How can’t you be skeptical about a 12 hours trip on a bus in Myanmar? Well we had the most comfortable experience on a bus ever, for real. Not many seats but large, extendible, with blankets and snacks. In a moment outside the sun was rising waking us up and still dazed we catch a taxi (on’t even try with Grab here, it doesn’t exist) the ridden us to the archeological area. We stopped to pay the entrance to the area (about 16€/25k Kyatt for 5 days), inn beautiful Bagan, looking for magic!. We had the coldest ride ever since the windows of the van were nonexistent or broken.
After the check-in and breakfast we needed to find some cash because in Myanmar in most of the places, even in very nice hotels, they accept just cash, and the atm was the only solution but with big commissions. We found a super kind man renting electric scooters (3,5€ per day) along the road and we finally started our adventures in Bagan. Scooters that are definitely not fast but eco friendly and in a archeological park like that it’s actually a great idea.
The first thing to do is to download the app maps.me and the Bagan map that first of all is pretty accurate with many pagodas and temples indicated and also many nice view points. We tried to make a day plan starting from the Swezigon Pagoda and then going down but it’s useless.
The best thing to do in Bagan is to wander around discovering always new sites among the more 4000 pagodas and temples. Some spots are hidden and adventorous to find, others are more touristy. Around a big pagoda there’s always a sort of market with locals selling souvenirs and local products. Sometimes they are pretty insistent, but bargaining a bit you can find really good deals.
Wandering around we bumped into many amazing hidden spots, with nobody around, peaceful areas where it’s also nice to stop. There you can relax, read, meditate if you prefer. It’s possible to enter in every pagoda and temple but, like everywhere in Myanmar, you need to take the shoes off, so remember to bring disinfectant tissues to clean your feet every time.
Once in beautiful Bagan looking for magic, sunset is a great moment on maps.me there are many places to check but most of them are well known and touristy. So we checked few till we find a quite one with less people, the others are almost immediately crowded and reached by busses with a lot of tourists. In our case Chinese ones because we were there during the Chinese New Year, so it was basically impossible to take nice pictures.
The day after we decided to check other sunset spots. We spent most of the time on the Bagan Viewing Tower because in the morning at the ticket office they reassured us about the fact that there wouldn’t have been chinese people since it was the NYE for them. Well, there were just chinese. A huge crowd of people screaming and I didn’t move all the time. It has been pretty hard to find a spot offering a good chance for pictures, personally I elbowed in a lot!
You can’t go to Bagan without waking up early to enjoy the sunrise. Anyway it’s about being lucky because the lights are not aways amazing as expected. In our case in fact the sunrise was nothing special. The sky was not colored as I hoped and it was bit foggy and misty, that could be fascinating but not spectacular.
maps.me gives also spots to enjoy it, plus pagodas to climb, but it’s forbidden even if there’re locals bringing tourists to climb some hidden ones to raise a bit of money. If you find a good spot anyway you can appreciate the spectacular view of all the pagodas that creates the best background for the hot hair balloons flying over Bagan. In case someone’s interested they cost 300€ per person!
Both days have been long and exhausting because there are no roads among the temples. Just trails and a lot of dust going inside your eyes, your nose, your mouth..everywhere. So remember to bring a mask and sunglasses otherwise it starts to be seriously annoying. During the day is always hot but towards the sunset the temperature starts to drop significantly so bring a light jacket with you.
As anticipated, bring a lot of cash with you to avoid high commission at the atm. Furthermore they don’t accept all the credit cards, we had an hard time there! The country in general is still developing (their PIL is increasing 8% a year) but for many aspects they are not ready yet to host mass tourism properly. Not many people speak an understandable english, not even in big structures.
Bagan is definitely not a party town and it’s definitely better to enjoy the peace offered by the context, also to recover energies for the next days riding around. On the road from New Bagan to Old Bagan there are many places where to stop to eat and drink something. The first area is the one with a bit of life, some bars and restaurants, but New Bagan is perfect to have a drink or a quick dinner before to go at the hotel to rest.
I was wondering about this place a lot months before to start my trip and Bagan is a real highlight. Stunning and fascinating, became part of UNESCO World Heritage list just in 2019 because the SPDC was restoring the monuments without using the original techniques and not using proper materials. Furthermore the locals are incredibly kind and welcoming, the atmosphere is magical and there’re amazing vibes wherever you go. Once in beautiful Bagan looking for some magic you realize that you are gifted for the simple fact that you are there. You feel that you need to be respectful toward everything’s surrounding you and those feeling won’t never leave you.
It’s time to move now, and with great expectations and an uncomfortable trip we reached Mandalay.
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