Visiting the Bagan temples was the highlight of our trip to Myanmar. I had seen many photos of Bagan and while I knew what to expect, I didn’t expect Bagan to take my breath away. It gave me the same tingles as when I first sighted Angkor Wat. I wasn’t surprised that the kids loved Bagan as well. Here’s our top things to do in Bagan with kids.
We spent 4 awesome days in Yangon with kids and booked an overnight bus to get us to Bagan. We arrived in the dark at about 4 in the morning, I could see the faint outline of temples as the bus was zooming through the countryside to our hotel, Villa Bagan in New Bagan. The kids were tired and grumpy after being pulled off an overnight bus early in the morning and I had booked the hotel from that night expecting to arrive in Bagan closer to 8am.
When the taxi dropped us off I wasn’t sure if it would be open or if our room would be ready. Luckily for us it was open and the team at Villa Bagan checked us in straight away. We went straight to our rooms for a couple of hours sleep before having breakfast at the hotel.
When we arrived we couldn’t see what was around the hotel so when I walked out for breakfast I got the most amazing surprise, we were surrounded by temples, I was eating my breakfast with a 3000 year old temple right in front of me! It’s stuff that dreams are made of.
Top things to do in Bagan with kids
Many people said to me, don’t take the kids to Myanmar yet especially to the Bagan temples, they’ll get bored, they’ll get templed out. I’ve never been one to listen too much to others and I really wanted to go there but I knew I would keep them interested one way or another. What to do in Bagan with kids? There’s plenty!
We were talking to the hotel manager about how to best tour the temples with kids. He suggested we hire e-bikes and explore on our own. E-bikes are electric mopeds or scooters and are a really cost effective way to get around, the e-bikes stay charged for 7-8 hours and cost 4000 khat (AU$4) for half a day and 7000 khat (AU$7) for a full day. We hired the e-bikes on both days we were in Bagan and explored at our own pace.
We took off both mornings at about 9am when it was a bit cooler and stayed out for as long as we could handle the heat. You are able to spend most of your time off the main streets of Bagan and on dirt tracks that take you between the Bagan temples. The e-bikes have 4 gears, however we stayed in 1st gear never going faster then 20-30kms per hour. This was fast enough on the dirt tracks for me especially with Keira on the back.
Many of the Bagan temples were damaged in the 2016 earthquake. Many of them are under repair and covered in scaffolding. Plenty of them are not and you are able to walk through them. Some of them you are still able to climb, taking in the views over the country side with the tips of all the temples in the distance amongst the lush green vegetation. We were lucky to have been in Bagan at the end of the wet season and the red brick temples against the vibrant green landscape was just breathtaking.
We often had a local approach us as we arrived at the temples and they would either show you around or they would take you to a great viewing point for free. Afterwards they would often want to show you their drawings or sand paintings before you leave. These paintings are very cheap, I only paid a couple of dollars for the ones I bought so be polite and have a look there is no pressure to purchase. This is often their only way of making money and they really appreciate you looking even if you don’t purchase something. Many of them are really nice and you might find the perfect piece for your home or for a gift.
We visited a small village not far from Old Bagan, Thiripyitsaya Village. The villagers welcome visitors and will take you on a tour of their home, showing you all aspects of their day to day lives. They spin cotton into thread, make shawls from the cotton, make lacquerware from bamboo and were even pressing peanuts to make peanut oil. It was great to see how their village operated and how they make money to support their families. We bought some lacquerware from their store before leaving.
Sunrise at Bagan Temples with Kids
Viewing the Bagan Temples at sunrise is the highlight of any visit to Bagan. I had my heart set on capturing the perfect sunrise, as we know things don’t always go to plan! Getting up and organised for sunrise with 3 kids is always a bit of a challenge but I’m proud to say that my kids are pretty good about it.
We asked the hotel managers, Ernest and Ping, to organise a driver for us. I didn’t want to take the e-bikes when it was dark and it would also have meant that the kids would’ve had to get up early again. A local driver was organised for 20,000 khat (approx. AU$20). Ping said sunrise was at 5.45am, unfortunately this was the time the sun peaked out and we should have been there 30mins earlier. The sunrise would have been perfect otherwise.
