Cycling around the Temples of Bagan

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
6
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
9
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
7
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
7
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
8
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
9
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
80 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
Asia
country
Myanmar (Burma)
Length of time
1-2 days
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 150
Time of year visited
October
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
40th/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 20% SUMMARY RATING: World Class

Summary

4000 Buddhist temples scattered across a wide plain in central Burma that is pushed up on 2 sides by the Irrawaddy River and described by Marco Polo as “one of the finest sites in the world”, Bagan rightly claims its title as the highlight of a trip to Burma, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the top temple sites in the world

 

But, as with giant temple complexes of such fame, my key tip is not to get dragged into the mass tourism of the place and, instead, try and give yourself an experience that feels more wonder and adventure rather than latest site to tick off on the tourist trail.  To do this, give yourself at least a day to head off on a bike and simply get lost amongst the wonder of it all.  Your guide / hotel can give you the directions for where will have the fewest  fellow tourists at the time of year (usually the Central and South Plains).  This will allow you to enjoy Bagan for what it was like before Burma started to really open up and make you still dumfounded that even with so much variety in so concentrated a place, some temples the size of cathedrals simply have numbers rather than a name.  Getting that feeling of wonder by having some of these temples largely to yourself is what makes this such a memorable experience

highlights

#1 The view across the lush plain to see thousands of temples sticking out into the distance, many of which glistening in the sun

#2 Getting lost as you cycle through wide areas with no fellow tourists and crossing temples the size of cathedrals with only a number for a name

#3 Walking through some of the larger temples to see some of their hidden secrets

#4 Getting the keys from the "keyholder" with a tea donation and being able to explore some of the smaller temples all to yourself

Travel Tips

  • On the first day when you’re cycling around and getting lost, there will be plenty of temples that you just walk into, but some will have some closed doors / gates.  Usually someone (a “keyholder”) will come up and ask for a very small donation (K500 / USD0.25) for “tea money” to open the temple up.  May even get a story for free 🙂
  • On the second day, get a guide to take you around the key sites and give you the background on their significance during the 11th and 13th centuries.  Its obviously personal preference, but I love getting lost and enjoying the wonder of it all on the first day and then getting the context and deeper learning on the second once I have a rough idea where things are
  • This plain in the centre of Burma is one of the hottest places in the country and can reach temperatures over 40  Celsius / 104 Fahrenheit around April time.  Even in as late as October the temperatures are still often high 30s (97 Fahrenheit), so be well prepared for being out in that all day with no aircon on the bike
  • Make sure when visiting the temples to climb up high enough to see over the plain – an amazing sight
  • You’ll be visiting a lot of temples, so remember to dress appropriately.  Makes sense for sandals / flip flops as you can slide them on and off easily
  • I never got a chance to do the ballooning, but looks fab
  • See if you can combine your trip to Bagan within a 2 weeks itinerary for the highlights of Burma, and you can see the link for the itinerary and general tips on the adventure

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone