Bagan, the must-see of Myanmar. The old ancient capital. Miles and miles of fields dotted with temples. Thousands of temples. Small temples. Big temples. Temples with tourists and temples with not a soul.
Most people like Bagan. We did. We spent almost two days exploring and probably climbed through, in, up and around maybe 50 temples. Maybe more? Wasn’t keeping track. Electric Motorbikes zip tourists from one temple to the next. So get a bike and join the crowd.
We booked our hotel ahead of time as we heard that Bagan hotels can fill up. The hotels seemed slightly more expensive compared to the rest of Myanmar. We picked one in our price range (20-30 dollars) that seemed to have decent reviews. Wut Hmon Thit it was called. It turned out to be the most drabby hotel room we’ve seen yet. Reminded me a bit of India. Dirty walls. Loud mysterious noises throughout the night. And shame!…no water kettle to make coffee (yes we were getting spoiled). The breakfast was sub-par: instant coffee, a sad slice of watermellon, 4 pieces of dry toast and a oily fried egg. But…by the end of the trip they had won us over by just being so nice.
Electric motorbikes. That is what I think of when I think of Bagan. Oh yeah, there are temples too… but the electric motorbike was our little buddy for the 2 days we were there. We rented ours from our hotel. 8,000 Kyat a day. Lena jumped on the back and we zipped through town.
Zippy seemed to work fine (until the battery died, more on that later). We had no real strategy for viewing the temples. Basically the plan was “explore temples till lunch/oppressive heat.” So we did just that.
We began passing temples and pagodas and pulled into a dusty parking area. We parked the scooter and wandered in and around the temple. Then got back on the motorbike and found a new temple and did it again. Over and over.
Most had Buddhas inside.
Some you could climb stairs and explore the outside and take in the views. Lots of locals selling the usual souvenirs. They were all mostly nice and interesting to talk to. I kept my eye out and I figured I’d buy some stuff the next day.
At noon when it began to get too hot, we zipped back to town and began my daily quest for a “local” place to eat lunch. We passed the strip with the hotels and took a right. We found a tea shop that looked good enough and stopped in. Most of the locals were sipping their tea and some were watching the tv. We ordered Shan Noodles, which were really good. Had a tea afterward then went back to the hotel for a nap.
Back on the motorbike, 3:30pm. We stopped on the tourist-restaurant street for a ice cream. Then back to the temples. How many temples can a person look at? A lot.
Sunset time is important in Bagan. Everyone must climb to the top of a temple and take photos. That is a rule! So we headed to an area with fewer well-known temples, hoping to get away from the crowds. Turned out everyone else had the same idea. Bikes, car and buses kicked up a dust storm as people frantically readied their cameras.
This was when our motorbike battery began to die. Though the battery level was full when we left the hotel after our siesta, it seemed to dip to low very quickly. Maybe driving two people around all day is too much for these things? I shrugged it off at first and we continued our temple-discovering until the danged thing could barely climb a hill. We realized that little zippy wouldn’t be able to take us home. Lucky for us, the phone number for the rental place was on the keychain. Unlucky for us, our cell phones don’t make calls in Myanmar. We approached a guy in a temple parking lot and explained to him our dilemma. He called the company and told them where we were and they arranged to send a guy out.
So we saw our big “Bagan Sunset”at a crowded temple waiting for our ebike guy to come rescue us. We were kinda disappointed but made the best of it. The sunset was nice and the ebike rental guy did eventually show up. He arrived riding what was to be our new fully-charged ebike and rode our “dead” bike away in the dusk. We wondered if he ever made it.
Riding home at night was nice. The air is cool and some of the temples have lights which make them impressive in a different way. We headed back to the street where we had lunch and found the usual Burmese BBQ beer joint to have dinner.
NEXT DAY: Look, buy and leave
The next morning, we tried to wake up really early. Failed. Breakfast upstairs was the same except we had papaya instead of watermelon. Today we would see the temples we had missed the day before. Because yesterday was mostly a free for all, (wandering around the Bagan plains and randomly walking in and out of temples), today we would use our guidebook and read about the temples. Educate ourselves.
We bought some souvenirs: a windchime for 13,000kyat (she started the bargaining at 25,000). We each also picked out a sand painting for 10,000 kyat a piece. The salesman were happy to tell you the meaning of each piece of art. We enjoyed talking to them.
NIGHT BUS to Yangon
We had booked a night bus through our hotel leaving that evening. So before check out we went back and packed up. The hotel was nice enough to let us leave our backpacks there while we explored and waiting for our evening departure.
We had a typical burmese lunch across the street and then another ice cream at the sweet store we found earlier. We explored the big temple down the street and each bought a pillow to take on the night bus.
One of those local pickup taxis arrived at our hotel to pick us up. We sat in the back and stopped at 4 more hotels to pick up more passengers. They eventually brought us to the bus station where we boarded the waiting bus. They gave each of us a snack bag with a soda and we settled down to get some sleep.
Just as I was finally drifting off, listening to music on my ipod, the bus stopped at a highway rest area. They made everyone get off the bus and we all stood around looking at each other wondering whether we should eat or drink something. It was like 2am so nobody seemed into it. They finally let us back on the bus and we tried to get some sleep.
Budget and Expenses for 2 People:
- 44,550- Hotel
- 500- Lg Water
- 8,000- electric Motorbike
- 1,500- sweet tea x2, samosas x6
- 4,600- Lunch: Shan noodle salad, thick noodle salad and tea x2
- 6,700- Dinner: draft beer x4, BBQ skewers okra, pork ribs etc…
- 500- ice cream x1
- 1,500- dessert and more ice cream
67,850 kyat Total
- 400: Large water
- 11,000- woodchimes
- 11,200- elephant painting
- 10,000- tiger painting
- 8,000- electric bike
- 37,000- Overnight bus to Yangon
- 4,500- Lunch: Burmese style
- 2,200- ice cream x2, espresso x1
- 34,000- pillows x2
- 2,800- dumplings and tea
- 500- ice cream x1
- 1,000- plantain chips
122, 600 kyat total