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3 Things To Do In The Port Of…Bagan

18th June 2019

The biggest highlight of an Irrawaddy River cruise is a chance to visit Bagan. Formerly Pagan, this ancient city was once the capital of what is now Myanmar, thanks to an empire that stretched to the borders of the country today.

So when you embark on one of these enlightening cruises, here are some fantastic activities you can look forward to in Bagan.

Admire The Crumbling Temples

Bagan Temples

The biggest reason why Bagan is so popular and alluring is the fact that it is home to hundreds of temples and stupas that once littered the land. In fact, at the height of the Pagan Empire, more than 10,000 structures covered an area of 40 square miles, all built by the wealthy rulers and their subjects. Sadly, Mongol invasions, earthquakes and many other causes led to the vast majority falling into disrepair.

Of those that are left standing, there are some beautiful monasteries and temples that you can visit. Shwesandaw Pagoda and Ananda Temple are just two examples of the stunning architecture and cultural importance that can be discovered. You can read more about the specific temples that should be on your must-see list here.

Incidentally, you may discover the difference between the three terms: pagoda, stupa and temple. Used interchangeably by some people, they actually refer to specific types of structure.

A great way to experience the majesty and reverence for these temples is to watch the sun rise or set over them. You’re sure to be joined by many others (so arrive early for a good spot), but the sight is something you’ll never forget.

However, to really get a feel for the sheer size and density of the temples, many people take to the skies. Look up at any time whilst in Bagan and you’re likely to see a number of hot air balloons flying high over the plains. Various different companies offer this experience and it’s a great way to ensure you don’t have to worry about the crowds ruining your view.

Learn About Lacquerware

Lacquerware Myanmar

The creation of lacquerware is very popular in South-East Asia and the items produced are typically very ornate and beautiful. The process involves covering objects made from wood and other materials with lacquer, made from dried tree sap, before adorning them with intricate patterns and flourishes of silver and gold.

A museum in Bagan has many antique lacquerware objects on display that help to show the elegance of this delicate art form. Even the building itself has been designed using these techniques and includes a piece featuring the 12 signs of the zodiac. You can also see scholars learning the craft and buy souvenirs from the small shop.

Elsewhere in the city, the archaeology museum is also worth visiting if you have the time. Not only does it display some interesting historical objects, such as Buddha statues, it also explains the history of the temples and gives you an insight into what Bagan would have looked like hundreds of years ago.

Meander Through The Markets

Bagan Markets

When you need a break from the temples, the markets in the local area are a great way to learn more about Bagan and its people. As always, one of the best ways to understand the culture here is through the local food. The markets will give you the opportunity to sample some traditional dishes, as will quirkily named restaurants like ‘Weather Spoon’s Bagan’ and ‘Be Kind to Animals the Moon’ (a favourable vegetarian spot).

Mani-Sithu Market, found at the end of Lanmadaw Road, mixes these authentic morsels with handicrafts made in the local area. It’s a great place to grab some faux lacquerware to take home or try the thanaka face masks, made from tree bark, which the locals love to use.

To learn more about our Irrawaddy River cruises or to book one which stops in the port of Bagan, call the GoRiverCruise team on 0800 954 0064. You can also sign-up to our mailing list to receive the latest offers and news straight to your inbox.

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