8 Photographs that illustrate why I love Bagan | Myanmar


As a traveler, I strive to take trips to locations I've never been before. This rule, nevertheless, comes with a few exceptions. Bagan, Myanmar, was one of the places I returned to sooner than I expected. After my first trip there in March 2013, I always felt like I had unfinished business when I returned home. This is why, exactly three years later, I set out on another journey to this ancient city. This time around, I arrived as a lone tourist armed with more days exploring this historic city teeming with centuries-old temples and pagodas.

Kate Alvarez

Riding an electric bike in the hot sun of March, I travelled far and wide, capturing the magnificent images of millennia-old ruins of the Pagan Kingdom. Much of my time here was spent marveling at the magnificent and timeless vibe that persists in this city, populated by some of the warmest and nicest individuals I've encountered. All of it added up to yet another unforgettable collective incursion to this city.

By taking off-the-beaten-path routes, I was able to see some of the most obscure temples and pagodas while covering more land than on my last trip. Bagan is an iconic historic city in Myanmar's Mandalay Region. The ruins that today rest scattered across its golden powdery plains are from kingdoms that existed from the 9th century until the 13th century. At the time, it served as the capital of the Country of Pagan - the first kingdom to unite all of Myanmar under one control. More than 10,000 Buddhist pagodas, monasteries, and temples were erected on the immense Bagan plains during the sovereignty of this dynasty. Over 2,200 pagodas and temples still survive today as majestic ruins and a striking reminder of that illustrious history.

Slowly opening up to tourists, Myanmar has managed to position the Bagan Archeological Zone as its principal visitor draw and is now regarded by many as equivalent to Cambodia's Angkor Wat complex. As an old-city junkie, I can state that Bagan can hold a candle on its own by possessing a powerful magnetism that appeals to people like myself seeking historic ruins with breathtaking landscapes to photograph.

To let the images, speak for itself, here are some more photographs that best exemplify Bagan as a place of timeless beauty.

Kate Alvarez
The towering pagodas and temples serve as a lovely foreground to the flaming setting sun in the horizon, elevating the Bagan sunset to a new level of visual delight.

Stef Juan
Equally spellbinding is the sunrise that rises among the many high rise temples and pagodas.

Cheekie Albay
The locals, who frequently wear colorful traditional styled attire while covering their faces with thanaka, offer excellent photographic subjects. Just remember to seek their permission beforehand.

Kate Alvarez
Young monks could be seen strolling around in their bright red robes. Friendly, pleasant, and already committed to a life of devotion.

Koryn Iledan
What better way to recall Bagan's timeless nature than the numerous relics of its temples, monasteries, and pagodas that still exist as far as the eye can see?

Stef Juan
Horse-drawn carriages are still widely used as modes of transportation, providing visitors with a look into the then-ancient city of Bagan's motorized-free environment.

Kate Alvarez
Locals who trade in their old-age art, culture, and custom, such as this little girl selling sand painting, are so courteous and kind that they don't want to bother visitors. Instead, they simply want to converse with you in order to improve their English. This girl says to me, "Nice chatting to you, by the way, do you want to look at my sand painting?" I ended up buying from her since the art she sells is so unique and full of creativity and history.

These are just a few of the photos I wanted people to see whenever they ask why I went back to Myanmar. I traveled from Bagan to Mandalay and then returned to Yangon. Two weeks is a short time to truly absorb Bagan and the rest of this lovely nation; perhaps after reading this essay, you will be motivated to travel to Myanmar and see the timeless old city of Bagan.