Bagan (or Pagan) is an ancient city that was the capital of the first Burmese empire. It is located in the dry central plains of the country, on the eastern bank of the Irrawaddy (or Ayeyarwaddy) River. As the heart of Burma during ancient times, Bagan serves as home to temples and buildings built from the 11th century to the 13th century. There are more than 2,000 pagodas and temples to be found, most of which were built by the ancient kings and leaders of Burma.
Among all the cities in Myanmar, Bagan is the most ideal destination for tourists to visit regardless of the time of the year. Unlike cities in the lower part of Myanmar, Bagan does not experience a rainy season and it is the perfect climate of Bagan that enables tourists to discover and explore the ancient city with ease all year round.
Bagan may be an old city, but it does offer something fresh to its visitors. There are many contemporary hotels and establishments for the modern adventurer.
Travellers to Bagan will not have to worry about not having any interesting places to visit. In fact, the only problem they may encounter is deciding on which destination to go to first. As the capital of the first Myanmar Empire, Bagan is home to many archaeological sites. There are many temples, pagodas and monuments to be found throughout the area and visitors can embark on a spiritual and historical journey by going from one temple to another as all the buildings are beautifully and uniquely designed.
However, there is more to Bagan than temples and religious monuments. Bagan is also home to Myanmar's archaeological museum, as well as the highly revered Mount Popa.
This temple is one of the few remaining examples of Mon architecture; it was damaged during a 1975 earthquake but has been successfully restored. The Ananda Temple is recognized as the best preserved and most revered of Bagan temples.
Bagan Archaeological Museum
This Bagan attraction was officially opened in 1998. Tourists who want to explore the history of Old Bagan can visit the museum to see objects used during the Bagan period. The first floor houses the showrooms for visual arts and coiffures of court ladies, while the second floor has display rooms with religious themes.
Bu Pagoda (Bu Paya)
The name of this Bagan attraction already gives a perfect description of the place: Bu Paya means ‘a gourd-shaped pagoda.’ According to legend, Pyusawhti rid the area of 'bu,' which was a gourd-like climbing plant that infested the riverbanks. As a reward, he became the heir to the throne of Bagan and its third king.
The Dhammayangyi Temple is one of the four major Bagan monuments and ranks alongside Shwezigon Pagoda, Ananda Temple and Thatbyinnyu Temple in importance. Its grandiose architectural plan is similar to Ananda Temple and was built by King Narathu, also known as Kalagya Min, 'the king killed by Indians.’
The Gawdawpalin Temple is one of the biggest shrines in Bagan, and the most imposing because of the Buddha images to be found on the ground floor.
The building of the two-storey temple was commenced by King Narapatisithu but it was his son who completed the construction. The name of the temple means 'the throne which has worshipped.'
Like the Shwezigon Pagoda, the Htilominlo Temple can be found in the Nyaung U and Wetkyi-In region of Bagan. The 46-metre, three-storey temple was built in 1218, during the reign of King Nantaungmya.
It is said that the name is a misreading of the Pali term for 'Blessings of the Three Worlds.'
A visit to Bagan would not be complete without a trip to Mount Popa. Considered as one of the most popular pilgrimage spots in Myanmar, Mount Popa is an extinct volcano where the Popa Taungkalat Monastery is found. Popa used to be called the ‘Mountain of Spirits,’ and is still recognized as a dwelling of 'nats,' or spirits of ancient ancestors.
Built by Alaungsithu in 1311, this temple is an early example of a transition in architectural styles, which resulted in airy, lighter buildings. The temple is also notable for its fine stucco carvings and for the stone slabs in the inner walls.
The Shwezigon Pagoda is considered as Bagan's most significant shrine. It is said that the structure was built to enshrine one of the four replicas of the Buddha’s tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka. The construction was started by King Anawrahta, but the project was not completed until the rule of King Kyanzittha.
Found in the Minnanthu region in the centre of Bagan, the Sulmani Temple is a sight to behold. Just like the Htilominlo Temple, the Sulmani Temple displays a more sophisticated style however the Sulmani has better internal lighting than Htilominlo. The name 'Sulmani' means 'Crowning Jewel' or 'Small Ruby.'
This 61-metre tall temple is the highest in Bagan. The towering structure gets its name from the Omniscience of the Buddha, as ‘thatbyinnyu’ means omniscience in the Myanmar language. Built in the 12th century by King Alaungsithu, it is one of the earliest examples of two-storey temples.
Bagan is an ancient city, home to countless temples and sacred structures and is not a place for more modern forms of entertainment, such as discos and clubs. In fact, there are no discos in the area. What the charming and historical destination has to offer its visitors is a different kind of nightlife. After the sun goes down, the ancient city provides its people with a more subdued but still enjoyable night time experience.
