Is Bagan still worth visiting after the quake? Yes, it's worth visiting and almost all of the major temples are open. The Ananda Phaya is being restored but you can enter it and see the 4 grand Buddha statues; if it was closed I would say maybe wait a few years. It is also interesting to discover how the earthquake damaged the temples, and where you can spot the cracks. There will be restoration work happening for a few years, but most temples will remain open.
A peek at the Thambula temple Buddha, Januari 2017.
Where is the best hotel area in Bagan.
The overview map below shows Old Bagan, New Bagan and Nyaung-U. The Bagan Archaeological Zone is not as large as the Angkor temple complex, its' main area between Old Bagan, New Bagan and Nyaung-U is roughly 7km by 7km. The huge Angkor Archaeological Park stretches to 400 square kilometres; the full Bagan Archaeological Zone is about 100 square kilometres.
Bagan Hotel area price map - MetaMap
Nyaung-U (green) is the main town in the north-east near the airport and bus-station, it is the central transportation-hub for Bagan. The budget hotels, guest houses and restaurants are in the charming old town of Nyaung-U. For the evening out Nyaung-U (Nyaung-Oo) with its many restaurants is the place to be. From Old Bagan to Nyaung-U takes half an hour on a bicycle, but only 10 minutes on an e-Bike scooter.
A Resort, a hotel or a guesthouse in Bagan?
Booking a hotel in Bagan can be confusing because the 3 locations of Old Bagan, New Bagan and Nyaung-U are all very different in character and price. Where you want to stay depends on your budget too; Nyaung-U has the cheaper budget hotels, New bagan has the mid-range and quieter hotels, Old Bagan is the posh but rather quiet area.
A price indication (high-season rates) for the three hotel area's:
- Budget hotels : 10 - 30 US dollar
- Midrange hotels: 30 - 70 US dollar
- Top-end hotels : 60 - 250 US dollar
Where to stay - cheap to expensive.
The centre of Nyaung-U village is interesting, with some colonial architecture and a market which is a hive of activity. The busy north-south road from the market towards the airport and the monasteries can make Nyaung-U noisy; in some area's the monks wake up very early in the morning and diligently start their morning chanting. Nyaung-U has many guest houses and cheap hotels, and a few mid-range hotels. The very popular restaurant street is also in Nyaung-U.
New Bagan has a good range of budget and mid-price accommodation. It was built in 1990, when the government relocated the villagers from Old Bagan, and it lacks the colonial charm of Nyaung U. New Bagan is a pleasant town however; it is very quiet and has some lovely restaurants.
Old Bagan has the luxury resorts and posh hotels, but very few restaurants. However if you rent an E-bike then Nyaung-U is less than 15 minutes driving away. Old Bagan is the best location for the popular main temple group, but if you bicycle out of Nyaung-U towards Old Bagan you will soon notice temples left and right. And even New-Bagan has some fascinating temples very close to it, notably the golden domed Dhammayazika.
The best tablet or smartphone online map for Bagan.
View Larger Map
If you want to use a GPS-map in Bagan the Open Street Map (OSM, see the map above) is much better than Google maps; because OSM shows the many footpaths as well as most of the small and tiny temples in Bagan. Open Street Map seems to show all of the 2200 stupas and temples in Bagan! For hotel locations however Google maps can be more accurate than OSM.
Maps.me is a useful mapping app based on Open Street Map; it's available on iPad, iPhone and Android phones and tablets. Maps.me does not need an internet connection, it works offline using only a GPS signal.
The Bagan temples after the earthquake.
There are an estimated 2200 temples in Bagan; many of these are small stupas or solid brick temples without entrance. There are perhaps only about a dozen "grand temples" like the Ananda Pahto, Dhamma Yazika and Sulamani temple that are on the must-see list of most visitors.
On the 24th of august 2016 Myanmar was hit by a 6.8-magnitude earthquake. The epicenter was in Chauk in central Myanmar, which is close to Bagan, where more than 400 temples were damaged. Chauk is just 30km south of Bagan on the way to Saleh, which is also a tourism destination. The Sulamani, North Guni and Mingalazedi temples were seriously damaged; as were the lesser known Gubyaukgyi, SitanaGyi and Tayoke Pyay. Visitors are prohibited from entering some temples and pagodas.
The sunset photo's after the 2016 earthquake: scaffolding on many temples.
Temple accessibility - March 2017.
Open Temples (major temples).
- Ananda Pahto - open but has a 6 year restoration going on until 2018. (facebook.com/IndiaInMyanmar )
- Dhamma-yangyi - open
- Dhammayazika/Dhamma Yazika - open
- Gawdawpalin - open
- Htilominlo - open
- Pyathada (Pyathat Gyi/Pyathatgyi) - open. (a large square brick temple)
- Shwezigon Paya - open (since 2015 under restoration, dome is covered)
- Thatbyinnyu/That-Byin-Nyu - open
Closed or partially open temples (major temples).
