Old Bagan a UNESCO Heritage site
Old Bagan is one of the oldest most visited places in Myanmar because of its thousands of pagodas dating back to the 11th century. Bagan was inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2019.
Old Bagan, to date, remains one of the protected and reserved areas the country treasures. Therefore, every foreigner is expected to pay an entry fee of 25,000 kyats at the gate; whether you stay for a day or a month, you are to pay the same amount. Throughout the years, Old Bagan attracts multitudes of tourists, both local and foreign. In this case, you should always expect to come across crowds in some famous and prominent temples.
While the stupas and temples have stood the test of time, they have suffered natural disasters that have shaken their stability and original form. The 1975 and 2016 earthquakes that hit Myanmar left huge damages in Bagan, forcing the government to rebuilt and repair some pagodas.
You would not expect a pagoda that is 100 years old to remain standing as it was at the construction time; hence, the continuous repairs and rebuilding.
Significance of the site
- Old Bagan is significant in terms of religion, culturally, historically, and economically.
- It depicts the Buddhist religion, which is the central religious association in Myanmar and most of Southeast Asia.
- This is where the remaining more than 2000 pagodas are located, each with a specific story.
- It is the main touristic hub that generates enormous revenues for the community and the country.
- Of importance to note is the only one Indian temple with carvings of significant individuals in the earlier Hindu religion.
Environmentally, Old Bagan has been conserved- you rarely come across solid waste disposed of anyhow like other parts of the country.
How to get here
You can arrive in Bagan via different means. You have the flexibility to come by road, air, train, or water. Buses are the most convenient means of road transport. For an adventurous trip, use a boat or a train but be ready to spend several hours. Taking a flight would save you time and assure comfort. There is an airport close by.
Moving within and out of Old Bagan
There are over 2000 pagodas, which realistically you can’t visit them all. Going to Old Bagan aiming to cover several and less explored pagodas, you will need to use a bicycle or a motor-cycle. Bikes are recommended because you can easily maneuver through the thicket and reach a wider area, keeping in mind that some pagodas are inside bushes. E-bikes would be ideal.
You can also use the shared vans, but these will drop you at specific points far from the hidden gems.
E-Bikes are increasingly common in Old Bagan. Several hotels and guest houses, as well as bike renting outlets, are promoting this. I highly recommend e-bikes for all good reasons. My interest is in promoting a cleaner environment that utilizes renewable energy sources. E-bikes are one of the ways to cut down on emission considering the high rate of air pollution in Myanmar.
Renting e-bikes is cheap, the rates vary with your renting agency.
Your greatest business in Old Bagan is to have a feel of the pagodas (stupas and temples) and the relevance of each. While you might get a sense of similarity and resemblance, take a closer look, and you will notice the definite difference. You will, of course, find yourself in overcrowded pagodas. Please note that some of the temples are active places of meditation and worship hence keep calm and allow people to practice their religion without any disturbance.
There is a sense of uniqueness and satisfaction from visiting smaller, rustic, and less explored stupas and temples. You will almost always find you are the only guest.
N/B: some temples are under repairs and should be avoided for your safety.
Rules: Respect for culture and people’s ways of living is essential. You are expected to remove shoes, socks, and dress modestly before entering any temples — no choice but to observe this rule
Environmental conservation within the site
Religion has been considered a significant part of environmental conservation. Old Bagan is an example. The fact that entry is regulated and one has to pay has ensured the site is protected and preserved from any harmful anthropogenic activities. Areas of development are limited to a specific zone, and the remainder 90% of the region is conserved. Even though Bagan is semi-arid, the few shrubs and bushes have not been destroyed.
Temples and stupas are to be kept clean, and noise discouraged.
Surprisingly, the waste menace blatant across Myanmar is contained within Old Bagan, evidenced by the clean environment and the provided dustbins stationed in different areas.
Myanmar is still behind in environmental conservation, thus, help them manage their wastes by not throwing yours irresponsibly. Try not to accept plastic bags for your carriage. Have your reusable bag before you depart your country
Want to explore nature from a vantage point?
Hiking Mt. Popa– walking from one temple and stupa to another is in itself enough for a hiking activity, however, climbing Mt. Popa is the ultimate. I did not do this hike, but several people did. I recommend you dig deeper, so you know all the dynamics surrounding it
Hot Air balloon– What a better way to capture sunrise and have an aerial view of Bagan and the pagodas?-the vegetation, the forest, and the beautiful view Several companies offer this service find out more on the ground as the service providers keep changing.
Also, Bagan can be cold, and the weather keeps changing, the air balloon trip can be canceled without notice. It is unto you to make a sound decision. It might be wise not to pay until the morning of your trip.