A Horse Cart Tour Experience in Bagan
It was said that there were as much as 4,000 pagodas and stupas once positioned all over the plain of Bagan alone. Among those abundant temples, 2,200 have remained and still survive to the present day.
There are number of ways to explore the ancient city of Bagan. There are bicycles or electric bicycles for rent if you are interested in exploring the city on your own, van rentals or bus for group tours, and horse cart tour for an old-fashioned way to get to several temples.
One mode that I can say that is very convenient to see the plentiful pagodas situated all over the ancient city is through a horse cart tour. A horse cart tour normally costs around MMK 25,000 for an entire day and can get to as much as several pagodas as possible (or you can arrange it with your driver which pagodas you’d like to visit).
A one-time payment of MMK 15,000 per person for an archeological fee, which is normally good for 3 days, is also needed to be paid by all foreign tourists planning to see the temples of Bagan. There are inspectors placed in some of the temples and pagodas to check the ticket before one can enter the vicinity. But during my entire stay in Bagan, I had only encountered ticket inspection once and that was when I had visited Shwesandaw Pagoda for the sunset.
It was my second day in Bagan when I’ve decided to go on a horse cart tour. I was able to get one through the help of my hotel. The tour started at 10:00 AM. I didn’t give my driver a list of temples that I’d like to visit. However, I requested for an uncrowded temple that is good for sunset viewing. For the rest, I just let him bring me to different pagodas that he have in mind.
Lay Myet Hna Pagoda
Lay Myet Hna Pagoda is our first destination. It was 15 minutes horse cart drive away from my hotel. What I liked about this pagoda was the terrace situated on top of it, which can be accessed through a small dark staircase.
Upon reaching the top, an amazing panoramic view of all the other large temples placed out to the north and west can be seen.
Just few minutes’ walk away from Lay Myet Hna Pagoda is where Nagayon Temple is.
The name of this temple was said to come from the main Buddha image that shelters under the hood of a huge naga, or serpent.
I didn’t spend much time in the area, as the floor was unbearably hot. After taking some photos, I went off and proceeded to the next one.
Situated at Myinakaba Village is where the Myinkaba Pagoda is. It was said that Anahwrahta built this pagoda in the 11th century to expiate the killing of his half-brother, the former king, Sokkade, in man-to-man combat.
There were not much of tourists when I visited the area. I made a quick round to see the surrounding and left the place afterwards.
This temple has a reclining Buddha.
Mimalaung Kyaung Pagoda
Next temple that we had been to was the Mimalaung Kyaung Pagoda. This temple is located near the old city’s South Gate. King Narapatisithu erected it in 1174.
There’s a nice set of half lion and half dragon mythical beasts positioned at the stairway leading up to the small, square abbey platform. On top of this temple, one can have a great view of the neighboring temples.
Gawdawpalin is reckoned as one of the largest temples in Bagan. This Buddhist temple is two storeys tall, and contains three lower terraces and four upper terraces. This temple was constructed during the reign of King Narapatisithu. It was then completed in 1227 during the reign of Htilominlo.
The Mahabodhi Paya is a Buddhist temple built in the mid-13th century during the supremacy of King Htilominlo. The temple is a monument built in a style unique to Bagan. It is modelled after the Maha Bodhi Temple at Bodhgaya in India. The temple was made in an architectural style typical during the Gupta period. This temple comprises a large pyramidal tower with many niches encompassing over 450 images of Buddha.
Aside from seeing the temples, another thing to experience in Myanmar is having thanaka on the face. Thanaka is a yellowish-white cosmetic paste made from ground bark. It is a distinct feature of the culture of the country that is commonly applied to the face and sometimes the arms. I had one when I had visited Mahabodhi Paya, where I’ve met Phyu Phyu. I was about to leave the temple at that time when she approached me and insisted to put thanaka on my face. She didn’t ask for anything in return, and she told me it was free, thus I gave in and had one.
Phyu Phyu has a store outside the temple. She sells some souvenir stuff. Because she was so kind and gladly applied thanaka on my face, I bought a shirt from her store in return. If you have a chance to see her in Mahabodhi Temple, please send my regards to her.
It was after taking my lunch when I had visited Ananda Phaya, which is located near the Tharabar Gate. This is one of the most popular temples in Bagan. It remains one of the finest and most beautiful temples in the ancient city.
This temple was built in 1105 during the reign of King Kyanzittha of the Pagan Dynasty. This single story structure was created in a cruciform design with some terraces leading to a small pagoda at the top roofed by an umbrella known as hti, which is the term of the umbrella or top ornament found in almost all pagodas in Myanmar. The temple houses four standing Buddhas, where each one is facing the cardinal direction of East, North, West and South.
Another famous temple is the Thatbyinnyu Temple, which is located at the North East corner of Old Bagan.
This temple was built in the mid-12th century during the reign of King Alaungsithu. The temple is adjacent to Ananda Phaya. The temple is shaped like a cross, but is not proportioned.
The temple is one of the highest monuments in Bagan, with a height of just over 60 meters. The temple has two primary storeys, with the seated Buddha image situated on the second story.
Close to Thatbyinnyu is where the Shwegugyi Temple is. Shwegugyi, which means Great Golden Cave, was built in 1140 during the reign of King Alaungsithu. It was built on a capacious brick foundation that is 3 meters tall.
