5 Reasons Why Bagan (Myanmar) Should Be on your Bucket List​

Bagan is a fairytale land drowning in ancient crumbling temples mostly from the 11th to 13th
centuries A.D., golden pagodas, and dirt paths winding around the scrub-like greenery. It was believed building religious structures gained merit for a king and his people. Placed right in the middle of Myanmar, Bagan is a plain measuring about 16 square miles snaking the east coast of the dusty banks of the Irrawaddy River. Here are six top reasons why this city should be on your bucket list:

1. Feel like an explorer.

Although tourists are slowly coming to a land that was cut off for so long due to an oppressive military junta, there are still far less tourists than you would expect at other major world attractions like Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu. If you desire to travel to an untouched land with a fascinating culture still intact I strongly advise you to go now, because this nation is on the cusp of great change.

2. Marvel at the ancient temples and monasteries.

Bagan is the perfect place to hop on a bike and explore, flying through the dusty dirt roads to view, climb and walk around endless temples. Now people can rent a horse-drawn carriage or e-bikes to zip along quicker. Let your curiosity take over and witness most temples without a tourist in sight; gaze at the wild temple dogs that seem to have the wisdom of a thousand years as they guard the ancient edifices with little movement.

3. Learn about a preserved culture.

After you watch the sunrise at a temple of your choice, bike over to Old Bagan near the Bu Paya where you can watch the hustle and bustle of the locals and monks. At this hour, watch as the procession of monks come to accept alms from the locals. Bike to one of the many villages like Min-nan Thu Village or Thuhtaykan Village to learn their special crafts and how the Burmese survive off the land.

4. Connect with the friendly locals.

Upon arrival, my taxi cab driver, Ung-Ung, who was supposed to bring me to my hotel ended up spending the whole day with me showing me many of the local sites. After my grand tour, Ung-Ung stopped at a restaurant because he asked if I was hungry. Although he refused my invitation to join me for lunch, I was still happy to have his knowledge of the land and was prepared to pay at the end of the tour ride.

5. Savor new foods.

Unlike fragrant Thai food, Burmese food is Asian cuisine fused from Southeast Asian, Chinese and Indian influences. On our way to Mt. Popa we stopped at a local roadside place that served us delicious snacks of pickled tea leaves, sesame seeds, peanuts, and fried garlic chips. We watched as the ox went around in circles to grind the peanuts to make peanut oil. Our benefit was many tasty candy treats made from coconuts, palm and peanut oil, and sugarcane.