[MYANMAR] Adventure in Bagan

When you smell the half burnt leaves, and dry wind with grainy dust hits your cheek, you know you are in Bagan, the ancient city of Myanmar. Tourists flocking Bagan to have a glimpse at portion of thousand temples, pagodas, monasteries and stupas erected here since 9th to 13th centuries, an impressive view which one would not able to get elsewhere in the world.

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction
Sunrise view from Shwesandaw Pagoda
To be precise, most of the temples are located within Bagan Archaeological Site, which is subjected to an entrance fees of 25000 kyat, or equivalent to $20 (as of November 2015). There is almost no way to escape paying the $20, which was mostly channeled to the military junta government back then, the main reasons many Westerners tourists paying the $20 unwillingly.

Surprisingly, during our visit, we managed to escape from paying $20. We have no idea how but somehow this happened. We suspected most of the tourists police forces are assigned to help out in Myanmar general election happening during November 2015.

Getting Around

There are many ways to get around in Bagan:

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

1) Renting an E-Bike - This is the mots cost efficient way. The rental cost 7000 kyat per day after some bargaining with the shop owner, and you can get the bike as early as 5am to make it for the sunrise view, and return it in the late evening. Fret not as the E-bike battery is more than enough to last you for a day in Bagan. This was the method we used to explore Bagan.

Be wary when riding an E-Bike around Bagan, as the dirt and sands on the road to the temples, or by the roadside might cause you lose balance of the E-Bike and skid. This happened to us, hence good luck here! 

2) Bicycle - The most affordable way but prepare to ditch out a large quantity of sweat as Bagan can get scorching hot in the afternoon.

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

3) Hiring a horse cart - Probably the best way if you want a guided tour around the temples to understand the temples' history (which we found it will make the visits to the temples much meaningful). The journey might get slightly uncomfortable due to the unpaved road toward most of the temples. Some might be inaccessible by a horse cart so you might need to take a walk to the temples. Be prepared to pay for around 15000 - 20000 kyats. 

4) Air conditioned taxi - Most comfortable way and of course the needs to fork out a hefty sum of monies for it. 

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Lastly, the other way to enjoy the spectacular view of the entire ancient Bagan city is via hot air balloon for a fortune. Look for more information here

Things to do at Bagan

1. Watching sunset - you would not want to miss the spectacular sunrise view at Bagan. The misty morning coupled with the hot air balloons hovering over thousands of the pagodas, is worth crusading yourself unfolding the tired eyes in the oddly hour in the morning. Sunrise at Bagan starts approximately at 6:00am, and hordes of people can be seen pedaling their ways to Shwesandaw Pagoda.

Remarks: The government of Myanmar has banned climbing all the Pagodas effectively 1 March 2016, but not limited to Shwesandaw, North Gunni, South Gunni, Pyathard Gyi and Thitsaw Wati.

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Shwesandaw Pagoda is the most popular spot to catch sunrise at Bagan. Having said that, do expect it to be crowded and securing a strategic view for sunrise might be difficult if arrive late. We depart the hotel at 4:45 in the morning just to catch a good sunrise view here.

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

If you are someone who does not enjoy being submerged in the cloud of human to enjoy the sunrise view, try get some tips from the hotel or tour guides for some unpopular destination for sunrise.

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Just enough time for a selfie at Shwesandaw Pagoda.

2. Watching Sunset - Bagan offers spectacular sunset view too. When the sun slowly buried beneath the pagoda, it gives a natural therapeutic to the soul, and relaxed my stressed mind. 

On top of that, for those who stays in Bagan for 1 day and missed the sunrise due to poor self discipline, you obtain a chance to redeem yourself so you would not leave Bagan regretfully. 

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

We went to a least popular spot to catch the sunset view - Buleti Pagoda, which was recommended by our kind hotel receptionist. We were glad here as we did not have to press our shoulder against each other at Buleti Pagoda.

The other popular spots are North Guni Temple

Remarks: Since Buleti Pagoda has been forbidden from climbing, the picture and guide shall remain as archive purposes only.

3. Visiting temples - A trip to Bagan will be rendered totally crippled if you never been to a few temples to witness the grand architecture bequeathed by the history. Thousands of small and big temples laying across the Bagan Archaeological Zone, waiting us to venture into and admire its beauty.

For someone whom loves visiting and indulging with the architecture and history of the temples, a day is definitely insufficient here. Plan for 2-3 days here, and enjoy the different sunrise and sunset everyday.

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction
Shwesandaw Pagoda - The pagoda to see sunrise
Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction
Bu Paya Pagoda - built on the edge of the Irrawaddy River, when the river takes a bend at this location. The original pagoda was destroyed in an earthquake in 1975
Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction
Thatbyinnyu Phaya
It is all about pagodas in Bagan Archaeological Sites. After countless of Pagodas we have been to, the names of pagodas could barely being registered in our mind. Nonetheless, there are numerous amazing big or small pagodas to walk into. Remember to take off your shoes when entering the pagodas though! 

