For many visitors to Myanmar, the main reason to come here is to travel to Bagan. On paper it doesn’t sound nearly as impressive as it really is, over 200,000 temples located on the dust plains next to the Ayeyarwady River. When you are here in person however, it is like nowhere else on earth, and in fact there is a distinct other-worldy quality to it, as if you have landed on the surface of the moon.
With so many temples and so little time it can be difficult to know where to go and what to see, and the temple complex is so big that you will have to have some form of transportation to get around, such as a bicycle or a motorbike and driver. It’s possible to go around and see a good collection of sights in one day, but if you have made the journey to Bagan then, much like Angkor in Cambodia, it makes more sense to stay for a few days and really take it all in. At least two or three days is a nice time frame and it will also mean that you won’t have to rush or feel disappointed when you leave.
Some of the temples are open to the public which means that you can walk inside and climb the stupas, and you can buy a map of Bagan and hire a bike and navigate around yourself. A better idea to get a good feel for the area is to rent a motorbike and driver on the first day to see all the greatest hits of Bagan, and then go by bicycle for the next day or two and just go wherever the mood takes you.
It would be too easy to compare Bagan to Angkor but where that temple complex is overrun with lush forests, Bagan is set on dry plains that mean that there are no trees to obscure your view. In that sense, Bagan can be even more spectacular as you can see across the complex for miles, which makes it magical at sunset if you time it properly. The key here is not to rush and to make the most of one of the most unusual settings you will find in Southeast Asia.