Where to see sunrise and sunset in Bagan after the earthquake (June 2017)
I read a lot about people who spent days exploring Bagan on E Bikes and didn´t really think much about it until I rent my own E Bike (normal motorbikes are forbidden to rent to tourists – local law). I don´t know why, but I think that place has some kind of magical powers which completely amazed me and I couldn´t stop. I spent 3 days driving around almost whole day searching for those secret gems for sunsets and sunrises.
View from Shwesandaw pagoda
The main reason of this obsession was, that all the old blogs were dated before 2016 earthquake and all the known places for awesome sunrises and sunsets happened to be closed. So if you walked somewhere where you thought you will get THE shot – there were gates all around and you couldn´t get in. Truly, there were places, where you could sneak up, because some of the gates were already destroyed by some ignorants who didn´t follow the rules. Oh yeaaaah – of course I had that heart pumping and my mind was thinking to go through the whole and climb up on the walls. But firstly – it wasn´t worth it as there are many locals driving around and checking up on idiots like that 😀 and I didn´t wanna be one of them. Secondly – it is a heritage – absolutely stunning heritage and if we wanna keep those for other generations, we shouldn´t destroy it this way. Well, we have to wait for the workers to repair it for us and hope they will open them again for the public. Truly – I think we are very lucky, we can still climb on at least some of them – just saying.
Sunrise from Shwesandaw pagoda as you can see – no balloons at all….
As we came to Bagan on the beginning of the rainy season – there were NO BALLOONS at all, which was one of the biggest disappointments of mine – even when there was no rain at all, they don´t allow them to fly at certain dates. So if you really wanna those shots with balloons, you rather check when the season starts and ends.
View from Shwesandaw pagoda – the Bagan Museum (sunset)
The most famous and unluckily even busiest is the Shwesandaw pagoda. The views from this place are probably the best – so if you have limited time, I would definitely come here and try to ignore hundreds of people. Both – sunset and sunrise are wonderful – I loved both. Make sure you come early – I mean at least hour before as the space is kind of limited and if you want to have photos without people – you need to get yourself a spot – I know it is a jungle!!! 😀
Panorama from Shwesandaw pagoda – amazing!!!
Some people preferred to go to Lawkaoushaung Pagoda, which is very close to the Shwesandaw. I didn´t find the view from there that exciting. I mean, if you go there for sunrise, you see Shwesandaw pagoda, which is beautiful, don´t take me wrong. But firstly, it is still under the reconstruction, so it doesn´t look that good. But mostly, you see those crowds of people crawling all around it like ants on lollipop – not my vision of perfect sunrise shot. But maybe the sunset could be OK – didn´t try, so cannot refer the view.
Sunset from Shwesandaw pagoda
Another cool place for sunrise was Bulethi Pagoda. It is getting more popular, but it was definitely less crowded. You can pick from two pagodas to see the stunning sunrise. Didn´t do sunset there, but I believe that it could be good too.
Sunset from Bulethi pagoda (sunrise)
Unluckily the old famous Myauk Guni temple got recently closed too – and truly I felt I really want to climb there, but it is very well guarded by locals, so find yourself different option. There is a little South brother of this temple called Taung Guni. I know it doesn´t look as perfect as the North Guni, but it is bearable option. It gets busy too – so if you want your spot, come earlier. Unluckily there are a lot of local kids selling stuff, which get a bit annoying after a while, but I am good at ignoring “noise” like this and focus on the beauty.
Sunset from Myauk Guni temple
I was very lucky and got a tip from the locals on a little temple (without name). There were some guys with keys and they let people up. Not many people were there as nobody knew. So for a sunrise it was only 6 of us, even it is only 2 minutes from the Shwesandaw. The stairway is hidden on the left from the entrance – it is little opened door which seems to lead nowhere as it is pitch dark inside. Don´t be scared, pick your flash light and walk up. You will be amazed! Hope this one is still opened. Or just keep asking locals. Truly not many of them know, which one are closed or opened. But sometimes you can get lucky like me.
Mysteriously opened temple location (try your luck)
I found another gem which is a bit far away from everything – Thitsarwadi temple. Truly – NOONE knew about this one and I believe you would be there alone. If you don´t really care about having big temples in your shot, but want to enjoy quiet sunrise or sunset, this place is for you.
One more from Bulethi Pagoda (Sunrise)
There are two other places I have to mention, as they are not busy but you can still get a nice view … Mahazedi Pagoda and Shwegu Gyi Phaya – both of them are opened and you can easily walk up to higher levels.
Everybody comes for something else, so I would recommend to take a bike and do your “homework” before the actual sunrise or sunset. I met many people who got lost (especially in the morning in the darkness), were not sure about where they are going, some roads are not as easy as other – there can be a lot of sand so you don´t have to be as quick as you thought and there is nothing more annoying than missing the actual sun rising or setting while being frustrated in the middle of nowhere. Or get on the crowded pagoda, where you are climbing over other people trying to get at least one good shot.
Enjoy it! It is so much fun! It is relaxing! IT IS SAFE! I was there all alone all the time and all I met were lovely local people or cows :-D. Have a lot of water as it can get pretty hot and you don´t want to get dehydrated – it can happen very easily.
Yes there is a fee of 25.000 Kyat to enter the pagodas. Some people get away with it – mostly those ones who come with crowds and see one sunrise or sunset and that is it. I was stopped 5x during 4 days – so sorry, but there isn´t much else to do than pay. CARRY YOUR TICKET with you all the time!!! They can be very strict even if you tell them you have it in the hotel room, they will kick you out (no sunset for you).
Mount Popa – Some people call it dirty – yeah, there is monkey piss and poop everywhere, but I loved it!
TIP for photographers (I believe you are much smarter than me and you wouldn´t have this issue), but it made one of my sunrises a bit stressful. As the air-conditioning in the rooms is usually pretty cold and even early mornings in Bagan are very warm and humid my lens all fogged up. I couldn´t take a single picture. So try to keep your camera gear somewhere warmer over the night, so you don´t get frustrated like me. 😀
Monks posing me on Shwesandaw pagoda
Where to rent an E Bike? Well – most of the places have same prices and you can bargain your own deal. I loved a little shop on the corner of Kayan street and Sabae Street – the lady was lovely and she knew I will be her client for 4 days so she was giving me special prices. We even did the Mount Popa tour through her – it was cheap and all good. She was even waving me when she saw me on the crowded bus leaving Bagan – that melted my heart. (PS: There is a red button on each bike – if you push it on side, it will allow you to go a bit faster 😀 😀 😀 – not many people know and it feels so good to pass them by :-D).
The place I rent the E Bike and Mount Popa tour
Last recommendation I would love to give you is the Black Rose restaurant (loved their curries). There are two of them – one is like a “drink place” mostly full of locals. It is under the same owner, but they are not cooking there (they will run into the actual restaurant which is a couple doors further up the street and bring you meal from there 😀 ). The actual restaurant is usually full of tourists, but it is because the food is amazing, for good money and the service is lovely – they try so much to feel you comfortable and happy! 🙂 TAKE A MOSQUITO REPELENT – otherwise you will get destroyed!
I hope this helped you a bit and you can get ready for your “Bagan adventure”. I wish you will love that place as much as I did. If you have any questions (if I forgot to mention anything), please don´t hesitate to comment or message me on Facebook – Leni Sediva Photography. And I will try to do my best.