- Ananda OK Kyaung - closed (this is NOT the Ananda Pahto but a small building with murals)
- Bulethi/Buledi - closed
- Mingalazedi/Mingalar Zedi pagoda - closed
- Shwesandaw - closed (*Sunset temple)
- Sulamani - partially open, under restoration.
*]Note: Open means accessible but not ascendable. Most of the sunset temples have been closed in 2017; read more below.
- Gubyaukgyi temple (Nr.298 in Wetkyi-in, near Nyaung-U) - closed
- Gubyaukgyi temple (Nr.1323 in Myinkaba village) - Open
- Lawkaoushaung/Law Ka Ou Shaung Pagoda - Open
- Loka Hteik Pan - closed
- North Guni/Myauk Guni - closed (*Sunset temple)
- South Guni/Taung Guni - Open (*Sunset temple)
- Tayok-pye/Tayoke Pyay - closed
- Thisa Wadi/Thitsarwadi - Open
- Thabeik Hmauk - closed
- Thambula/Tham Bula Paya - closed
- Upali Thein - Open
New sunset viewing sites - the END of pagoda climbing!
The sun has set over the sunset pagodas?
Following the earthquake the government has started to build four new sunset viewing platforms; in august 2017 the construction of these lookout sites was completed. A new viewing site southeast of Sulamani pagoda: mmtimes.com
Once these platforms were finished all major sunset pagodas would be closed. This seems to have happened on 20 October 2017 when the Bagan authorities have closed Shwesandaw Pagoda, albeit temporarily, and the only old sunset temple that is still open is the South Guni/Taung Guni. Source: www.irrawaddy.com
The major sunrise/sunset pagodas were: Shwesandaw Pagoda, Pyathada (Pyathat Gyi/Pyathatgyi), North Guni, South Guni, Bulethi/Buledi, Lawkaoushaung and Mingalazedi temple.
Alternatives for the sunset pagoda's: One possibility is using the viewing platforms, another is the Bagan Viewing tower or Nann Myint; which is actually an upmarket restaurant. Unfortunately it is a bit too far away from the main temples near Old-Bagan so you need a zoom lens from the tower. The Pyathatgyi temple was a better viewing spot. If you go to the Bagan Viewing tower you are supporting the government; the viewing tower is owned by the Htoo Trading Company Ltd. which also operates the Aureum Palace Resort next to it.
Sunset on the Pyathatgyi (PyathaDa/Pyathat Gyi), 2016. These sunset temples will be closed in 2018.
BAGAN earthquake damage Map - April 2017
The map below is a new version modified by me; it has been cropped and improved and the names of major temples have been adjusted to modern spelling (e.g. Dhamma Yazika instead of Dhamma-ya-zi-ka). The major temple names are also in a large font.
The source of the “Accessibility Map” is by these agencies: the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture, the Nyaung U General Administration Office, and the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, supported by JICA (the Japan International Cooperation Agency). They jointly prepared and released the “Accessibility Map” in late August 2016, showing the temples that are not accessible with red squares. Since august 2016 however many temples have been fixed and re-opened; though there is scaffolding and tarpaulin on many temple tops.
Rather surprisingly these ministries have not yet published an updated version of the map since august 2016. The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism has apparently not realized that a map showing most of the temples as closed is not very good marketing; up-to-date information for tourists is frequently not available for Myanmar. The map below is up-to-date as of april 2017.
Bagan earthquake damage map; showing the closed and accessible temples.
Open / Partially / Closed temples.
- OPEN means accessible but not climable. Some temples need restoration and have scaffolding or tarpaulin covering the top.
- Partially open means that you can only visit a part of the temple.
- Closed means seriously damaged and closed for restoration.
The statistics - the number of damaged temples
Of the 2200 temples 453 have had earthquake damage; it is usually the top that has been displaced or fallen off. The quake reduced 17 small temples and stupas to rubble. However most temples have just minor structural damage like brickwork damage and are still accessible. Therefore there is still plenty to see; for example the Sulamani will need extensive repairs but the Htilominlo temple looks strikingly similar - at least on the outside.
The quake damage includes 56 ancient buildings with murals or Jakata wall paintings (mmtimes.com). Many temple tops are scaffolded and partly covered for restoration work; unfortunately they use large orange, blue or green tarpaulins (plastic sheets) for this.
UNESCO Myanmar is now coordinating an international team to work on the monuments. The renovation of the first group of 41 “priority monuments” is expected to take around two years. A total refurbishment of the 453 damaged monuments may cost up to 12 million US-dollars. The famous Thatbyinnyu Pagoda in Bagan will be repaired as a priority: mmtimes.com
Structural damage in temple nr. 998, Januari 2017.
Earthquake damage to pagodas and stupa's.
The Dhamma Yazika / Dhammayazika pagoda has suffered damage to the front entrance; and to the top on the dome. The dome is covered in scaffolding but the temple is open to visitors.
