The Jewel of Myanmar – Bagan
Wake up early in the morning and by 5 am grab the best spot in Shwesandaw Pagoda to watch the most breathtaking sunrise. Just be prepared to share it with the sunrise-watching crowd. Walk up to the fourth level of the pagoda (okay, third if your knees can’t hack it) and you can catch the view of thousands of temples scattered across the plains of Bagan embraced by fog. Magical! Because of the crowd, it might be a bit hard to meditate and find inner peace in the misty morning around the pagoda. But if you just sit away from the crowd, you still have a chance to peacefully celebrate a new day in Bagan. A few hours after sunrise, the crowds dissipate and you can take your time climbing up or down the steep steps. It’s totally a great photo-op, so don’t miss.
Built in 1057, Shwesandaw is one of the first pagodas built by Anawrahta, the father of the Burmese nation. It’s a white pyramid-style pagoda with five terraces and a stupa top where you can enjoy a 360-degree view of Bagan.
Maybe you’re not a morning person, but catching the sunrise in this pagoda is absolutely one of the things you must do while in Bagan. And if early mornings just isn’t your style, then enjoy instead the magnificent sunset at Shwesandaw.
Built in the 12th century by King Alaungsithu, Thatbyinnyu Temple is located east of Gadawtpalin Temple and is adjacent to the Ananda Temple. Thatbyinnyu means “omniscience of the Buddha” which means knowing thoroughly and seeing widely. It is the tallest temple in Bagan, and its 60 meters height indeed gives it a towering and majestic aura when viewed from afar. It is made up of two white colored boxy storeys each with three diminishing terraces rimmed with spires and leading to a gold-tipped sikhara. Uniquely interesting is that unlike other temples which are mostly red-colored, Thatbyinnyu has a white and gray brickwork. And when you view it in the early morning or late afternoon, you experience a mesmerizing play of colors on the white exterior wall.
Sulamani, or the “crowning jewel”, sits three miles south-west of Nyaung-U. This central temple was built in 1811 by King Narapati Sithu, and resembles the architecture of Thatbyinnyu, consisting of two storeys standing on broad terraces, one on top of the other which creates a pyramid effect. The terraces are adorned with parapets and small stupas at each corner. You must admire the brickwork in this temple, which is considered some of the best in Bagan. It is so tight that it is said a needle can’t even be inserted between two bricks. Inside the temple it is nice and quiet, a good atmosphere to admire the remarkable paintings covering its interior walls.