Bagan is the most magical place to get lost in. There are miles and miles of dirt paths, and the general way you get around is by renting an electric motorbike and just exploring.
Bagan is simultaneously incredibly easy to get lost in and incredibly hard to get lost in. When you’re going through the paths, there are always secret temples that you feel like you discover. But then, when you’re trying to go back to your hotel, it’s always pretty easy to find the main roads to get you home.
There are three types of temples here – temples, pagodas, and stupas. My understanding of the difference (someone please correct me if you know better) is that temples have an inside and generally have multiple statues of Buddha, and they have an inside that you can move around in.
Stupas have just one entrance and exit and they typically have just one statue of Buddha.
Pagodas have no entrances or exits and are merely monuments pointing up to the sky.
There are just hundreds of each type here! Each one is a little different and has its own uniqueness. Some are placed incredibly close together, and some are isolated in their own area. It’s hard to imagine all the work that went into building all of these.
One other thing that makes Bagan unique among many of the ancient sites is that it is still an active religious site. So it’s crucial to be respectful of their rules – which is why you see no pictures of me with Buddha. It’s bad form to take photos, even though the statues are amazing!
You also have to take your shoes off for entering. This isn’t so bad for the temples themselves, but gosh it’s painful on your feet for climbing stupas and pagodas! Not to mention if you’re climbing up stairs in a temple, there are likely to be loose stones along your path. So you have to watch both your head and your feet.
The weather here reminds me of Oklahoma – it is so windy! It’s been like a really windy day in Oklahoma every day I’ve been here. The landscape is also similar – rolling hills, some scrub brush, trees not too tall. And of course there’s a lot in common between the sunrises and sunsets in both places.
One difference here is that the paths are not yet paved – so with it being loose sand, it kicks up with the wind and with your motorbike. No matter how much I shower or how much I scrub, I feel like I’m constantly surrounded by a layer of sand and dirt!
I’m happy I made it here now – I can see it changing dramatically for tourism in the next few years, and I’m glad I got to experience it while it was still relatively free and open.