The top of the Dhamma Yazika pagoda has been damaged, January 2017
The quake has destroyed or damaged many small buildings; but also revealed an unknown 11th century stupa which was covered by a more recent brick structure.
The quake has revealed an unknown 11th century stupa.
The Seinnyet sisters - temple or pagoda?
The Seinnyet temples are 2 temples located between Myinkaba and New Bagan, just north of New Bagan. The closest to the road is Seinnyet Ama Pahto which means elder sister; behind it is Seinnyet Nyima Paya, the younger sister. Pahto means temple and Paya means pagoda, so the 2 sisters are actualy one temple and one pagoda. The Ananda Pahto is therefore a temple and not a pagoda, and the same goes for Dhammayangyi Pahto (Dhammayangyi temple).
A temple has at least one entrance but usually 4, so a temple can be visited inside. A Burmese pagoda is a large massive conical shape which can be covered in gold; though it is usually made from cheaper metals like brass. Famous examples of pagoda's are the Shwezigon Paya and Dhammayazika Paya in Bagan, or the Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon which is covered in real gold.
Seinnyet Ama was built by queen Seinnyet; Seinnyet Nyima is a pagoda built in the 12th century by her sister. The top is a stylized umbrella in the form of concentric rings. The foto below shows the typical damage the quake did to many temples: the top has been shaken and damaged, but it is fortunately still standing.
2016 Quake damage to Seinnyet Nyima pagoda
Alternative facts - the Phwa Saw brick monastery.
The Phwa Saw brick monastery is a long-standing error in the Tripadvisor reviews; it has been there for many years - from 2012 to 2017.
The Shwezigon pagoda is the golden pagoda in Nyaung U village; the Phwa Saw brick monastery is an obscure brick monastery not anywhere near Nyaung-U. Now someone foolishly put a photo of the Shwezigon pagoda as a thumbnail on the review of the Phwa Saw brick monastery in Tripadvisor. Because the Shwezigon thumbnail is just a few stupas (?) most people scroll down past it and mistakenly identify the golden pagoda they see as the Phwa Saw brick monastery ... which it clearly is not.
So ALL the Tripadvisor reviews of the Phwa Saw brick monastery are actually about the golden domed Shwezigon pagoda ... hilarious! And if you do an image-google on the Phwa Saw brick monastery you see images of ... the Shwezigon pagoda! Alternative facts can turn a dull brick monastery into a golden pagoda.
The real Phwa Saw brick monastery.
The serious quake damage inside Phwa Saw brick monastery.
Some visitors of Bagan unfortunately do not know the names of the temples they are visiting. The good news is that the real Shwezigon pagoda does get many more reviews than the rather peculiar brick monastery. Many people also confuse the the Ananda Ok Kyaung monastery with the large Ananda Temple, they are adjacent buildings but totally different.
The official name for the Phwa Saw brick monastery is Hsutaungpyi/Hsu-Taung-Pyi monastic complex (different from the Hsu Taung Pyi Pagoda). By the way, it seems the Phwa Saw brick monastery is so seriously damaged that even trying to support it with scaffolding is hazardous; it looks like the vault might collapse during the next monsoon.
UPDATE October 2017: After many years Tripadvisor has finally removed the Phwa Saw Brick Monastery from their reviews.
Links, Youtube and Wikipedia.
- ibtimes.co.uk - Large foto's of the damaged temples.
- flickr.com/photos/kokoye2007 - Large album on Flickr that gives an idea of the damage.
- facebook.com - Large 3D drone foto's of Sularmani Temple, Pyathada, Sitana Gyi and other temples, made on 28-08-2016.
- coupsdecoeurenasie.over-blog.fr - Séisme de magnitude 6,8: des morts et des temples endommagés à Bagan. (Bagan temple damage foto's)
- news.vice.com/fr - Il faut sauver les temples de Bagan. (French).
- facebook.com/IndiaInMyanmar - Ananda Temple is known as the jewel of Bagan and is a symbol of India-Myanmar shared cultural heritage. The Myanmar and Indian governments signed an agreement to restore Ananda in line with international standards. The thorough restoration started in 2012 and will be finished in 2018.
- news.artnet.com - Damage to the Sinphyushin and Tayoke Pyay temples.
- www.irrawaddy.com - Renovation work to nearly 400 earthquake-hit temples in Bagan will start on January 1 of 2017.
Some Youtube video's on Bagans' earthquake damage.
- youtube.com - Lasers and Drones Help Preserve Ancient Temples (Scientific American)
- youtube.com - Drone footage of the North Guni and Sulamani temple damage.
- aljazeera.com - A good explanation why some damage occurred.
Bagan on Wikipedia and other sites.
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About the author: aboutme.htm
I am getting very helpful feedback from travelers so that way I can keep the info and map up to date. If you have any updates on open or closed temples then please mail me at: bytelife AT gmail.com
Copyright © 2017 R. Schierbeek.