Travelling to Beautiful Bagan
The ancient area of Bagan is testament to the fact that Myanmar (also known as Burma) is still far from westernised. A 26-mile squared area is covered in Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and any ruins in between, many dating from the 11th and 12th century: Bagan is the ultimate time travelling experience. With only basic travel amenities, and although growing in popularity, this is one for backpackers who love to go back to basics. Find a like-minded female travel companion, team up, and go back in time.
An ancient capital of what would become modern Myanmar today, Bagan once hosted 10,000 Buddhist constructions, leaving over an impressive 2,200 today, many surviving hundreds of earthquakes. In 1990, local residents of ‘Old Bagan’ were forced to a working area of ‘New Bagan’ in preparation for a tourist influx. Here you can find cheap, clean hotels and religious centres. The biggest transport hub of the area, and also the one with the most hotel and dining options, is Nyaung-U located in the northeast corner. Most temples are located near Old Bagan, but it is not common to stay here.
What to do in Bagan
Coach tours supply tourists to most popular areas, but it is easy enough to find a soulless piece of history when exploring with a travel companion. Try renting a bike, taxi or even horse and cart and take a gander at the more deserted sites, such as the Buddha dedicated area of Pyathada Paya. Temples can range from behemoth constructions such as Ananda Pahto, while others offer more intimate details and breath-taking views across the land. The deserted nature of these areas create the perfect opportunity for small groups of travel companions to explore. Cut costs on taxis or keep an eye out for each other while cycling on the miles of dirt roads. You could even share a local guide to find the very unexplored parts of Bagan. If tempted to spend a little more cash, the temple views from a hot air balloon will let you and your holiday partner appreciate the sheer breadth of the ancient wonder that is Bagan.
Bagan – General tips
Because Myanmar has only recently been opened up to the tourist industry, and because Bagan is far from any of its larger cities, do not expect the level of travel amenities that you might on any normal holiday. Always take plenty of cash (the local kyat, or US dollars can always be exchanged) as ATMs are sparse, and keep the cash divvied up between you and your female travel companion. Also, apply for a visa before travelling. In addition, be aware that conservatism is expected at the religious temples; T-shirts and shorts can be seen as offensive, and covering arms and knees is a good rule of thumb. Further to this, women are forbidden from entering some temples. Because of their ancient nature, temple steps can be incredibly steep and lack any basic handrails. Having a travel buddy nearby will ensure that if you do attempt a dangerous climb, you won’t remain stranded if anything were to go wrong. Make sure to take plenty of water and food refreshments – cafés are charming but uncommon.
Bagan is a truly impressive sight, and anyone travelling to Myanmar should not leave without bearing witness to its unique beauty. Further options of hikes to Mount Popa or religious centres nearby make this the perfect chance for female travellers to swap ideas and explore its remote beauty together.
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