There are a number of different places to experience the sunrise. I would’ve liked to have seen a few sunrises from different areas of Bagan but we were only there two days and the second morning it was raining. I knew that the hot air balloons started in the first week of October. We were in Bagan on the 1st-3rd October and I had planned to book a Bagan hot air balloon flight when we arrived if the weather conditions were suitable. When I arrived I called around and most said they were starting flights on the 6th October. There was one operator that was flying but they were fully booked though. They only had one balloon flight each morning until the season really started. I was really disappointed but once again I should have been more organised.
To book your own experience I highly recommend using Klook Sunrise Hot Air Ballon Experience, you’ll secure a competitive price and it will ensure you get the date that you are looking for.
Sunset at Bagan Temples with Kids
The weather was still a bit erratic when we were in Bagan, it was the end of the wet season and there were still a few afternoon storms around. Our first evening it had been raining in the afternoon but stopped in time for sunset. We headed out on the e-bikes as we were only going 10mins down the road.
We headed off with our map and found the temple we wanted to view it from. I could see the sunset was pretty glorious and I was busting to find the spot to go up to the viewing point. We were walking around a temple but couldn’t find the entrance, I was getting frustrated and the sunset was fading. I then realised I was at the wrong temple! It was the temple next to the one we were at and there were a load of people enjoying the sunset from a great vantage point.
The second night is was stormy and I could tell the sunset wasn’t going to be a cracker. I was determined to go anyway. This time we wanted to go a bit further away to the Nann Myint Viewing Tower. Craig and I had seen it on television and the views looked amazing. It was a bit further away from our hotel and I didn’t want to be riding the e-bikes back so far in the dark so I had the hotel organise a private driver again. We had the same driver for the same price, 20,000 khat approx AU$20 to take us out there.
I was a little surprised when we arrived at the viewing tower and discovered the entrance fee was US$10 per person. I can’t quite remember but I think they charged us full price for Craig, Alannah and myself and half price for Keira and Caelan so still US$40. The view was amazing, you could see temples for miles but the sunset was dismal to say the least. We were nearly the last people to leave and you could see a lightening storm brewing in the distance.
Tours I recommend when visiting Bagan with kids
If you prefer to be more organised and book prior to departure, I highly recommend booking direct with Klook which offers a competitive price and will ensure you are able to book the exact date you want:
Best Hotels in Bagan Myanmar
There are various options for accommodation and its hard to know where to stay in Bagan. Nyaung U is popular with backpackers due to the affordable accommodation, New Bagan is middle of the range, guest houses and Old Bagan is top end, resort style hotels. Here are my top picks, all are family friendly.
- Budget – Bagan Umbra Hotel – well priced with great views of a nearby temple, rooms are a little boxy but the grand deluxe rooms are stylisth and roomy;
- Mid range – Villa Bagan – in my opinion this is my favourite hotel in Bagan Myanmar! This is where we stayed, we had side by side rooms to accommodate 5 people and having just opened 8 months previously it was very clean and new. Eat your breakfast with a great view of nearby temples;
- Luxury – Aureum Palace – top of the range in Bagan, offers high end rooms and villas, spacious grounds and two pools. Nann Myint Tower is located on the grounds of this hotel.
Best restaurants in Bagan
There are plenty of options and you won’t go hungry in Bagan. Our hotel managers recommended Queen Restaurant in Nyaung U, we rode our e-bikes through the dirt tracks from New Bagan over to Nyaung U to have lunch while out exploring the temples one day. Food was fresh and nice and there were a lot of local meal options to choose from.
I tend to steer clear of street food when travelling with the kids, here are some other recommendations for places to eat in Bagan, most are located in restaurant row near Nyaung U. Our hotel had reasonable prices for meals also:
- Sanon – good mid-range Burmese restaurant, lovely tropical settings. Similar to tapas in that dishes are small and meant for sharing. Sanon is a nonprofit training restaurant and provides opportunities to Myanmar youth. Click here for restaurant reviews;
- A Little Bit of Bagan – a fusion of asian cuisines including Thai, Indian, Chinese and Burmese but you will also find western fare such as pasta or sandwiches for more fussy eaters. Click here for restaurant reviews;
- Myo Myo Myanmar Rice Food – much like a yum cha style of tabletop buffet, this restaurant offers 25 small dishes delivered to your table, you only pay for what you eat. Dishes are traditional Burmese dishes and is very reasonably priced. Click here for restaurant reviews.
