A wrap on some of our favourites
Spread across a vast plain, hemmed in on two fronts by the Ayeyarwady River and home to thousands of monuments, Bagan is an evocative and fascinating place to explore. While some of the monuments are fabulous, the accommodation is generally less so. Spread across three towns kilometres apart, it can be a little difficult for travellers to initially decipher. Here's our primer on the best places to stay in Bagan, for both budget and the more upmarket traveller.
Bagan's accommodation is split across three main areas: Nyaung U and Wetkyi Inn (which we refer to as just Nyaung U) to the northeast, Old Bagan to the northwest and New Bagan to the southwest. Broadly speaking, Nyaung U has the bulk of the budget accommodation, New Bagan has the midrange digs that tend to appeal to tour groups and Old Bagan caters to the more upmarket traveller.
Visiting all of Bagan’s highlights will involve considerable travelling, wherever you elect to sleep. The old and new towns are more in the thick of things, with numerous pagodas within walking distance. Nyaung U on the other hand has more of a real town feel to it, as well as having wider options for eating and drinking. Bagan can get very crowded during high season so overall our suggestion would be to head for quieter New Bagan in peak months and Nyaung U during other periods. If you’re going upmarket, however, head straight for Old Bagan.
But which hotels and guesthouses in particular? Read on. Let's start with Old Bagan. We’re not really convinced by Old Bagan’s upmarket offerings, especially when you look at their inflated prices. While garden-set The Hotel @ Tharabar Gate is probably the classiest option of the lot, we reckon the more old-school Bagan Thande is by far the best deal, if you are splashing out. Riverside Bagan Thande's claim to fame is that the future King Edward VIII stayed here as Prince of Wales in 1922. It's not as slick as newer Old Bagan resorts, but the more authentic feel is what swings it for us.
Do think twice about splurging in Bagan though. Remember you are probably only go to be in Bagan for two or three days, and much of that time will presumably be spent out and about visiting temples. Perhaps stick to midrange in Bagan – very good options exist in the $50 to $80 bracket – and save your money for a balloon ride or splashing out later on a beach resort in Ngapali or Ngwe Saung instead.
In the $50 to $80 price range, a few places stand out. In Nyaung U, Oasis boasts a gorgeous garden and inviting pool, with decent rooms offering standard amenities plus an uncluttered, attractive decor. The location is good, and as is usually the case in Bagan, staff are friendly.
Zfreeti weaves temple references into its architecture without being over the top and is another top pick in this range in Nyaung U. The well-kept rooms represent great value for money. Thante is worth bearing in mind if you're travelling with kids. It has bungalows spread around another well-kept, lush garden. It's not too flashy, but it's appealing, friendly and excellent value for Bagan.
When it comes to budget and flashpacker options in Bagan, it's actully worthwhile spending a few extra bucks for your stay if you can. The bottom of the $10 to $20 range is uninspiring, however if you can jump to $25 to $40, there are some decent room deals to be had.
If you are on a tight budget then we thought Wet Kyi Inn’s Winner Guesthouse was, well, a winner. Homely Bagan Beauty in New Bagan offers clean rooms at low rates. The classiest dorm award goes to Ostello Bello while overall best value for money in the budget to flashpacker category is to be found at Nyaung U at any of the decent New Wave, New Park and Innwa, all in the $25 to $35 range.
Accommodation prices are already higher in Burma than most Southeast Asian countries. In tourist-orientated Bagan, large numbers of high season visitors makes prices jump even more. As there are large numbers of hotels and guesthouses however, this means low season prices can be quite competitive. Low season in Bagan is roughly speaking the months of April, May, June, July, September and October. (Individual hotels’ designated periods may vary.) Even the bad joints can get booked out ahead of time during busy months, so make sure you have reserved in advance at that time of year.
By Mark Ord
Last updated on 11th September, 2016.