Exploring New Bagan by E-bike during Myanmar Tour – Fun Way to Traverse Buddhist Antiquity

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Bagan Myanmar
Sunset in Bagan (View from Buledi Temple height)
Bagan Myanmar
Bagan landscape in the haze of the heat of the day

If you love your Prius or other hybrid car, you’ll adore your e-bike!

Quiet like a hybrid car running on battery, the lightweight e-bikes are all the rage in Bagan.   If you need a motorcycle license to ride them, nobody who rents them seems to know, care or mention it.   The taxicab drivers may not be pleased, because it seems that the easy-to-handle e-bikes of Bagan are now the most common tourist mode of transport.

Bagan Myanmar
Many temples have Buddhas facing in all four directions, with the Eastern-facing Buddha the most prominent. This small temple is unusual in that you can see all the Buddhas together
Bagan Myanmar
The scene outside the busy riverside temple where the very large Buddha and reclining Buddhas reside
Bagan Myanmar
The monumental Manuha Paya Buddha is smiling but one can only see it from a balcony above
Bagan Myanmar
Manuha Paya has several oversized Buddhas that are said to be cramped to symbolize the suffering of the King who built this 11th Century temple
Bagan Myanmar
Note the scale of this reclining Buddha in Manuha Paya
Bagan Myanmar
Many of the temples and stupas that you find are only labeled in Burmese
Bagan Myanmar
Sometimes the Buddhas within a stumbled upon stupa are in better shape than the structure that encloses them. Often this is because active worshippers have recently restored them.
Bagan Myanmar
Various temple domes are distinctive traits of different architectural eras

They do let you see and soak up more of what Bagan has to offer.  Better yet, their silence is such that two riders can have a comfortable conversation even when going at relative top speed.  Unlike the tour bus or taxi ride that requires you to first dial in a specific location, the e-bike is the meanderer’s best friend.  

Bagan Myanmar
Some of the roads to the off-road temples are more e-bike (and bicycle) friendly than others
Bagan Myanmar
Abeyadana Pahto and others have detailed wall paintings that you need a flashlight to see
Bagan Myanmar
Mingalazedi Paya, is said to mark the height of architectural skill found in Bagan temples
Bagan Myanmar
Mingalazedi Pahto has very well-preserved ceramic Jatakas tiles
Bagan Myanmar
A view from a terrace of Mingalazedi Pahto
Bagan Myanmar
Mischievous -faced corner detail at popular Sulamani Temple
Bagan Myanmar
Many of the paintings in popular Sulamani Temple are very well-preserved
Bagan Myanmar
A reclining Buddha in Sulamani Temple
Bagan Myanmar
The canopy on this Buddha in Sulamani Temple seemed almost like a woman's large decorative hat, adding to the feminine feel of the sculpture

Warning: In the space of three days we saw and heard of three e-bike spills.  The sand patches on the dirt roads leading to many temples- large and small, popular and unknowns—are not quite forgiving and it’s easy to picture mishaps happen there in great frequency.  Unlike a motorbike though, these are lightweight and not the potential body crushers.  Unlike a bicycle, they do have pick up to help you get out of ruts.  That said, this writer had to fight an urge to do a citizen’s arrest when I saw a woman sitting side saddle on an e-bike, sans helmet, and holding what appeared to be a young infant still in diaper swaddling.  

Bagan Myanmar
Many of the craft shops near the pagodas sell local crafts. Here, a store dedicated to selling umbrellas typical of the region shows off its wares with the help of backlit illumination at night
Bagan Myanmar
How fun that this Buddha seems to be winking! Actually this wink appears to be the result of water damage.
Bagan Myanmar
Many of the temples are crowned in gold

Setting out on your e-bike Bagan adventure, you too may feel tugged in two opposite directions.  One is the map seeming to shout to you to see as much as you can of the thousands of Bagan temples in the little time you have.  The other impulse, just as strong, is to totally go off map and let fate direct your wanderings and day.  We landed somewhere in between these two extremes, happy to look for what the guidebook says are the main temples cherrypicked by archeologists and Bagan experts for highlights, but also open to following the detour roads we stumbled upon along the way.

