It’s drafty and dark, and It feels like you’re walking around the deck of a ship. And there’s a good reason for that. The pagoda is made entirely of teak, a timber long prized in shipbuilding and boatbuilding. It’s held up by 267 massive posts of teak, the largest of which is 60 feet high and 9 feet in circumference. The floors and walls are also made of teak. Making this today would be prohibitively expensive even if you could still find solid teak trunks like this anymore.
The Bagaya Monastery (Bagaya Kyaung) was built in 1834 during the reign of King Bagyidaw. But it’s actually the second attempt–the original, which dated back to 1593, burned down in 1821.
Amarapura, just south of Mandalay City, was the royal capital of Burma during periods in the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s now no more than a township and has long been subsumed as part of Mandalay City. But it’s still quite rural, with what were once opulent stone pagodas and palaces destroyed by earthquakes and now overgrown.
The palace grounds are now mostly gone, but besides being surrounded by rice paddies now, Bagaya Monastery is still in full working condition, albeit sparsely inhabited. Being constructed of wood was a curse when it came to fire, but it has proved a virtue for surviving the earthquakes like the one in 1838 that destroyed nearly all of the royal palace nearby, leaving only part of the famous leaning watchtower.
Intricately carved wood inside and out are its main decorate; the main shrine is unusually modest. The layout of the central core is quite similar to the Shwenandaw Golden Palace Monastery in Mandalay City, but it’s much less ornate and isn’t entirely covered with gold leaf.
The main wooden structure remains in place. In the 1990s, the government added some stone steps and structure to help bolster it.
Photos of Bagaya Monastery / Bagaya Kyaung
What to Know Before You Go
To get to the temple, you’ll first have to arrive at Amarapura, probably by boat. The most common and convenient way to get to the monastery is then by horse cart. Scooters might also make it, but could struggle in the muddy conditions. You’ll go past the leaning watch tower on the way, as well as some other old ruins.
Travel Advice for Myanmar (Burma)
You can find the latest U.S. Department of State travel advisories and information for Myanmar (Burma) (such as entry visa requirements and vaccination requirements) here.
The British and Australian governments offer their own country-specific travel information. You can find the British Government's travel advice for Myanmar (Burma) here and the Australian Government's here.
Health & Vaccinations
The CDC makes country-specific recommendations for vaccinations and health for travelers. You can find their latest information for Myanmar (Burma) here.
Guidebooks for Myanmar (Burma)
If you're looking for a guidebook to make the most of your visit, these are some of the most popular ones currently for Myanmar (Burma). Some are available in both paper and e-book formats.
- Guides, Insight (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- DK Eyewitness (Author)
- Lonely Planet
- Lonely Planet (Author)
- DK Publishing (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
Travel Insurance For Your Trip to Myanmar (Burma)
I never travel without travel insurance, and I've run into several situations where I've had to make claims. I consider it essential.
But shopping for travel insurance can be a pain and confusing. Thankfully, there are some travel insurance comparison sites that show you a wide range of plans, make it easy to compare coverage, and can save you money at the same time. And the coverage can be much better tailored to your specific needs than the checkbox offering at travel booking sites or through your credit card.
These are some good places to shop for travel insurance for your next trip to Myanmar (Burma) :
Hopefully, you won't need it, but if something goes wrong, you'll sure be glad you have it!