Nightlife in Bagan consists of going to riverside restaurants, which are aplenty in the city. In these establishments, diners can watch the sunset over the Irrawaddy River. Locals and tourists alike can go drinking, but the bars are not stand-alone; most of the bars are in restaurants and hotels with regular traditional puppet shows and music.
Eden BBB Restaurant
Visitors who miss Western food while here should head to Eden BBB Restaurant. Great Western food is available and for those who want a glass or two of beer, the prices may be high for Bagan, but it is worth every cent. Also, the establishment has decent décor.
Location: Bagan-Nyaung Oo Main Rd., Wet-Gyi-Inn Village.
Nan Dar Restaurant and Puppet Show
Nan Dar Restaurant contributes to the night life in Bagan by providing a different kind of entertainment. Those who are fortunate enough to go to the ancient city can catch traditional puppet shows here. Aside from the shows, patrons also get to enjoy good food and nice surroundings.
Location: Nyaung U Main Road, Wet Gyi Inn Village.
Pavilion Lounge in Bagan Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort
The best way to welcome the night in Bagan is by watching the sunset with a drink in hand. The Pavilion Lounge in the Bagan Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort is the best place to do this; aside from the great drinks they serve, this place also has the best view of the Irrawaddy River.
Location: Bagan Archaeological Zone, Old Bagan
Visitors who are interested in great views, good food and entertainment will find the Sithu Restaurant a good place to go at night. This riverside establishment gives patrons a stunning view of the Irrawaddy River as they enjoy local dishes. The night show organized by the restaurant is also something to see.
Location: Kayae St., Thiripyitsaya Quarter.
The Beach Bagan Restaurant and Bar
Night owls who find themselves in Bagan should definitely go to this establishment. The wide and diverse selection of dishes is enough reason for a visit, but the quality of the food keeps patrons coming back for more.
Location: No.12, Youne Tan Yat, 4 Quarter.
The Green Elephant/ River View Bagan Restaurant
Listed as one of the city's best restaurants, it is also one of the best night time destinations. While it is a great dining destination during the day, the nightly music and puppet show makes having dinner in the Green Elephant something to remember.
Location: Yamonar (River View), Thiripissayar Quarter, New Bagan.
Burmese or Myanmar food is identified as the combination of different Asian styles of cooking: Indian, Chinese, Thai and the like. In Bagan, visitors can expect all these flavours and more from the city's restaurants. Foreign travellers who want to experience Burmese cuisine will have no difficulty finding it. Except for eateries which specialize in a specific kind of cuisine, almost all restaurants in Bagan serve Myanmar dishes.
Bagan is a great place for dining, particularly for those with a preference for Asian food as the restaurants often have Chinese, Indian and Asian fusion dishes on their menus. Those who like Western food will be happy to know that European food is available in select establishments. The city is also home to many riverside restaurants. These places allow diners to enjoy noteworthy dishes and a stunning view of the river all at the same time.
Aroma Indian Restaurant
Food lovers with a preference for Indian dishes will certainly love Aroma Indian Restaurant in Bagan. Diners love the dish selection and upon ordering they will discover how great Indian food can be. The Indian meals served in this establishment are lent a Western touch.
Location: Yar Kinn Hotel Road, Thiripitssaya Toechet (5), Nyaung Oo
Golden Myanmar Restaurant
This roadside eatery is a certified hit with travellers. For very little you can enjoy a Burmese buffet. Diners have the option to choose either chicken, pork, fish or mutton curry, which comes with a fried 'bean stick' and fruit dessert. Because of its location, it is an ideal place for lunch for people visiting the ancient temples.
Location: Beside Ananda Pagoda, Old Bagan.
Mahar Bagan Restaurant
Mahar Bagan Restaurant may be relatively new, but it has already gained quite a following among food lovers. This eatery provides a very nice setting for dining, but its appeal to consumers is not solely based on ambiance. Diners can have a different kind of experience with a menu that offers Burmese, Chinese and European dishes.
Location: Khayee Road, Khan Laung Quarter, New Bagan (near to the Chauk-Bagan Roads intersection).
Those in Bagan who want to enjoy good food at reasonable prices should visit Sarabha Restaurant. Patrons can expect plenty of local dishes, but the establishment also serves Chinese food and selected Western dishes.
Location: Near the Sarabha Gate, Old Bagan.
Sunset Garden Riverside Restaurant
Enjoy a beautiful meal with the extraordinary Irrawaddy River in sight in Sunset Garden Riverside Restaurant. This stylish eatery has two covered dining areas and at night, tables are set on the lawn for a better view. The bean salad is one of the best things in the menu, and a favourite among visitors.
Location: Bagan Myothit River Side, Bagan-Nyaung Oo.
The Green Elephant Restaurant
The Green Elephant Restaurant is one of the better-known places to eat in Myanmar and has three branches: Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan. The Green Elephant Restaurant in Bagan was opened in 1997, and since then it has provided quality Myanmar food and authentic Burmese cuisine. Staple dishes include chicken and seafood curries.
