Uncovering the Lost City of Bagan

I didn't think any ancient ruin could top Angkor until I arrived in Bagan.



Located five hours south of Mandalay, Bagan has stayed a secret for the past half century. Now, with tourism given the green light, adventure seekers like myself are able to take this path less traveled.

Bagan houses the largest amount of Buddhist temples in the world. Many of these structures even date back to the 11th century! It is estimated that there once were around 13,000 pagodas in the area. Today, approximately 2,200 still stand.

We arrived in the afternoon, dumped our backpacks at the hotel and jumped on bikes. Pedalling through deserted streets, I couldn't stop looking at the endless array of stupas.

Coming to a halt at the spectacular Shwesandaw Pagoda, we decided to climb up its many stories.


The trek up was extremely steep and the steps were very uneven. I'll let you in on a little secret: I'm terrified of heights. I held on to those rails for dear life.  But the view at the top made it all worth it.







As far as the eye could see, timeworn temples and pagodas littered the lush hillsides and plains. It was one of those moments that left me speechless. The only thing I could utter was "wow".

As the sun trickled down, waves of tourists piled onto the pagoda. Not wanting to be caught in the crowd, we made our exit and went off in search of a new spot. We biked a little further and stopped at these abandoned stupas.



The glimmering sunlight bounced off the surface making the temples glow a radiant bronze.

The next day, we woke up bright and early for another exciting day of exploration. This time though, we felt lazy and ended up renting electronic bikes. No more excruciating pedalling for me!


These e-bikes were awesome! I felt like a kid again as we whizzed up hills and sped through empty streets. I'm definitely asking Santa for one at Christmas.

We stopped at the alluring Ananda Temple. The bejewelled stupa and glistening Buddhas are sights I won't forget.




We pagoda hopped the entire day and left no temple unclimbed and unexplored. Once again, I've forgotten most names of these beautiful structures. If you're planning a trip to Bagan, here's a great site with lots of information about all the places you can visit.




I ran my hands over the old stonework and admired the intricate artistry. The architecture was also extraordinary. Each temple had its own unique characteristics. No two structures looked alike.




Larger than life Buddha statues welcomed us to each shrine as we walked barefoot on marble tiles.



Since we went during low season, Bagan was uninhabited. I loved wandering through empty halls and enjoyed the eerie silence. It felt like I was the only person left in this ancient city. It made the whole experience that much more enchanting.

A trip to Bagan is a must if you are going to Myanmar. Buses and trains depart regularly from Yangon and Mandalay. Air Mandalay, Air Bagan and Air Myanmar also fly to directly to Bagan from major cities in the country.

Melissa Li

I’m a Canadian girl on a quest to step foot in every continent before I’m 30. You’ll most likely find me chowing down on Japanese ramen, partying at a music festival, hiking to the top of a scenic lookout, cuddling with cats, or chilling out at the beach. I’ve visited over 60 countries so far and hope to inspire you to do the same.

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