If you are visiting Bagan temples in 2018, be aware that you can’t climb them anymore. There are informative signs about it everywhere, and when you buy the ticket for Bagan’s archeological zone they also tell you about it.
Actually, I met a few people that didn’t pay for this zone fee. Yes, that’s weird but it’s possible. One guy entered the zone walking and we guess that’s the reason why. The other one I met was in the back of the bus so full of stuff around him that no one noticed he was missing to pay. haha
Anyway, one of the coolest things to do in Bagan was climbing the temples to watch either the sunset or the sunrise. You will also find the information about the best of Bagan temples to climb on the web, but that information is now useless. You can’t climb them and I didn’t know so I was sad about it when I got there. On the top of the temples, you can get an amazing view of the surrounding area and it’s just breathtaking.
But, you can still find a few that you can “illegally” climb. I just found 2 temples that I was able to climb. The other ones have some kind of “fence” that doesn’t allow you to climb the stairs up. Still, I got the chance to have 2 different views from the top of temples. I was with Sofia and we really wanted a good spot to watch the sunset so we asked the locals, as the information on the internet is not so useful.
There is a “hill” close to Sulamani temple, one of the most important ones, that was advice to us. This hill I bet is the most popular place for sunset now. It was full of people!!! Luckily we headed to the spot a while before sunset so we found a good spot. As the sunset time is getting closer, more and more tourists arrive and this place is full of people. Everyone has their camera ready. On the bottom of the hill, you see professional photographers with massive cameras running from side to side to get the best spot. With all the buzz around, I realized that I’m looking as silly as them for not enjoying the moment while searching for the best place like nuts. So at a time, I put my modest camera down and appreciate the breathtaking view while the sun leaves us.
Besides this spot, there is a tower that was constructed in the middle of the archeological zone that you can see from far. It is definitely the tallest place around to watch the sunset. We decided we wouldn’t pay to see it. But this tower leads to some controversy as people complain it doesn’t fit the whole view from Bagan. It is called Bagan Nan Myint Tower.
“Unfortunately, the tower (built in 2005) is a complete eyesore, and should never have been built in the midst of such an important archaeological zone.”- from Lonely Planet
But why can’t you climb Bagan temples anymore?
In case you don’t know, Bagan was hit by an earthquake in 2016. You can still see the damages in some of the temples and this is also a reason why you can’t climb them anymore. After the earthquake, some pagodas with viewing sites were damaged, leading authorities to disallow sightseeing. There have been serious concerns that the old pagodas in Bagan are not strong enough to support the large crowds that go there to watch sunsets and sunrises. In fact, you can still see nowadays the damages this earthquake made in several Pagodas. Some of them still have their tops covered for works.
Another reason why you climb Bagan’s temples anymore is that there was one American tourist dying from a fall on a pagoda when she climbed it. That was in November 2017. Tourists still climb the structures ignoring the fact that they are such an old architectural construction and suffered many natural disasters along the years.
“An ancient pagoda near Wattanathaw pagoda collapsed due to tourists’ weight, he said, adding that “we don’t know yet the details; whether the tourist slipped off or fell due to the weakness of the structure.”- U Aung Aung Kyaw-
The temples I climbed had their staircase open, so that’s why I went up. But there are still people trying to climb anyway from the outside of the pagoda. It is a dangerous move and you aren’t helping the preservation of this majestic place.