywhere so it is exhilarating to explore the unknown. I’ve spent days just going down dirt paths, seeing where the road takes me. The larger temples are great but tend to be busy, whereas in the wilderness you can find hidden gems that the tours will not take you to. If you’re lucky, you may stumble upon a pagoda that you can climb: providing views across Bagan. However, I’ve only done this with a local Burmese man – don’t just climb random ones as it is disrespectful.
Go Visit the Big Pagodas:
The big pagodas are worth a visit and make a good end destination for you to travel towards in a day, all the whilst taking detours through the wild. Some of the largest ones include Ananda, Shwezigon (below), Shwesandaw and Sulamani. All are spectacular structures but if your time is limited don’t just visit those, getting a balance between the big ones and the little ones is crucial for getting a feel for what Bagan is truly like.
Sunset Cruise on the Irrawaddy:
An evening cruise on the Irrawaddy river to watch the sunset is a great way to spend the night. Ostello Bello run one most days where you get access to plenty of drinks, traditional snacks and a dazzling view. The real value in this trip is the chance to meet new people and share a few drinks – something that is less common in Myanmar due to the lack of evening activities.
A charming family restaurant in New Bagan: this place serves absolutely delicious Burmese food. I cannot recommend highly enough the Golden Red Pork curry – it was so good I ordered it twice in one sitting! The service is great: there is a teenage boy who is clearly learning English through customers so he is picking up the slang – before long I was his brother from another mother. It is easily accessible and very affordable (between 2000-4000 Kyat per main), making this a must-visit for a taste of true Burmese food.
La Pizza 2:
I would never have thought that the best pizza I’d eaten in my first 19 years would be in Myanmar. Whilst it is slightly more expensive (7800 Kyat per margherita), the stone-baked pizzas that they offer here are 100% a cost-effective investment. La Pizza 2 is located in New Bagan, along the main road but La Pizza, the sister restaurant, is based in Old Bagan. Hint: drizzle a little chilli oil on your pizza for an extra kick.
This is a great hostel for a number of practical reasons; both of the above restaurants are less than two minutes walking distance; there is an e-bike rental shop next door and there is a bus that picks you up from the hostel to go to Inle Lake. The hostel itself is awesome too. The staff are all really friendly and they speak great English. Every day they run local tours and trips, and every evening they organise a fun activity like a quiz or beer pong tournament. The bar stays open beyond the 10pm curfew of Bagan (hidden by a green screen) and there is a rooftop terrace for relaxing. The rooms are all clean, spacious and have air-con.