How to get to Bagan Myanmar
There are a few ways to get to Bagan:
- Fly – both Yangon to Bagan flights and Mandalay to Bagan flights are available numerous times a day, you can book direct or with travel agents on arrival in each city. Flights are generally between US$50-$100 each way;
- Bus – we travelled all around Myanmar on buses, a combination of day and overnight buses are available. There are various levels of comfort from local mini bus to VIP luxury buses. We chose JJ Express who have an app to book you trips and are the most comfortable with reclining seats and only 3 seats per row. You will be provided with a meal, blanket and pillow but be warned there are no toilets on board. You will need to wait until the bus stops which is does a few times each trip. The bus is very cost effective, we paid between US$7-$12 per person per trip. There are regular daily Yangon to Bagan buses, Inle Lake to Bagan buses, Mandalay to Bagan buses and Bagan to Yangon buses;
- Mandalay to Bagan Boat – travel between Mandalay to Bagan by boat will depend on water levels, it is however a very slow trip taking at the very least 10 hours (bus between Bagan and Mandalay is 6 hours). I have been told if the water level is low the river bank is too high to see over which then makes it a very boring trip with nothing to look at. There are 3 different operators which can be booked through your hotel and you should expect to pay approximately US$35;
- Train – the train to Mandalay takes 10 hours, expect to pay US$6-$12, the Yangon to Bagan train takes 16 hours, expect to pay US$40-$50. All my research indicated that the train system is highly unreliable and frequently experienced breakdowns and were often delayed. It is also a very bumpy ride as the tracks are not frequently maintained. Give it a go if you’re game though.
What to pack
When travelling in Myanmar always dress respectfully when planning to visit any temples. Shoulders should be covered as with your knees. I had a skirt that fell to just below my knees and that was fine at nearly all the temples we visited. I had one request I wear a longhi which was provided for a small fee.
I also suggest you carry a shawl, I had a pashmina wrap with me at all times. I was requested to wear it once when I had a t-shirt with a cross over back on, it actually just slipped my mind when I put that particular top on but the shawl was just fine. There doesn’t seem to be an issue with kids, however my 13 yr old was asked to wear a longhi over her shorts a couple of times.
Like all South East Asian countries you can get away with spending as little as US$20 per day if you wanted to. However we travel with a family of 5 and we were closer to US$80 per day, including accommodation, food and e-bike hire. we could have done this a lot cheaper had we not eaten at the hotel, on a good note all hotels in Myanmar come with breakfast included. Overall Myanmar is a very budget friendly destination however I’m not the best person for making or sticking to budgets!
Bagan with kids, my thoughts!
I can highly recommend anyone visiting Bagan with kids to do and see as much as you can. Get out there on the e-bikes, they were so much fun and there is no issue with them getting stolen while you are exploring, it just doesn’t happen, unlike Bali and Thailand. Bagan is like a country town, there is very little traffic and all the traffic drives slowly, even on the asphalt roads.
When you arrive at a temple, there will be locals around, unless its really small. They will approach you, try and sell you some souvenirs but they are very kind and will often show you around or tell you of a better spot or nice view that’s near by.
My advice when travelling in Bagan with kids is get a hotel with a pool, it does get hot in Bagan and we were hot and sweaty after a few hours out on the e-bikes and it was so nice to get back in the afternoon and have a dip and a beer while the kids played in the pool.
I wouldn’t think twice about going to Bagan with kids, my kids enjoyed it and definitely said it was a highlight of their trip to Myanmar. Have you been to Bagan? Leave me a comment below telling me what you thought. I loved it so much I know I’ll be returning there one day but this time I’ll be staying a week!
Sal, Craig & Our3kids