Accessibility Myanmar

Bagan: wheelchair strolling in the valley of the thousands pagodas

17 November 2017

After two days discovering Mandalay, here we are on the road to Bagan! After four hours we arrive at the hotel Bagan Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort, in the middle of the afternoon. We are grinning from ear to ear! A magnificent swimming pool with view on the Irrawadi river is waiting for us! That’s great as our next visit is scheduled for tomorrow morning. Without a second thought we jump in the water!

Just a few more minutes please and I promise I'm going out!

Just a few more minutes please and I swear I’m going out!

Pagodas for as far as the eye can see

After a relaxing bath and a good night of sleep, let’s explore the historic site of Bagan gathering more than 2500 pagodas dispersed all around the valley. Yesterday, on the pathway leading to our hotel we already saw many of them.

This temple is really close to the hotel.

This temple is really close to the hotel.

To get off a good start, our guide takes us at Bagan artificial hill from where we can admire the vast plains. There are so many pagodas of different size everywhere, even until the horizon!  Most of them were built during the 11th and 12th centuries.

View from the top of the artificial hill.

View from the top of the artificial hill.

To reach the top of the hill it is possible to park at the bottom of it and then roll between two posts before going up a short earthy slope. The help of another person will be necessary to push the wheelchair while going up and holding it while going down. Space between posts is not so wide: my wheelchair just fitted in it (photo in the gallery). Some wheelchairs might not fit.

Pagode Shwe Zi Gon

Bagan is overflowing with too many pagodas to be able to see them all so our guide chose some for us. Let’s start the day by visiting the Shwe Zi Gon pagoda. Just as the Kuthodaw pagoda in Mandalay, this one is fully gilded. The main building was built during the 11th century and then, over the years, many other little temples were built around. All these later constructions are not surprising when we know that building a worship place is one of the ways, for many buddhists, to reach a better karma.

Thanks to donations, the pagoda is regild every 4 to 5 years.

Thanks to donations, the pagoda is regild every 4 to 5 years.

The main entrance is through a covered alley but there are steps. It is possible to enter by the back of the building by asking the guards. However, after entering this way, there is a very big step (about 30 to 40cm). This is the last obstacle.

Ananda temple

After the Shwe Zi Gon pagoda we go straight to the Ananda temple, also known as the four buddhas temple. It got this name because it holds a sanctuary sheltering a 9 metres buddha at each cardinal point. Nonetheless only two of the four buddhas are said to be original. Indeed the temple was damaged by many earthquakes along the centuries.

Kakusandha buddha.

Kakusandha buddha.

While these buddhas statues are impressive, I was also charmed by the Indian inspiration architecture of the temple. I found the outside very beautiful even if it is not gilded, except for the spires. It is also enjoyable to roll in the temple corridors to discover Indian style buddhas gardians statues and the many slabs illustrating stories of Buddha’s life. In some places we can even see the drawings covering the original wall, before they painted all over it during a restoration, after the second world war.

Spires were regild in 1990 on the occasion of the 900th temple birthday.

Spires were regild in 1990 on the occasion of the 900th temple birthday.

Regarding accessibility, the temple is quite easy to visit in a wheelchair. There are small steps here and there but it should be ok with a transportable ramp.

Dhamma Ya Zi Ka pagoda

Time is running out. It is already mid-afternoon. Consequently Dhamma Ya Zi Ka pagoda is the last one we will visit in Bagan before going to watch the sunset. This temple is smaller and quieter than the others we visited. It is pleasant. We can take a walk around calmly and look at the pagoda close up.

The golden roof is being restored because it was damaged during the 24th of August 2017 earthquake. The scaffolding structure surrounding the top of the pagoda is surprising. It is fully made of bamboos and perfectly fit the pagoda shape. According to our guide, the restoration is supposed to last about a year. Indeed this 6.8 intensity earthquake caused many damages: Dhamma Ya Zi Ka pagoda is only one of the 171 religious building which were damaged.

We can see the first level pathway before the stairs. The second one, not accessible, in after the stairs.

We can see the first level pathway before the stairs. The second one, not accessible, is after the stairs.

Regarding accessibility, there is a small step followed by a normal size step at the entrance. After those steps there is a pathway going around the pagoda. There is a good view on the pagoda from there. The upper level is not accessible as there are stairs. While going around with the car I saw a possible alternative entrance on the right side when facing the pagoda. Now the gate seems to be abandoned and closed but if it possible to re-open it it should lead directly to the first level pathway. I suggested this possibility so let’s hope it will be possible to use this entrance soon.

Bagan sunsets’ magic

The sun already started to go down in the sky. I feel there is still so much to see in this valley. So let’s enjoy the rest of the day and let’s go stroll in the fields, surrounding by pagodas. Those ones are not dressed with golden clothes, they proudly reveal their red bricks. The sun light is amazing at this time of the day. It illuminates pagodas, displaying their orangey colours and making shadows dance on them.

This photo does not do it justice, the lighting is just so surreal!

This photo does not do it justice, the lighting is just so surreal!

When we see this show it is easy to understand why Franck felt in love with this place. We could have stayed for a long time to admire this dance of colours and to take pictures of it but unfortunately the sun is running away and the show will end in a few minutes. So let’s enjoy this magic sunset until the end of it! Let’s climb on the top of a ruin, next to Dhamma Ya Zi Ka pagoda. From there we observe one last time the beauty of this vast plains sprinkled with thousands of pagodas.

Last magic notes on the plains... until tomorrow.

Last magic notes on the plains… until tomorrow.

It is easy to gaze at the last rays of sunlight in a wheelchair from the plains. There is no need to enter into temples so there is no steps issue. The ground is sandy but dense enough to be able to roll on it, even if obviously it is not as easy as on tiles!

However observing the sunset from a pagoda or a ruin rooftop is not possible without climbing stairs. I had to climb about twenty steps to reach the top of the ruin where we were.

Accessibility in Bagan

  • Visiting Bagan is not really visiting a city. It is a vast area to discover. Consequently there are no sidewalks issue as there is none of them. The many temples are scattered around many kilometres so transport is necessary to explore around. Most of the people rent a bicycle or an electric scooter but unfortunately this solution is not always possible for a disabled person. It is possible to hire a driver (with or without a guide) for a day via a travel agency which will organise this for you.
  • Regarding accommodation, we stayed at Bagan Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort. Going around the resort with a wheelchair is easy thanks the ramps allowing  you to go everywhere: reception, restaurant and swimming pool (however there are three steps without handrail to enter in the water). There is also a ramp to access the room  (B063) even if it is not perfect as it is made of wooden boards superposition. The room is very enjoyable as it is spacious enough to move inside with a wheelchair and it made possible to transfer from a wheelchair to the bed from side to side. Unfortunately the bathroom is not accessible as it is too narrow to roll in with a wheelchair. Regarding the service, staffs members are very considerate and helpful. They offer help very often, especially when going around the place.
The B063 room wheelchair ramp.

The B063 room wheelchair ramp.

If you would like to have more information about travelling in Myanmar you can read about the few days we spent in Bagan and in Mandalay.

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This post has been sponsored by Myanmar Accessible Tourism Center and Mira Travels agency, as they invited me over. However, opinions expressed here are my own.

1 Comment
  1. Reply


    18 November 2017

    Fantastic post! I have linked to it on so that other wheelchair using travellers interested in this destination can read your experiences.


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