It can be said that one has not visited Myanmar if he or she has not been to the two places: the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon and Bagan in Mandalay, the central part of Myanmar. Bagan is the historical city where Myanmar Dynasty called the Bagan Dynasty was developed and the Theravada Buddhism was first established by a monk called Shin Arahan. Bagan is famous for its numerous pagodas (about 2000 pagodas), old monuments, ancient architectural designs and mural paintings. It is the cultural heritage of Asia where one can feel the breathing views of the ancient Myanmar.
There are five things to do in Bagan so that your visit to the ancient place will be more memorable.
1. Study the arts and architecture of Bagan
Firstly, it would be fantastic to know the difference between a stupa and a temple. A stupa is the solid spire or cylinder with domed or pointed top without entrance. This means that you can go around the pagoda but you cannot go inside it. A temple is a square or rectangular structure with entrances. So, you can go inside the temple. The exterior walls of both are decorated with stucco and the interior walls of the temples are illustrated with paintings. The paintings are mostly about 550 Jataka tales, the lives that the Buddha went through before he attained the enlightenment. Two types of paintings are present: the mural paintings made on a dry surface and the frescos applied on wet cement.
2. Take e-bikes to go around the city
Since there are a large number of pagodas to visit in Bagan, it would be time consuming if you visit the pagodas by foot. E-bike is the cheapest and most popular way to get around Bagan. They are also environmental friendly since they run on batteries instead of gasoline. There are shops in Bagan which rent E-bikes for cheap prices. With an e-bike, you can stop wherever you want, visit any less known spots and admire the landscapes. Therefore, e-bike is the most recommended option compared to pedal bikes that takes a lot of effort and time in the heat and dust and bullock cart or car which will cost more money.
3. Enjoy the sunrise or sunset view
If you are an early bird, sunrise in Bagan is for you. If not, you can wait for the sunset at one of the pagodas where you are allowed to climb and enjoy the incredible natural views. Bagan is the place where the sunrise is equally beautiful as the sunset. Therefore, watching sunrise or sunset view is a must do while you are in Bagan. As the sun gradually ascends in sunrise or sinks behind the mountains in sunset, the sky becomes like a painting with the golden rays and the clouds become colourful with streaks of red or orange. The Shwe San Daw Pagoda is one of the popular places to enjoy both morning and evening views. But it is crowded in the high season and you will need to try hard to find the best spot to enjoy the view. However, the view is worth for the endeavor you have to make.
4. Get a temporary tattoo
In Bagan, there is an increasing trend of painting a temporary tattoo of arts in various designs on the skin of people especially youths. There are temporary tattoo painters in Bagan who use watercolor to form images, patterns and drawings. The tattoos last for at least 2 to 4 days on the skin without skin washing. If you want to have some arts which are copied from the well-established work such as the murals on your skin, getting a temporary tattoo in Bagan would be a fascinating experience.
5. Go shopping for lacquerware
Bagan produces lacquerware which are useful as daily necessities, for example, bowls, plates and tea cups. Lacquerware is a great souvenir which reflects the artwork of Myanmar people. It is made by coating layers of lacquer over a frame of wood or bamboo. One can visit the lacquer workshop in Bagan to learn how to make a lacquerware of high quality. Lacquerware are decorated with Myanmar floral designs and patterns which are unique and stunning.
Written by Hnin Thida Nwe, ASEAN Correspondent from Myanmar