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click here to start reading from the beginning – Myanmar 1: Yangon
I was super excited to be heading to Bagan next. Ever since seeing all those wonderful pictures on Instagram of hot air balloons going up over the temples during sunrise this spot was on my bucket list and kind of my reason for coming to Myanmar.
Of course, the reality was different. It all started when John, my travel mate, and I were dropped of at the bus station outside of Bagan instead of right at our hotel as we were actually promised. We climbed out of the minivan only to run into dozens of taxi drivers yelling at us. Great, this was not how we expected everything to start. In the end we figured that we didn’t have a choice but to get to our hotel by taxi, walking there was impossible with all our luggage. The next surprise was already waiting around the corner. Before we reached our hotel, we stopped in front of a small hut where both of us had to pay 25.000 Kyatt entrance fee which was valid for 5 days. I am pretty sure that this was the most expensive day in Myanmar I have had in that entire month.
Our hotel turned out to be quite alright. First, we had trouble to find a cheap place to stay in Bagan and we still paid more than in most other places but our room was massive and the hotel owner spoke English fluently which was great. After checking in he showed us to our room on the first floor. There was a super comfy bed in the ginormous room as well as a pretty shitty looking one. Thank god I won the good one in a round of scissor, paper, rock. Our bathroom was unfortunately not as nice as the rest of the room. It smelled funny and the water from the shower was flooding the whole bathroom. Even hours later we were still standing in ankle-deep water.
It was already late afternoon but John and I decided to rent some e-scooters anyway and drive around for a while before the sun was setting. We actually managed to see quite a bit. We drove along the sand roads and stopped at several temples that were literally everywhere. Just before sunset we reached the Irrawady river and decided to watch the sun go down over the hills behind the river. There was a pretty white little temple where we sat down on a wall. What first seemed like a great idea turned out to be quite the opposite. Apparently we found a super popular spot for sunsets… Within minutes the whole temple was flooded with people. A lot of Chinese travellers were making photoshoots all around us. I guess it’s unnecessary to say, that we did not enjoy the sunset. Well, to be honest it was actually quite funny to watch the hundreds of photoshoots happening around us. As soon as the sun had set, everybody vanished again as fast as they had come and we sat there for a few more minutes before driving back to the hotel.
To our surprise there was a little gym not too far from our hotel where we headed straight after. The workout was great after sitting in a van all day. When we realised it was almost 9 p.m. already we quickly headed towards a restaurant John had already found on the internet. Luckily it was still open and the owner served us a big meal of rice, ginger salad, potatoes and all kinds of vegetables. While eating we were constantly asked for photos by local visitors which was quite amusing. We’ve had a great time there and the drunk owner told us some interesting stories about the little town. The next morning we planned to finally tick off another thing on our bucket list, our first sunrise in Bagan was waiting. We had already rented e-scooters so that we could drive off straight after waking up.
I didn’t need my alarm clock to wake up though. Early that night I was woken up by my stomach and it turned out that I had a really bad food poisoning. John went out anyway but he came back around 8 a.m. that morning truly disappointed. It was literally impossible to find a good spot to watch the sunrise because almost all temples were shut by the government. When he finally found a spot, there were hundreds of other people. I guess I didn’t miss that much after all…
In the afternoon John came back with some bread, bananas and tea for me which I was super thankful for. Unfortunately, he started feeling bad as well. In the end we both stayed in bed for four whole days without moving and feeling absolutely horrible. On the last day I at least managed to drive around Bagan once more with an e-scooter and do some grocery shopping. I also tried to find us a way to get to Mindat, where we wanted to head to next. Even most tour operators had never heard about this place but in the end I found a guy, that knew a guy that was driving to Mindat the next afternoon from Pakkoku, a small town nearby. The guide promised to pick us up around noon the next day to drive us there so that we could jump into the mini van going to Chin State.
Even though we weren’t feeling a 100 percent fit, we were both looking forward to a change in location. The cold mountain air would for sure be good for us.
TO DO IN BAGAN
Temples, Temples, Temples: This is literally the only thing to do in Bagan. There are so many of them and you could spend days just driving around exploring. I have visited quite a lot temples on my travels so far including some of the biggest such as Ayutthaya and Angkor Wat but this was still definitely worth a visit. It is not as packed (well, it for sure is in certain spots for sunset and sunrise) and you can explore everything by yourself.
Boat tour: There were many locals asking us if we wanted to join a sunset cruise but we decided not to do it. The first evening when we were watching the sunset there were about 50 boats right in front of us completely filled with tourists. All boats were only driving about 500 meters before stopping for sunset. Quite unnecessary. There might be better operators though, we didn’t do much research after seeing this.
Hot air balloon ride: With about 250 Dollars not the cheapest thing to do in Myanmar for sure. We’ve heard different things about the hot air balloon rides. Some people were complaining about having to squeeze into the basket with way to many people. Other people we spoke to were super happy with the tour on the other hand.
There are not that many other things to do in Bagan. We found a gym which was alright. There is a golf course as well. The spa I found in Bagan was super unprofessional, can’t recommend.
HOW TO GET THERE AND AROUND
It is super easy to get to Bagan from Mandalay. There are several buses leaving every day. You can even get there by boat which is way slower and about triple the price though.
To get around Bagan you can rent a bicycle or e-scooter pretty much everywhere. There are also horse carriages and big tour busses if you don’t want to go all by yourself.
GOOD TO KNOW
There is a 25.000 Kyatt entrance fee which is valid for five days. We bought the tickets but never got checked afterwards.