Bagan : Of sunrises and sunsets

5.30 am:  Bagan standard time

I pant as I climb the massive steps of the Shwesandaw Pagoda in a jiffy. I was here yesterday. But today was different. I scramble up the stairs of the ancient seven stored pagoda in pitch darkness and reach the top. The place is teeming with some 100 odd tourists. I lose count of the tripods.

The break of dawn


Finding an empty spot for myself , I see that the lower level of the pagoda is filled with people too.

Bagan sunrises must be precious. No wonder the Shwesandaw pagoda is rated one of the finest places to catch one in Bagan.
The sun isn’t up yet and there is pin drop silence.

Occasional movements, a few murmurs but a disciplined calm.

All eyes fixed in one direction. All waiting in patience and excitement at the same time.

Hello sunrise!


I wait anxiously for the hot air balloons to go up.

After all that is the one picture every photographer aspires to have. Hot air balloons over the ancient pagodas, gleaming in the morning hues.

Sunrise over the pagodas


Gradually a spot of light appears in the sky, in an oblong shape, behind a massive pagoda, silhouetting it.

The silhouetted Pagoda


The magic is yet to unfold and all the surrounding stupas stand in silence, as if smiling at all of us waiting to see the show of a lifetime.

Bagan sunrise over the pagodas


It’s ironic. The excitement isn’t visible. Faces are stoic. But it can be felt in the silence. The anticipation of how magnificent the sunrise is doing the rounds not in mindless babble but in the unanimous focus.
The oblong shape of light has now turned a mild orange, increasing in length and saturation.

Sunrise at Bagan


The morning haze is slowly disappearing and countless stupas are now coming to light.

The glorious Bagan sunrise

It feels like waking up with the pagodas. The shutterbugs are going crazy. I can hear a zillion clicks in a minute, punctuated with sounds of birds.

Pagodas of Bagan in the morning mist


No whirring of cars, no mobile beeps, no small talk.

The sun rises celebrating this little get together of strangers, but not in its usual, cliche fashion.

The crowds at the Pagoda


It’s now a fiery orange, like an invisible dragon is emitting fire on the pagoda.

The fiery sunrise


There is no sign of the hot air balloons. Probably the weather didn’t permit them to fly today.

I did not get my cliche Bagan shot. But nature never disappoints. As the morning light swept over the landscape, I break into a smile.

Morning hues of Bagan



Thousands of miles away from home, in the company of absolute strangers, I saw one of the finest sunrises of my life.

Good morning Bagan




5.30 pm: Bagan standard time

The waters of the Irrawaddy river shimmer as we board the boat for the sunset river cruise.

The prelude to magic


Now known as the Ayeyarwaddy river, the river is the largest river of Myanmar and the waterway that connects all the major cities: Mandalay, Bagan and Yangon.

River Irrawady

Kids run along waving goodbye as the boat leaves the jetty, chasing the sunset.


Of boats and clouds


Cane furniture on furnished teak wood planks welcomes me as I wait for the boat to pick up speed.

It doesn’t.

In fact it sways away at its own unhurried pace, as if complimenting the lilting waters of the river.

River Irrawaddy
The silty waters of River Irrawaddy

This isn’t for people hunting for turquoise waters or fancy water shows. Nor for people wanting to hop onto a boat for loud music and cheer.

Perhaps it is for the ones who’d like to chase a sunset, slowly, soaking in the life of the Burmese delta.
The water is silty, the river is wide and unending. Boats cruise up and down as I engage in my favourite hobby: Sky watching.

Cloud play

The patterns of the clouds immediately draw my attention as the sky turns mellow then dramatic.

Drama in the sky



As the cloud formations change, temples of Bagan can be seen at a distance, emerging from the greens.
Doreen’s singing completes the scene with her soft notes matching the sounds of the river.

Sunset over the river

Time has in a way come to a halt. One of those moments you don’t ‘do’, you just ‘experience’ and let them wash themselves on you.

