With a plethora of temples to see in Bagan, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. In reality, you only need to visit about 4 dozen. Still a lot, eh?
Well, the number of temples you’ll see and which ones are going to be entirely up to you (or your guide), the length of your stay and the weather. Take note that some of my friends visited more temples than the ones listed below because they biked around Bagan on our second day.
Dhammayangyi & Thatbyinnyu in the distance
We decided to avail of Mya Thida’s
tour for convenience. Their van comfortably fit our group plus one of the owners also served as our driver/guide.
Now, I won’t bore you to death with the historical facts for each temple. You can always Google that, right?
Our tour started with the smaller temples and the ones closest to the ‘hotel’.
Inset: Largest of the three sitting Buddhas
This temple houses 4 Buddhas: a 46 feet high central Buddha and two on its sides each measuring 33 feet, and a 90-feet long reclining Buddha with its head facing north on the verge of Nirvana at the side of the temple.
They said the cramped state of the Buddhas is a reflection of King Manuha’s melancholic state for being under house arrest.
Three-faced Brahma seated amidst lotus stems, roots and flowers
Also within the same compound is Nanpaya Temple. This temple is made of bricks and sandstone with perforated stone windows. It also has impressive artworks decorating the four pillars of its interior chamber.
This temple may be small, but it is one of my favorites because it houses impressive frescoes – mostly depicting the 16 dreams of King Kosala and Jatakasor previous birth stories of Buddha. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed to preserve the paintings.
Next up is the massive Dhammayangyi Temple.
Before entering the temple, our driver/guide shared that Dhammayangyi survived several earthquakes because of the excellent brick-laying method used. The bricks were laid so close that not even a needle could be inserted between the seams.
The four devotional halls: each at one of the four cardinal points
Our last stop before lunch was the Ananda Temple – one of the finest and most venerated temple in Bagan.
Just like Dhammayangyi, Ananda Temple houses four Buddhas each facing the cardinal directions.
Gold leaf-adorned Gautama Buddha facing west
Ananda Temple’s expansive courtyard where…guess what? WiFi is available!
Had to run back inside the temple after taking this shot. Not a very good idea wandering here at midday…barefoot – something you have to get used to when visiting temples in Myanmar.
And because it was extremely hot, imagine our delight when we saw a sorbet vendor outside Ananda Paya.
We were on our way to the van, parked a few steps from where the vendor was, and I was happily slurping on my sorbet when one of my friends asked the other “Oh my god! Nakita mo ba yung kuko ni kuya?!” (“Did you see his fingernails?!”) Uhh thanks, guys! So they hurriedly searched for a plastic bag to discreetly dispose of the sorbets haha Fortunately, I didn’t suffer from food poisoning or diarrhea after that.
Photo credit: Tantan Trinidad
L-R: Claire, Me, Lecky, Tantan, Jyse, Ann and this trip’s mastermind, Chito 😀
Just a little trivia: While this trip took a year in the making, most of us only met each other for the first time on our ‘PDOS’ (pre-departure orientation seminars) LOL a couple of months before the trip.
Anyway, we resumed temple-hopping around 4:00 pm starting at Thambula Paya.
Thambula Paya is probably one of the few temples, if not the only one, built by a queen.
Just like Gubyauk Gyi, it houses frescoes, therefore, photography is not allowed.
A few meters from Thambula Paya is Paya Thonzu which literally means three temples
We were on our way to Tayoke-Pyay when we met the lady below.
The lady who asked for a ‘photo blessing’
We saw an old lady herding her goats and we asked if we could take her photo. She agreed and so we clicked away. We thanked her, but then she asked for a ‘photo blessing’. At first we didn’t understand what she meant so she cupped her hands. Apparently, she was asking for a donation. The smallest bill we had at the time was MMK1,000 (about a dollar), so we handed it to her and went on our way.
Then she tried to get us to take a picture of her friend, too (so we’d give her a ‘photo blessing’ as well). That didn’t sit well with us so we tried to ignore her, but she kept on calling us – more like yelling at us.
When we reached Tayoke-Pyay, Lecky and I felt she was driving her herd towards us. Good thing our van arrived to pick us up.
Thit Sar Waddy temple according to one of Mya Thida’s owner
Finally, our guide brought us to his ‘special place’, his sanctuary, if you will. He says he goes here whenever he wants some alone time.
Save for a few painting vendors who popped out of nowhere — probably because they heard our raucous laughter — we had the temple all to ourselves.
We weren’t rewarded with a spectacular sunset because the sun hid behind the clouds.
Dhamma Yazika at dusk
In a matter of minutes, darkness swiftly enveloped Bagan, and just like that, we were given the same view we had when we arrived at this ancient city 16 hours earlier.