Bagan is probably the most touristic place in all of Myanmar. It is an archeological site without all the fuss. There are endless temples, small ones and big ones, spread around the entire area of Bagan. The best way to see Bagan is to hire an e-bike (electric scooter) for 2 days and roam around, you will be sure to see all temples this way.
We did not have a particular plan or route we followed. Everything is in a close proximity and easy to find and see if you just cruise around. While the temples make an impression that they have been there for centuries, many are actually re-built in recent years due to an earth quake that destroyed most of the small structures. Since Bagan is not yet an UNESCO world heritage site, the re-construction is not governed properly and the temples are re-built differently than the original structure. Regardless of when or how they were built, the scenery of Bagan is still amazing!
Another popular activity in Bagan is to watch the sunrise (yes sunrise!) while all the air balloons launch into the sky. With the temples landscape and the yellow / brown sky, this creates a truly epic scene. Ask your hotel host for the best spots to go for sunrise. There are some spots also mentioned in Google Maps. Mind you, that everyone has the same idea in Bagan, so the sunrise spots are very packed with people (see photo below). Nonetheless, it is still worthwhile, jut make sure to get there early enough to catch a good spot. Tip: prepare warm cloths as the morning in Bagan can be pretty chilly, and you don’t want to be freezing waiting for the sun to come out 😉
After you woke up early enough to see the sunrise from one of the temples, you would probably want to also see the sunset. There are multiple spots to watch the sunset as well, however during sunset there are no air balloons. So if you want the famous air balloon photos you see all over Instagram, you better set that alarm clock and put on your best outfit for the photos. Don’t worry though, you can always go back to your hotel and nap for a few hours to catch up on lost sleep.
Beware; there are locals around some temples that offer to show you to the best sunrise or sunset locations. They claim to want nothing in return besides that you look at some of their paintings and buy one if you like it. In our experience with two such painting sellers, they were not happy when we did not want to buy their paintings. They were actually quite angry and made us feel very bad. The prices for the paintings range between $15-$30, so if you don’t like any pf the paintings, it is not a souvenir you just buy. The spots they bring you to are nice, but just know that you will have an uncomfortable ending when they show you the paintings and you find none that are for your liking.
We had some great food around Bagan. There are plenty of options in Old Bagan and in Nyaung U with good prices. Just check out Trip Advisor and you are sure to find a lot of nice restaurants.