Bagan Temples: A guide to 5 little-known temples and secret passageways to sunrise spots blissfully devoid of tourists.
Marco Polo called the Bagan temples “one of the finest sites in the world,” and this capital city of the ancient Burmese kingdom is surreal. Perhaps the most aggressive construction project the world has ever seen was churning out temples at the rate of almost 2 a month.
The Bagan temples are actually just thin shells that house massive golden Buddha statues in every one like enormous Russian Matryoshka dolls. Each has barely enough air to breathe.
Half the fun of exploring Bagan is searching through some of the over 4000 remaining temples scattered across the sacred plain and finding seemingly undiscovered temples, secret passageways to hidden floors and sunrise spots that only the monkeys know about. Here are a few places to check out that you will likely miss if you get stuck in the tour group circuit.
Bagan Temples: Lawkaoushaung Temple (A on the map)
Best for sunrise. This beautiful temple just West of the towering Shwesandaw Pagoda that is dripping with package tourists at sunrise has second and third floor patios that hover above the tree line for spectacular 360 degree views of the Myinkaba plain shrouded in early morning mist.
If you show up at 5am, you will have to find the little key holder who lives in a hut just behind the temple. He will show you how to get upstairs. Your reward will be to experience the sunrise without a single tourist in sight.
Bagan Temples: North Guni Temple (B on the map)
This undervisited temple has some of the best sunset views of the ancient metropolis of Bagan. See if you can find your way through the hidden passages all the way to the 7th floor (I promise it’s there). You will have to exhale to make it through a few tight spots.
For more pictures taken with my iPhone, click here: Top 10 Ultra High Res iPhone pics
I know what you’re thinking, avoiding crowds in Old Bagan? Yes! Just after your sunrise pictures, you have a few hours before the tourist hoards transform this peaceful village into a souvenir town. You can catch the morning meditation, the locals preparing their boats, and the cutest little Buddhist monks collecting their daily food donations from the community. Many people forget that Bagan remains a living religious site and one of the most important pilgrimages for Buddhists.
Bagan Temples: Pathada Temple (C on the map)
This temple has an outdoor Buddha that faces the sunset. A rare opportunity to capture Buddha with his surroundings.
Bagan Temples: Gawdawpalin Temple
This is an epic temple that would make Camelot jealous, with some of the biggest Buddha statues around. Problem is, the entire ground floor has been turned into a sprawling souvenir market complete with flashing neon lights and you cannot go upstairs.
Head out the gates to the south and you will find a forgotten temple with majestic views of Gawdapalin with trees covering all of the stalls selling trinkets. The keyholder can help you find all 4 levels.
Map of these Temples
You will probably get a map that shows the 15 or so most popular temples, so this can help you find these excellent places hidden just off the paths to the main attractions.
The travel and financial situation in Myanmar has changed dramatically in recent months. Click here to see updates that aren’t in the travel guides: 8 Myanmar Travel Myths
My Craziest Stories:
Want to read my best travel stories? Here are some good ones:
- Madain Saleh Saudi Arabia: Hitchhiking to Petra’s twin city
- Dancing with Corpses: Famadihana- Turning of the Bones in Madagascar: The hidden meaning behind one of the most bizarre ceremonies will surprise you
- The Secret Lives of Sea Gypsies: My personal experience living with the world’s best divers on the fringes of civilization
- Volcano Boarding Nicaragua: The extreme sport for the slightly insane?
- 5 Secret Temples to Photograph the Bagan Sunrise
- SHOCKING: Brad tries the chef’s special at the macabre Tomohon Meat Market