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

4. Enjoy the view - Apart from the breathtaking sunrise and sunset view at Bagan, some of the Pagodas offer a place to relax and enjoy the beautiful view. It is entirely up to you to locate those areas which make the adventure even interesting!

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

5. Purchase some souvenirs - some of the locals here are entrusted to be the guardians of the temples; and they make a living by selling some drinks, postcards and souvenirs there. Having said that, it is your call to help or not the local communities there. However, the concern is that buying from them might be an act of encouraging child labour.

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Apart from the various makeshift stalls setup by the locals in the Pagodas, check out some shops in Nyaung-U, the township of Bagan.

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Food

Being a tourists spot, food is never a lackluster here. Tourism has helped the blooming of the F&B market here, and influx of western tourists into Bagan has made the F&B business tailored made their menu to cater to their needs, featuring western dishes on the menu. A lacking of local food menu was much to our disappointment during our short stint at Bagan, however we do find some food outlets serve surprisingly mouthwatering dishes. Here are some of the food we have tried:

1. Weather Spoon's - Located at Nyaung U, this small outlet looks like it has a Pagoda top, and well decorated with lights. Mainly western and asian fusion dishes are served here.

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

We had a chicken burger (4300 kyat), vegetable vermicelli (2000 kyat) and a cup of Myanmar sweet coffee.

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

The food were averagely good here, and the well minced burger patty was a great comfort to our taste buds after a few days in Myanmar. Their less oily vegetable vermicelli was really a blessing in disguise, after being pampered with tonnes of oily food in Myanmar since stepped into this country.

Try to be here early for dinner. Reason being it might get crowded easily, and the serving speed is rather slow.

2. Wonderful Tasty - Although this restaurant at Nyaung U seemed to own an explicit name, indicating we might returned to our hotel with a cheerful smile on our face after dine-in here but our experience here was otherwise.

We waited 1.5 hours here for our pizza, despite there were only a handful of tables being occupied. The dough was hard, making the pizza difficult to be sliced; and the tomato taste was bland and unpleasant. We did not even finish the whole pizza, and that means 5800 kyat just washed away to the drain.

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

3. The Moon Vegetarian Restaurant - Located at Old Bagan, they serve wonderful vegetarian dishes. Pictures were not allowed here so we only had a picture of their menu.

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

In case all the food fail you, the last resort were instant noodles. Exactly what we had after getting tired of the food selection here.

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Accommodation

Visitors to Bagan can choose to stay at 3 different sections, namely Nyaung U, Old Bagan and New Bagan.

Nyaung U - the township of Bagan, and a good place with a number of restaurants and bars for dine in and drinking. Most of the budget accommodation are established here. The disadvantage is that the pagodas are distance away from here.

Old Bagan - Most of the well known pagodas are within walking distance, and various hotels here also meant to cater for upmarket. However, splurging on accommodation here probably is not the wise choice ever, as most likely you will spend your time exploring the temples in Bagan instead of lingering in the hotel; enjoying the swimming pool.

The advantage of staying in Old Bagan is that you can explore the temples after dark, and the night view of the temples might be worthwhile.

New Bagan - As Old Bagan is now off limit for permanent dwellings, the locals have since relocated to New Bagan. Hotels here are mainly catering for tour groups.

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

We stayed at Shwe Na Di Guest House, Nyaung U for 2 nights and it cost us 75000 kyats or $59.5. The overall condition of the hotel was below par actually: low warm water pressure, dirty floor and bed, smelly toilet, and poor TV signal reception. Nevertheless, the staffs were friendly and more than happy to guide us. Breakfast was provided complimentary.

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Others

Do take care of your health in Bagan. The dusty air might become a trouble for people with respiratory problems. Another potential disease might be diarrhea, due to unhygienic food preparation or water quality.

Unfortunately for us, we had diarrhea in Bagan and spent the first day horribly in hotel.

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Stay hydrate at Bagan as the weather might get scorching hot in the late morning or afternoon.

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Other than that, there are dogs, dogs and dogs everywhere in Bagan. They loiter around the temples, street but fret not, they are harmless.

Going to Yangon / Mandalay

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

We booked JJ Ekspress bus service from Bagan to Yangon, and the departure point of the bus is Bagan Shwe Pyi High Way Bus Station. The hotel helped us to arrange pickup from the hotel to the bus station, free of charge. We get stuffed into a pickup truck for all tourists departing to various destination at bus station, just like sardine in the sardine can. We joked to each other that this is the most interesting yet dangerous ride of the day.

Adventure in Bagan Travel Food Attraction

If you are heading to Mandalay, then you can arrange OK bus to pickup, just like how we reach Bagan from Mandalay.

Overall, we enjoyed the adventure in Bagan. It is an exceptional experience to be indulge in this ancient city, though the waves of tourism might cause a little off and destroy the nature beauty here. Hope Bagan does not replicate the circumstances in Angkor Wat, whereby we were distraught by the overwhelming tourism activities and selling.


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~End~

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