Sunrise over Old Bagan
Sunrise over Old Bagan

The chill of the early morning wind was really pleasant in Bagan this time of the year. Yes, I got up early and got out of the hotel just in time when Mime and Chune just arrived at the front gate exactly 5am. We started our ride again to the direction of Old Bagan while I survey the surroundings, now familiar even under the sheaths of darkness ready to wake up any moment. I have no idea which temple Mime plans to take me for the sunrise except that it’s somewhere between Old Bagan and Myinkaba, the next village. He has proven to be very reliable and knowledgeable as a guide aside from being just a horse cart driver so I’ll trust his recommendation this time.

People at the stupa waiting for the sunrise
People at the stupa waiting for the sunrise

The early morning dimness starts to fade as I make out figures of temples ahead of us. Chune again entered a dirt road to a temple, just moderate in size. There was a van there so I expect there were already people there at the top terrace. I pulled my torch and made my way up the narrow staircase which I’m used to climbing by now. When I got up, there were already a few people there and noticed they were mostly photographers as well.

Sun rising over Old Bagan
Sun rising over Old Bagan

“This is perfect!” when I saw the view upon reaching the terrace. Mime was right. It has all the elements I was looking for. I checked my compass to where the sun would rise, the surroundings on potential foregrounds and backgrounds for composition and finally where I would place myself. I climbed up to the 2nd to the top level of the stupa on a corner and grounded myself there.

Some of the temples at Old Bagan
Some of the temples at Old Bagan

The magic began when the sun started rising on the horizon. When long shadows extend on the temples giving them shape and highlight. The light intensified rendering a golden hue to the whole landscape. Meanwhile balloons on the horizon started venturing for the sky. Playfully moving around like a bee, checking out the temples. This was the scene I had imagined I would be seeing and it was right there before my eyes. It was nothing short of magnificent.

Hot Air Balloons rising
Hot Air Balloons rising

A thousand temples scattered in the plains of Bagan dating back to 1000 AD but is still not listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. One reason is they don’t approve of the methods of restoration being done by the junta. But that does not mean UNESCO is not working to preserve them, in fact some people are doing restorations on particular temples damaged from earthquakes. Not all the temples in  Bagan are old, they are already mixed with new temples built by the Junta and it will continue to increase in numbers. “Why so many temples?” I asked. Well for Buddhism, the more the better to say it simply.

Balloons hover over the temples
Balloons hover over the temples

I was satisfied with that morning shoot. When the sun was high some of the people have already left. Again I was one of the last who went down the temple. There was only a lone vendor at the terrace displaying his paintings. I’m won’t mention the name of the temple here, I also noticed it’s not written in any books yet. I know it won’t prevent people from going there and I’m sure people would recognize it from the pictures. But who knows, I hope if ever I come back it won’t be as packed as Pyathada Paya was.

Stupa details
Stupa details

I went back to the horse cart and told Mime it was time for breakfast! It was a great way to start my 4th day in Myanmar and now we’re headed to Myinkaba nearby.

A vendor arranging his paintings for sale as I was about to leave
A vendor arranging his paintings for sale as I was about to leave
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Ferdz
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.

10 Responses to “Bagan: Magnificent Sunrise Overlooking Old Bagan”

  1. I hope you show us the horse carriage.

    I’m sure it’s not only UNESCO that’s overseeing preservation of many of these structures. I know one the World Heritage Fund that seeks to do the same thing.

    I hope to see this someday, inggit.

  2. JODYxBUFFY

    These photos were taken from atop the Minyeingone Pagoda, which is close to Central Bagan. I photographed many of the same scenes as you had. This location is indisputably the best spot for capturing the many-hued colors of the sunrise, as well as the scintillating silhouettes of the temples and balloons. I recommend to anyone aspiring to take photos here is to take some photos with their lens aimed at about 45 degrees to the right of the sunrise line-of-sight. The sidelighting is tremendous!

  3. Update March 24, 2012

    I’ve headed straight to the Minyeingone Temple early today and was surprised that the stairways to the upper level is now gated and locked. I asked a couple of locals and they said that it was closed by the government recently.

    Yes, it sucks.

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