Why you should go to Bagan, Burma before it’s too late

Posted on January 30, 2013 by in AAdvantage

In late October 2012 I made my way to Burma courtesy of the infamous mistake fare. I had booked several trips with a total of just over 41k miles (mix of first and business class) which would give full 4 days in Burma and 13 days of travel).

I had heard several travelers saying good things about Bagan – so I wanted to make my trekk out there as well.

Burma (also known as Myanmar) has had a closed economy for many decades – restricted by international sanctions. This means your cell phone won't roam, your Visa/Mastercard will not be accepted by ATMs and no international airline ticketing as well.


No tickets, really?

I researched a Yangon (also know as Rangoon) based travel agent who would be able to issue the tickets for me. There were a number of flights on the route RGN – NYU – all charging about $125 for a one-hour, one-way flight. Now I had no idea about the state of Myanmar's airline industry and I went with Air Bagan.

ATR ride

ATR, my ride

view from above

View from above

While the RGN International Airport is rather new the domestic terminal is a bare bone affair with no such amenities like gates, luggage belt or even an AC. Fortunately most flights to Bagan leave in the early hours when it's not as hot.

NYU airport is equally simple with just a runways and small passenger building. However it all works well and there is minimal chaos given the simple facilities.

luggage belt

Ma, where's the luggage belt?

There are no (not yet) chain hotels in Bagan so I reverted back to Tripadvsior and their recommendation for a stay.

The hotel is simple but has very well appointed and clean rooms. It's on a very quiet corner of dirt roads (few paved roads in Bagan and not a lot of traffic). Plus it has a gorgeous roof terrace where a simple breakfast is served every day.

The main attraction in Bagan are the temples from the Kingdom of Pagan which built 10,000 Buddhist temples between the 9th and 13th century. Although erosion, earthquakes and human settlement have damaged many there are still 4,00 structure for you to visit. They are spread out across a wide valley with very little traffic or disturbances. It's pretty magical!

horse cart

Travel in Bagan is by horse cart (or bicycle)

bagan 2

Temple in Bagan

large buddha

A large buddha


Relaxed locals

more remples anyone

More temples anyone?

one in 4000

One in 4,000

outdoor museum

Bagan – the outdoor museum

relaxed locals

Super friendly, relaxed locals


More temples


And More


And more temples


Really, more temples


OK, but now they also have temples


The best temple of all?

bagan sunset

A Bagan sunset

bagan sunset2

A Bagan sunset

Most of the structures are in pretty good shape (for a one thousand year old buildings)! There is ongoing restoration works going on but many temples are active worshiping sites for the locals. I really enjoyed the atmosphere – it's just mix the right mix – no crowds, no insane traffic, friendly locals, pretty good food and very affordable. There is no point in seeing 'all' the major temples – after 8 hours of sightseeing temple fatigue sets in quickly.

Bagan is being 'discovered' every day and crowds will grow so try to go before there before they may spoil the adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed Bagan and I think its one of the most impressive places I have ever come across.

About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]

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