One of the highlights I’d planned for this trip was getting to see sunrise and sunset in Bagan. Bagan is a place in Myanmar where there are over 4,000 pagodas, stupas, and temples dotting the landscape. The pictures other people took were breathtaking, and so I decided I wanted to go.
One highlight is climbing up these ancient stupas or temples to get a great vantage point for watching the sun. There’s something so incredible about getting to sit there, in silence, and watch the sun come up or down.
I’m lucky I came right now – starting in September (the start of their next high season), people will no longer be allowed to climb the temples. Long-term, this is definitely a good thing for the preservation of Bagan – on the temples you can see the effects of people constantly traipsing up and down them. There are loose bricks, and some areas that almost cave with all of the tourists.
Not to mention, it’s honestly quite dangerous. The temples have these tiny staircases that have ceilings around 5 feet – I am constantly hitting my head. These are also pitch black, even in daytime! It’s worth it to carry your headlamp with you, because you never know when you might need it.
And there’s the part where you navigate your electric motorbike over rock-filled extremely sandy paths. The bikes will frequently fishtail, and when you’re trying to navigate in the pitch black before sunrise or after sunset, it’s honestly quite difficult. The bikes have a headlamp on them, but that tends to not be quite enough. I made it through two sunrises uneventfully, and then on my third (my last), I accidentally crashed the motorbike not once but twice!
The good thing about the sand is that it is very forgiving, so I’m completely fine. But it did rattle me more than a bit!
It’s sad to sit watching sunset knowing that I’m among the last people to have the opportunity. I’m so glad I came, and so thankful for the opportunity. And I think this will end up being like climbing the Pyramids in Egypt – people today barely remember that you used to be able to.
When the sun comes up in Bagan, it puts on a show. The fiery reds and oranges remind me a lot of Oklahoma (in fact, a lot of this landscape reminds me of Oklahoma. More on that in tomorrow’s post. 🙂 ). Then there’s always a bit of mist rising up and as the sun reveals spires as far as the eye can see, there’s nothing like it in the world. It took my breath away every morning I saw it.
One funny thing with Bagan is that it tends to be a very sleepy and chill town – sunrise and sunset are the main attractions, so you have a ton of people waking up early, going to sunrise, seeing a few temples, and then heading back to their hotels to nap or lay by the pool for most of the day.
Then, come sunset, everyone comes back out. It’s an amazing and relaxing feeling because I feel so wonderfully lazy all day long but then I’ve also done so much by the time all is said and done.