With over 2,200 pagodas in Bagan, it is safe to say that you will not struggle to find somewhere special to watch the sunrise from. We decided to visit Lawkaoushaung Pagoda, just to the west of the far busier Shwesandaw Pagoda, which offers spectacular 360 degree views across the countryside.
We arrived shortly after 5am and found the temple still padlocked, but the family who tend to the temple were on hand to unlock it, and show us the way to the narrow stairway by which you can access the second and third stories of the Pagoda which act as viewing platforms.
All in all, I would say there must have been around 20 people there to watch the sunrise, certainly not deserted, but far quieter than some of the bigger pagodas we could see from our vantage point.
Of course everyone was there for the same reason and we waited in almost total silence until the sun slowly rose on the horizon, casting its glittering rays across the Myinkaba plain, illuminating distant temples through the early morning mists.
Be sure to stay until past 06:30 as this was when the hot air balloons started to slowly rise over the Pagodas, adding a whole new magical element to the sunrise. I had left it too late to book a balloon trip on this occasion as it was such a last minute decision to visit Bagan but I will absolutely 100% be going back to experience sunrise from a hot air balloon as it looked truly incredible.
Wherever you choose to watch the sunrise from please remember to treat the temples with respect. I know I sound like a broken record but they are important historical and religious structures and should not be clambered all over, at the risk of damaging thousands of years of history, for that special Instagram shot. I was also saddened by how many people were in vests, crop tops and hot pants. Remember to cover shoulders, cleavage and down to your knees as a show of respect and remember that these are religious sites.
There was quite a scandal earlier this year when photos of tourists behaving “badly” at the temples in Bagan and had they still have been in the country (turned out the photos were a couple of years old) they would have been arrested for insulting Buddhism which is definitely not the kind of memory you want to have of visiting such a spectacular place.