Where to begin with Bagan?
Who has not heard of Angkor Wat, The Great Wall of China or The Pyramids?
What about Bagan?
Do you know where it is?
And that is what I am trying to say as I think it should be as well known as those World famous places above.
When traveling to new country or place I try not to do too much advanced research, as I like to experience a new location without being influenced by other commentators or writers who have been that way before me.
Arriving wide-eyed to take in what I see and experience then forming my own opinions about a new country is my way.
This certainly worked for me on a very recent trip to Myanmar and even this name may leave you a bit baffled you may know it better as Burma!
With the country now more open for tourism after years of military government rule and other political upheavals dating back some 50 years.
Today Myanmar (pronounced Me An Mar) has a much more open policy and the recent introduction of its eVisa makes visiting a far easier process.
The main point of entry is through Yangon (Rangoon) or Mandalay but what about Bagan?
My route to Bagan Myanmar was on an internal flight of just over and hour from Yangon catching up with the higher reaches of Ayeyarwady river (formerly called the Irrawaddy) and the town on the banks of this key South East Asian River.
From this point on it was in Bagan that was the highlight of my week-long trip to Myanmar and once I started exploring the surrounding area discovering for myself the amazing concentration of Buddhist temples around it.
In the 16 square miles around the town there are nearly 3,000 such temples and pagodas a sight that opens before you once you climb to the top of fine examples like that of the Shwesandaw Pagoda.
The 360degree view from such places is indeed up there surely with seeing the Great Wall or the Pyramids for the first time!
The majestic sweep of temples some crowned with gold, some painted white and many in the red brick made from the earth where they stand.
Having been to Angkor Wat fairly recently in nearby Cambodia, such a similar sight I was not expecting here in Myanmar.
Bagan Myanmar…The Sheer Scale
The sheer scale of the buildings their age and the amount of them are just awesome and with more access to the country a place that should draw in tourists, just like those other world landmarks currently do.
Leaving behind Bagan was for me like leaving a newly found friend whom you just got on so well with and felt that with some more time you could get that little bit closer still but alas and alack the plane was waiting for Mandalay the next stop.
The city of Mandalay it is the second largest city in Myanmar and the former Royal capital of the country.
Here the former Royal palace is one of the most dominant buildings in the city, surrounded by a huge moat the palace complex is part military base with some of the palace buildings now on show as a time capsule. A period of when it was ruled by a Burmese royal family.
Within the palace gardens you can see a few remnants from World War II a Bren gun type carrier and a former RAF training plane probably from just after the war and before the British left in 1948.
A visit to the Kuthodaw Pagoda in the city is where you can see the world’s largest book 729 pages all carved into both sides of marble tablets erected around this giant golden stupa.
The Shwenandaw Kyaung monastery is a well preserved former part of the royal palace moved in 1885 by the last royal ruler the teak construction with its detailed carving is well worth visiting.
For some great views over the city head Umin Thounzeh temple at Sagaing Hill where there are 45 Buddha’s in a gently curving temple are a great sight!
Heading back to the capital of Yangon and the temples there are impressive too.
Do take in the reclining Buddha at the Chaukhtatgyi Temple and no visit to Yangon is complete without a visit to Shwedagon Paya, or Golden Pagoda.
The country is more than just temples but it’s so hard to ignore them.
The food of the country is a mix of Indian, Chinese and Burmese.
Getting around the quicker choices are the internal air travel options that get you to the key places fast. But the river trips are popular as the Ayeyarwady River connects all of the cities if you prefer the slower way.
Accommodation and the standard of hotels are really excellent in all locations that I visited. The hotel staff and people in the country are very welcoming and helpful to visitors. I traveled with Singapore Airlines via their hub at Changi staying also at the Mandarin Marina hotel, which does make for a perfect stop over location either before or after a 13hour flight to or from the UK.
For me Bagan was magical place and for Myanmar it certainly has to be the crowning glory of the country that the world needs to hear so much more about and I am sure it will.
Air travel was made with Singapore Airlines via Changi and Silk Air flights from Changi to Yangon.
I stayed at the Sedona Hotels in both Mandalay and Yangon
Also in Singapore at the Marina Mandarin