Cloud play in Bagan

In the morning I was so excited, anxious and waiting. But sunsets are different. There isn’t an impending wait for the sun to drown. It is savoured slowly, the dance of the clouds, the change in the hues, the hide and seek drama ( as if the sun threatens “ok bye” but still lingers on).



And finally bids adieu, sinking in the waters of the Irrawaddy, letting twilight take charge.



The sky is now a deep purple and the lights of cruise liners blink away.

Twilight hues


These are huge and fully furnished with cabins, mostly ferrying passengers who choose to experience Myanmar cruising on the river. To know more, you can read about slow boat experience from Mandalay to Bagan.

On some days you run around with an inherent FOMO ( fear of missing out) and try and tick as many things as possible on your list.

For other days, there are sunrises and sunsets.


60 thoughts on “Bagan : Of sunrises and sunsets

  1. I really don’t have words to describe these beautiful moments. I wish the balloons had gone up that day. I can imagine what a scene that must have made! May you get an opportunity to be there again.

  2. That last line… So true especially when we catch ourselves living like life’s a to-do list irrespective of whether we are travelling or not.

    I am going to try not telling you how much I’m in love with your photographs 😛

    1. True. Whether we are traveling or not. That is a reminder to simply savour the little nothings of life which are in fact everything 🙂 Thanks so much for appreciating Elita 🙂

  3. Incredible photos. I love sunrise and sunsets, although I never get up in time to catch a sunrise ha ha. Sunset over water is my absolute favorite. Those stupas in Myanmar look so beautiful! And the river is indeed large; it looks like sea on the photos. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Wow wow wow, simply amazing. 2016 was my first year- when I experienced both sunrise and sunset at the same spot. I think there’s amazing happiness in it. Loved it 🙂

  5. I love sunsets more than the sunrises. Don’t know why but the clouds dancing in the sky during dusk always amazes me. Loved all the shots, Divyakshi! A very unique sunrise and sunset I would say, yet beautiful and serene! 🙂

  6. I have a problem with all the beautiful places getting popular and for me photography is almost speaking to myself where I want no interference . Do you feel like this where at a beautiful place you were alone with your camera ? Liked the post as always

    1. Exactly Anin. Some beautiful places have been ruined by irresponsible tourists. While it is indeed difficult to get solo moments at the ‘touristy’ places, I feel grateful that I manage to go off beat to find serenity and me -time with my camera. Sheer bliss!

  7. I was waiting to read your Myanmar posts and the wait did pay off! 😀 I am also kind of glad you got way better pics that the cliched Bagan ones 🙂

  8. So magical, the show that unfolds in nature every day, morning and evening and yet leaves us wanting for more. Love all your shots Divsi, the kaleidoscope of hues in the sky are gorgeous!

    1. Thanks! 🙂 For architecture photography it does get a little annoying. Especially with the selfie- diesase doing the rounds 😀 It really is difficult to find secluded spots and when you do, it best to keep it under the wraps 😀

    1. Thanks Niranjan 🙂 Sky watching indeed is therapeutic 🙂 Love sunrises more. They bring along freshness of a new beginning and with it lots of hope 🙂

  9. Divsi your images and words both had me in your sway! I felt I was there with you, marvelling the gradual dawn, going on the beautiful ride o the river, watching the myriad hues of the sky overhead shifting effortlessly from frame to frame. Lovely, lovely!

  10. Oh how beautiful are your photos. Twilight is my favorite time… In Sydney, I visit the same spot again and again to witness the magical moment. Absolutely loved how slowly you described the moments before sunrise… Quite an anticipation there. 🙂

  11. Absolutely captivating pictures, Divyakshi, and well done on the post too. I was there by your side looking at the sunrise. Great work!

  12. Love the way you have chronicled the sun from sunrise to sunset. Gorgeous pics of the hues of the sky with some complimentary commentary! All in all a great read. Cheers

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