Bagan Myanmar
Sulamani Temple--grand in every respect--is one of the most frequently visited temples in Bagan
Bagan Myanmar
You begin to notice that Buddha's hair is very similar to some of the cones atop stupas
Bagan Myanmar
A statue detail outside one of the more popular temples.
Bagan Myanmar
Outside the temples, hawkers of tourist goodies begin to assemble their wares in anticipation of tourist bus arrivals
Bagan Myanmar
The leopard cloth on this Buddha was one of the almost startling reminders that they are current objects of worship

How fun to be lost when looking for a famous Irrawaddy shore temple to find one not on the map, and also an expanse of the river where locals were looking for seafood.  

Yes, you are in a world heritage site, but so often you are also near villagers’ homes and paths.  Smiles abound—whether you are making a u-turn in a shack’s yard that is between two ancient stupas, or meeting another herdsman crisscrossing the temple remains with his cows or goats. 

Bagan Myanmar
While looking for a famous temple along the Irrawaddy, we discovered this magnificent temple unmarked and seemingly unvisited by others
Bagan Myanmar
Steps from our "secret" temple, we found fields leading to views of the Irrawaddy River. Locals were combing the shore and tending to small gardens by the river.
Bagan Myanmar
A herdsman making his way across the temple strewn plains outside New Bagan
Bagan Myanmar
There is a thriving scene outside Lawkanada Pagoda, that is by the Irrawaddy riverside. This is a place where travelers have come to worship since it was built in the 11th Century, and still come there to this day
Bagan Myanmar
Abeyadana Pahto also has Hindu dieties within
Bagan Myanmar
Nagayon Temple
Bagan Myanmar
A joke? Or like the many misspellings on menus you see

When you dwell upon how many thousands of tourists these locals have met and greeted ,their universal good cheer becomes somewhat astounding.

Best yet, if other modes of transport or your hotel surrounds are giving you a touch of claustrophobia that comes when you are in a constricting tourist ghetto, there is always alternate space to expand and take a breather all along the temple strewn roads.

Bagan Myanmar
A hall in Dhammayangyi Pahto
Bagan Myanmar
We were struck by how many of the Buddhas had a Mayan seeming face
Bagan Myanmar
In Dhammayangyi Pahto, these side by side Buddhas were said to be commissioned by a king who had murdered his father and brother, hoping that the temple built in their honor would erase his sins. He was an exacting ruler--who cut off the arms of any workmen who didn't hew to his standards of precision.
Bagan Myanmar
Dhammayangyi Pahto also has an homage for the murdered wife of the villainous King Narathu
Bagan Myanmar
Even though there is a regular stream of tour buses with Westerners, most of your fellow touristsa are from Burma or surrounding Buddhist countries
Bagan Myanmar
This modern addition to Gubyaukgyi seemed to be a major attraction to Asian tourists

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Bagan Myanmar
We were fascinated by this Rosetta Stone, as it is nicknamed, in Myazedi, a stupa adjacent to Gubyaukgyi. There are four languages here that all say the same thing, and that helped archeologists decipher ancient languages.
Bagan Myanmar
Immersing in Bagan's art and architectural details, your appreciation of designs in everyday life waxes— such as noting this ceiling in a thatch walled restaurant.

One learns to spot the temples that are too small for tour buses and/or to linger across the road at lesser stupas and temples until the tour bus at a must-see site departs.  

The most essential thing to pack for a Bagan trip is wanderlust.   You can’t pack enough…

Bagan Myanmar
Ballons over Bagan is said to give you a good panoramic view of Bagan's temples, but you pay US $300 for a 45 -minute trip

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