Bagan, Burma – A Sublime Step Back in Time

Bagan was like being transported to a time where ancient kingdoms and civilisations once reigned.  It was an age of innocence – a simple rural life. It was a feeling. We felt it when a horse and cart would kick up a cloud of dust as it passed by us. We felt it when we saw the stooped figures of farmers working in the rice fields – the golden glow of their crops and shimmering haze of sun around them like a halo. When white buffalo with pretty eyes would cross our paths on the dusty gravel roads. There was a romance to it. A slow unhurried pace of life – a million miles away from everything.

Rivalling Angkor Wat – Bagan’s temples are truly spectacular. Nothing can prepare you for that first glimpse of hundreds upon hundreds of temples that rise up through the canopy of tamarind and neem trees. Set in a twenty-six square mile plain – over 2200 temples still stand today amongst hundreds of others that lie in ruins. Between the 11th and 13th centuries, there were over ten thousand temples, pagodas and monasteries in this region. Bagan was the cultural, political and economic nerve centre drawing scholars, students and monks from India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka now) and the Khmer empire.

Bagan is an endless dream for those who like to take photos. So I’ve shared the highlights below, which hopefully will do some justice to such a magnificent place!

The epic sunrise from the Shwe San Daw Pagoda

Walking barefoot up the steep steps of the Shwe San Daw Pagoda, we were so excited to be witnessing one of the most photographed and awe-inspiring places on Earth. When dawn broke revealing hundreds of mist covered temples we were tickled. When the sun came up in all its glory, we were wowed by the beauty and tranquility of it all. Finally when the hot air balloons went up one by one in the distance – it was the icing on an already delicious cake! It was a beautiful experience from beginning to end.

Temple spires peak through the mist
Temple spires peek through the mist

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Balloons rising over the temples
Hot air balloons rising over the temples
These steps can give you vertigo!
These steps can give you vertigo!

Three days of temple – hopping!

You would seriously get templed – out if you visited all of the temples in Bagan. it’s just not possible! Not only is this area vast but the physical effort of walking around in the unforgiving heat of the sun would end any attempt quickly! So we hired a scooter and spent three sun drenched days zipping through the beautiful countryside, meeting the locals, stumbling upon ruins and exploring the many corridors, niches and vaults of the temples.

We met this lovely man who lived by one of the temples. He eagerly showed us his art-work - the Buddha!
We met this lovely man who lived next to the temple. He was the artist who actually painted the inside!

Thatbyinnyu Phaya

At a height of  over 200 feet, this beautiful temple towers over many others in Bagan. Built by Kind Alaungsithu, Thatbyinnyu means omniscience.

Thatbyinnyu Temple - Built in the mid-12th Century
Thatbyinnyu Temple – Built in the mid-12th Century

Ananda Temple

Constructed in 1091AD by King Kyansittha, it is regarded as one of the most elegant and beautiful of temples in Bagan.

The Ananda Temple -Built 1105AD
The Ananda Temple -Built 1105AD
One of the four Buddhas - Gotama
One of the four Buddhas – Gotama inside the temple

The Sulamani Temple

Built in 1183 by King Narapati sithu,

The Sulamani Temple
The Sulamani Temple
Inside the Sulamani Temple - ancient painting of the Buddha
Inside the Sulamani Temple – ancient painting of the Buddha
We discovered this almost deserted temple to watch the sunset.
We discovered this almost deserted temple to watch the sunset.
So friendly and inquisitive -These guys just ran to us when we said hello!
These guys loved having their photo taken!
Farmers working the fields
Farmers working the fields
I love taking photos of children!
I love the expression on this child’s face!
A typical rural scene
A typical rural scene
The best and cheapest way to explore the temples!
The best and cheapest way to explore the temples!
Thatbyinnu temple rising majestically above the other temples
A great view of the temples – Thatbyinnyu Phaya towering in the background

Bagan was so inspiring. What places have inspired you?