When I visited the site, a Burmese lady guided me to get into the temple. She was telling me information about the temple and all, but I was aloof since I already knew what she was after for. When she asked me if I was interested to see some of her stuff that she sells, I declined and told her I was not interested. She suddenly stopped following me.
The temple also has a terrace that has a vision of the neighboring pagodas. Despite of the heat, I spent more than the usual on this place as I had really enjoyed capturing the view of nearby temples and the surrounding.
This pagoda is located on the banks of the Irrawaddy River. The Bupaya Pagoda is one of the earliest monuments on the plain of Bagan. It was built in Pyu style, which is a descendant from the Indian style stupa.
I had only spent few minutes in the area, as I haven’t seen anything notable to any further extent aside from the monument.
Mee Nyein Gone Temple
Located south of Bagan City, this temple has a square type base and a small stupa on top of it. Inside the main hall lies a big Buddha image. The walls are ornamented with floral paintings on the sides and on the ceiling.
The original builder of this temple stays unidentified.
Sin Myar Shin Temple
After a quick look inside Mee Nyein Gone Temple, I went back to the horse cart and asked the driver to go on to our next destination. My driver had then taken me to Sin Myar Shin Temple that is located along the Anawratha Road. I’ve desired to visit this temple on my first day before visiting the famous Shwesandaw Pagoda but I had been hesitant, but nevertheless, I was glad that I was able to do so on my second day.
Sinmyarshin Temple is a two-storey structure made up of an entrance hall and the main hall on the lower level. Two Buddha images can be found at the main hall, each facing east and west.
When getting inside the vicinity of the pagodas in Bagan, one is expected to be barefooted. One funny thing when I visited this temple was when I found myself running from one shaded area to another to avoid stepping the sweltering ground.
About 2 kilometers away from Sin Myar Shin Temple is where our next destination was, the Sulamani Temple. This temple is situated at Minnanthu region.
Sulamani Temple is a large one. It looks very elegant with its multi storey structure. The temple was built in 1181 during the reign of King Narapatisithu, a very affluent time in Bagan where most impressive monuments were built.
The temple signifies some of Bagan’s premium decorative work which is carved stucco on mouldings, pediments and pilasters. Nowadays, these are in fairly good condition. Glazed ornamental tablets around the base and terraces are also still evident.
Neighbouring Sulamani Temple and Shwesandaw Pagoda is where Dhammayangyi Temple is. This Buddhist temple is located in Old Bagan region, which was built by King Narathu in 1167.
Dhammayangyi Temple is a one story structure yet the largest temple on the plains of Bagan.
The temple’s interior is walled up with bricks for strange reasons, thus only the four entryways and the outer corridors are accessible.
When we reached the temple, my horse cart driver told me to slow down my phase as we were so ahead of time. It was early to end the tour that we were left with few temples to visit; hence I can stay longer on this one. With that, I remained inside the temple for like an hour hanging around, aside from taking photographs.
Temple Good for Sunset Viewing
After visiting several temples, we had finally arrived in one pagoda that I had requested from my horse cart driver, a good place to capture the sunset. I asked him what is the name of the temple, he then told me that there’s no name for it. It is still unknown but this place is a good one for viewing the sunset. This temple is near Dhayammazika Pagoda, and when I checked the map, the nearest temple that I suppose was this one is the Thamuti Pagoda.
The temple has second and third floor patios, which hover above the tree line giving a spectacular 360 degree view of the Myinkaba plain.
There was only one person when we had arrived. Good job, Mr. Horse Cart Driver for taking me to this place! I told him that I’d be waiting for the sunset here, which was still two hours away from the time we had reached the area, so he has to be patient. 🙂
While I was waiting for the sundown, I spent my time taking boundless photographs of the amazing view of the plain sited with several pagodas, which I had fallen deeply in love with.
There were few tourists visiting the temple but eventually leaving after few minutes. It was me and two other tourists were remained to catch the sunset. But it seems we were unfortunate that time as the sunset wasn’t that clear. The sky was covered with thick clouds.
Nevertheless, this structure is truly one my favourite pagodas that I had visited during our tour. I was so pleased that my driver had brought me to this place. It was so worthy to get to a lesser-crowded temple sharing a splendid scene of the plain of Bagan.
The sky was already getting dark when I’ve decided to leave and moved on to our next place.
Dhammayazika Pagoda was our last stop. The name of the pagoda, Dhammayazika or Dhammarajika in Pali means “Pertaining the King of Law”. The construction of Dhammayazika Pagoda has pentagonal terraces instead of the typical Bagan pagodas, the square base.
It was already nightfall when I had visited this pagoda, thus I wasn’t able to have decent photographs of the pagoda up-close. I made a quick stroll around the temple to see its structure and design, and then left the area subsequently as I was already feeling tired from an almost all-day temple expedition around Bagan.
It had been a tiring trip nevertheless an amusing one for me as I was able to experience exploring the ancient city through a classic mode of sightseeing it, the horse cart tour. I had a great time knowing some of the numerous pagodas in Bagan and understanding its history and significance. I had arrived in my hotel contented and pleased as I had able to see and capture several glorious temples and various wonderful sights.
I felt glad that I had toured Bagan through horse-cart initially therefore I had become familiar of the city, its roads and route. Being acquainted with the road had made me apt to explore the plain of Bagan one more time and not with any local guide anymore.
For more historical information about the pagodas in Bagan, please visit Wikipedia, Travel Myanmar.