Bagan, Myanmar: A Photo Essay

It was 6am when the overnight bus reached the ancient city of Bagan. The passengers around me began to rustle–reaching for bags and shedding layers of warm clothing. I rubbed my eyes and looked out the window. Taxi drivers had already crowded the door, and the sky was growing pink.

It had been nine fitful hours of attempted sleep, but it didn’t matter. I had arrived to the place that topped my bucket list for the last five years—one of the world’s greatest archeological sites—16-square miles of pastoral land, decorated with more than 2,000 Buddhist monuments.

I jumped in the first cab I saw and headed to the hostel. And after a quick shower, I rented an electric bike and spent the next two days exploring.


Winding down dirt roads and sandy paths, I rarely saw other tourists. I found myself completely alone, under the domes of crumbling pagodas, built in the 11th century. Large Buddhas made of stone sat in the shadows of the entrances, guarding the ancient relics. Faded murals, covered in dust, adorned some of the walls, and unfamiliar languages were etched into the bricks.

The few people I did come in contact with were mostly locals. Some were peddling postcards and myriad of souvenirs, others wanted to practice English. All of them were kind and curious.


Both of my nights were spent watching the sun set over the temples. The larger constructions became illuminated, and the world around me became dark. My days started early, as I rushed to find a quiet pagoda to climb. Morning mist blanketed the earth and roosters crowed to greet the new day. The sky brightened, and a sliver of sun appeared in the horizon, painting the sky shades of orange, yellow and deep pink. These are moments I’ll never forget, and ones that will continue to remind me of just how beautiful this world really is.

Where I stayed: Ostello Bello Bagan. For me, this was the perfect accommodation for my time in Bagan. It’s a hostel, but feels more like a bed and breakfast. The rooms were clean, the breakfast was filling, and the staff was extremely helpful in recommending temples and restaurants. 

Where I ate: The Moon (Be Kind to Animals) was a bit expensive for local vegetarian food, but it was good, and right near the Ananda temple.  Black Rose was adjacent to my hostel, and served cheap, fresh local cuisine. The salads in particular were impressive. I ate there several times.

What I did: I rented an e-bike for two days, which I strongly suggest over a traditional push bike. It was about $8 for the day (go for the faster model) and in fairly good condition. Outfitters are plentiful, but I went with the one across the street from the hostel. It took a solid two days to see all of the major temples, so I got up early to watch the sunrise, and came back to the hostel during the heat of the day for a nap, then back out around 4:00 to wrap up and watch the sunset. I asked the staff at the hostel for temple recommendations and used the map they provided to get around. I did get lost quite a bit, but it was all part of the fun.

READ NEXT: 3 Days in Inle Lake, Myanmar

31 thoughts on “Bagan, Myanmar: A Photo Essay”

  1. Have really enjoyed you two posts on Myanamar so far, a place I knew nothing about!!. I love you photos too! What camera do you shoot on? And do you do any editing to your pics?
    Looking forward to the next post.

    1. Thanks so much for reading, Britt! (And for the compliments :)) I just shoot with my Canon Rebel–it’s not an expensive camera (around $500), but I recently upgraded my lens to a Tamron 28-75. I bought it used on Amazon and really like it for an every day walk-around lens. If I edit photos, I usually just increase the contrast slightly. I’m not a big fan of over-editing.

    1. Thanks, Amanda! I would suggest going as soon as possible while it’s still relatively non-touristic 🙂

  2. Beautiful images!

    How was the overnight bus? Did you also take the train? I heard both options can be a bit harrowing!

    Burma is definitely on my list. Enjoyed reading this.


    1. Thanks, Jared! The overnight bus was actually pretty good, but I would only take the VIP express one through JJ. You can buy online. At the hostel, I heard horror stories about the train–complete with rats and bed bugs. Would definitely be an experience! 😉 Thanks for reading.

    1. You MUST go, Tara! Such an amazing country. I still need to post entries about Inle Lake and Mandalay. I hate when my real job gets in the way! haha.

  3. This is such a gorgeous post! You really made me feel like I was there exploring Bagan with you! Your photos are absolutely stunning. I love the photos you captured of the locals and those sunrises are something else!

    Now I would really love to visit there, too.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. Hi there,

    Not sure how I got to your blog (I think I clicked over from a comment you left on Oh She Glows?). These photos blew me away. I had no idea about this place. I’m a mom of two little ones and suffering from serious wanderlust that’s going to have to be put on hold for a bit. Living vicariously through your travel experience was excellent way to spend a few moments this morning! Thank you so much for sharing here. And be well!

    1. Thank you so much for the comment, Marika! Before I started traveling extensively in Asia five years ago, I didn’t know about Bagan either. It is a lesser-known site, but that just adds to the magic of it. I definitely suggest adding it to your bucket list! Thanks for reading. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment, Joanna! You should definitely make Bagan a priority, and try not to go during high season. It is just magical. 🙂

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.