Location: Yamonar (river view), Thiripissayar Quarter, New Bagan.
Yar Pyi Vegetarian Restaurant
Vegetarians need not look further than Yar Pyi when it comes to dining. While the remarkable vegetarian dishes make the restaurant worthy of accolades, it is the quality service that makes people keep coming back. Foreign travellers who repea
Location: Bagan-Nyaung Oo Road.
Because Bagan is an ancient city, it is not the place for modern shopping centres or spacious malls. While these major establishments may be absent, there are still many stores in Bagan that interested shoppers can visit. The quality of the products is good, and the prices are reasonable and shoppers can haggle for even lower prices. While clothes and other common items are sold in Bagan, most stores carry a wide selection of arts and crafts. Myanmar is a country of artisan families, and traditional skills are passed on from one generation to the next.
Of all the handicrafts in Myanmar, the most distinctive of all is lacquerware. It is the most widely produced and used; most households in the country use lacquerware as everyday objects. In central Myanmar, the centre of lacquerware manufacturing is Bagan. In Myinkaba Village alone, about 600 households manufacture lacquerware. In the past, Burmese royalty gave lacquer objects to foreign emissaries as gifts and today, visitors need not be an emissary to get their hands on quality lacquerware because many stores sell it in Bagan.
Chan Thar Lacquerware Workshop
Like the Golden Bagan, the Chan Thar Lacquerware Workshop is also a highly recommended shopping destination. Shoppers will not be disappointed in this place as the store carries an extensive selection of lacquerware, and their collection includes everything from kitchenware (plates, cups, etc) to ornamental pieces (jewelry boxes) to furniture.
Location: Main Road, Myin Ka Par, Bagan.
Ever Stand Lacquerware Workshop
Ever Stand Lacquerware Workshop is another good store to visit in Bagan when it comes to lacquerware. The wide selection is impressive and the prices are budget-friendly. You’ll probably be enticed to purchase at least one piece because of the sheer beauty of the items sold, which include water jars and vases.
Location: Between Old Bagan & Nyaung Oo.,Wetkyi-in Village.
Golden Bagan Lacquerware Shop
The Golden Bagan Lacquerware Shop is included in the list of the best lacquerware stores in Bagan and like other souvenir shops in Bagan, this one presents the consumers with a wide range of items to choose from. From something as small as a cup to bigger items like treasure chests, the Golden Bagan delivers the best when it comes to lacquerware.
Location: Khaye Main Road, New Bagan.
Golden Cuckoo Lacquerware Workshop
Visitors in search of lacquerware can go to the Golden Cuckoo, one of Bagan's most notable sources of the product. The family-run workshop, which has been around for four generations, displays their best pieces in front of the store: cups, bowls, plates and trays. The proprietors of the shop speak English, and are willing to demonstrate the process of lacquer making to interested tourists.
Location: Myin Ka Par Village, Bagan.
Moe Moe Family Lacquerware
The Moe Moe Family Lacquerware Workshop is an important shopping destination for consumers who are serious about lacquerware. Here, you will find both traditional and modern pieces in the spacious showroom. The factory is very busy during the day, but proprietors can still show how the lacquer is created step by step.
Location: Main Road, Ywar Thit Quarter, New Bagan.
Shwe La Yaung Lacquerware Shop and Store
The people behind the Shwe La Yaung Lacquerware Shop and Store know that there is more to lacquerware than just functionality. The intricately designed merchandise of this shopping destination also tells stories, often those of love and astrology (a prominent feature of their lacquerware is the mythical bird named Hintha). The store's best-selling products include small finger bowls and bucket-sized betel-nut canisters.
Location: South Quarter, Myinkaba, Bagan.
Shwe War Thein Handicrafts Shop
Shwe War Thein is considered as one of the best souvenir shops in the region. This shopping destination is the place to go for truly exquisite items. Its merchandise includes puppets (antique and new), wood carvings, chess sets, lacquerware, bronze pieces and gems. The staff members are passionate about the products they sell, but customers will never feel pressure to buy.
Location: East of Tharabar Gate, Taung Be Village, Old Bagan.
Tun Handcrafted Lacquerware
Yet another lacquerware store that is a recommended stop for all Bagan shoppers is Tun Handcrafted Lacquerware. The handmade artefacts in this store include lacquerware to be used as accessories or for home decoration. Visitors will be impressed by the many kinds of items found in this well-known Bagan store.
Location: 6/1 Khan Laung Quarter.
U Ba Nyein Lacquerware Workshop
Just like Moe Moe, the U Ba Nyein Lacquerware Workshop has a large showroom to display the best items they have to offer. Everything from plates to cups, ashtrays to vases, jewelry boxes and furniture (lacquer tables and chairs) can be found here.
Location: Main Road, Myo Thit, Bagan.