A Travellerspoint blog

Bagan, Myanmar



We caught an overnight bus from Yangon to Bagan, with JJ bus company. We'd definitely recommend them as a mode of transport; hostess with a drink & snacks trolley, plenty of leg room to recline and more importantly the journey time took exactly the 9 hours they'd promised...none of these frustrating delays we'd heard about.


When we arrived at the bus station we were greeted by the usual mayhem; local men shouting and pestering for our custom. They claimed to offer "good price" for their taxivan to the hotel, however then proceeded to try and rip us off. Us, alongside another group of 5 backpackers, refused to pay their 5000 kyat per person transfer and after 30 minutes of arguing we all walked away...only to miraculously find them chasing us to offer the ride for 2000 kyat per person instead (I'm sure it's supposed to be even less than that in reality).


We'd got a lovely room at Northern Breeze Hotel and luckily for us they let us check in straight away to catch up on some much needed sleep. The room rate included a lovely breakfast with fresh fruit, omlette chef and bread & jams. Plus our view at breakfast included a sky filled with hot air balloons floating past. We also hired their e-bikes to explore Bagan on. Couldn't have asked for more.


Unfortunately our first day was a write off... Jason woke up ill! Let's just say he needed to spend the day being very close to a toilet...oh dear! It was an excuse for me to have a relaxed day too; catching up on blogs, editing photographs, reading and watching Dexter. The only thing I didn't like was having to dine on my own; I'm not sure I'm very good with my own company, Jason says I need him to twitter my thoughts to...I think he's right! Luckily the next day he felt much better...


Bagan used to be Burma's capital city and is now on everybody's tourist trail to see the magnificent landscape of stupas and pagodas. It does not disappoint!


The temples are built with brick and topped with guilded pinnacles, often decorated inside with ornate frescoes of Hindu and Buddhist images.


The main temples, such as Ananda Pahto and Dhammayangyi, get lots of tourists but it is incredibly easy to escape the bus tour crowds.


The best thing about being in Bagan was exploring. It was hilarious bombing around on these little pink e-bikes. Heading down muddy paths that lead to overgrown ruins that you feel you've discovered for the first time, then being chased away by cows down dirt tracks and then finding your own roof top view to enjoy all to ourselves...we loved it!


Mum and Dad you may be interested to hear that a lot of the river cruise companies stop off at Bagan as it's next to the Ayewaywady River. There's a gold temple right on the river and I'm sure the best view of it would have been sailing past it on a cruise but unfortunately we didn't have time. We were going to get a boat from Bagan to Mandalay but the 32 dollar fee exceeded our budget on transport... tis a shame because it's meant to be beautiful.


Bagan is famous for its sunset vistas. Finding a quiet spot to enjoy it is more of a challenge as lots of tour groups arrive on buses to catch a glimpse of the view. We managed to sit on our very own temple while lots of people crowded on the one in front of us. We watched the sky turn to pink as we admired the jaw dropping view.


There's a local village in the centre of old Bagan, real Burmese life on the doorstep of a huge tourist trap. This was nice to see, especially as when I was researching about Bagan I read that the Myanmar military forcibly removed a village from the archeological centre and relocated them..all for government money prospects from tourism. We caught local men playing football volleyball (I've yet to find the actual name of the sport) in the evening as the sun's heat was dissipating. There were some impressive overhead kicks going on, very athletic.


I've not mentioned thanaka yet. As soon as you arrive in Myanmar you'll notice that everybody has sandy cream on their face, usually round splodges on their cheeks. All different ages and genders wear it. It's a beauty cream made from the bark of a tree... can't remember which tree now. This little girl on the photograph was interested in having some of my lipstick to match her cream.


We took a lot of photographs. I won't bore you with the history of each temple, but its fascinating to think that the earliest ones are from 1057AD. There's a huge conflict between 'restoration and preservation' and UNESCO are trying to ensure that original styles and techniques are being upheld (which in many cases they are not).


We found a couple of good restaurants around Bagan; Be Kind to Animals served delicious tamarind leaf curry and mint & lime tea and Weatherspoon's (nothing like the chain you get at home) did an amazing avacado salad and Myanmar Mule (rum, lime, ginger and soda). I enjoyed celebrating with my midday cocktail...celebrating what I hear you ask?! You'll see...


We did a lot of debating about how we compared Bagan to the Angkor temples and Petra... I thought Bagan's plus side is it's scale and skyline of pinnacles, however the buildings themselves are very samey and restored to varying qualities. You can maybe get a bit bored by the red brick and 4-sided temple combo. There was always something different to look at in Petra and Angkor. Bagan is great for exploring, it's relaxed and there are lots of interactions with the locals. People here are very friendly, dignified and respectful. There are plenty of souvenirs on offer, but people aren't pushy and they won't take your money for showing you around. Three kids on top of one temple were plenty happy with a chewing gum each after we wouldn't buy a painting. Individually the temples don't have the wow factor but overall we had a great time exploring.


Posted by bloorsontour 01:50 Archived in Myanmar

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Wonderful photos, as always. It looks like you stepped back in time here. The close-up of Sophie on her little pink bike is so funny!! (Can't wait to hear what you were celebrating!!??) Xxxxx

by Ma and Pa

Lovely photos,would like to visit it looks wonderful. Ma and Pa aren't the only ones waiting to know about the celebration!

by the wrinklies

Wonderful photos. Looking forward to seeing you soon xxx

by mutsi

It really is lovely to read your blog and see the photos! Very envious. Hope you have a lovely time with Mutsi!!! We will miss her very much at work! xx

by Steph Cartledge

love seeing your pics and reading your blogs. It's fantastic what you are experiencing! Look after your mum, she's precious ! Xxx

by Anne

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