Bagan evokes pictures of a majestic landscape scattered with ancient temples. This is true. Bagan, Myanmar is a must visit place.
I took a flight from Yangon to Bagan (Nyaung U Airport). I booked my flights in advance with Air KBZ, a domestic airline. Myanmar’s airlines have a bad reputation but don’t fret. Air KBZ’s online booking system is easy and reliable and the journey is short; but if you have a fear of flying, going by bus may be better.
The flight lasting 2hrs would be on a tiny propeller plane – my hand luggage needed a forceful shove to fit into the overhead compartment. This would be my first propeller plane and was a truly exciting experience, but the deafening roar of the propellers wears thin after some time.
When booking domestic flights try to get direct flights because my return trip involved two stops before arriving at Yangon. The stops are very quick though so don’t worry too much.
My first port of call was to rent an E-bike from the hotel. Extremely cheap to rent for the whole day, an E-bike is the best and cheapest means of exploring the landscape.
I “cycled” off (pressed a button) with no set agenda. Bagan is a place where you want to get lost as every corner will unveil secrets.
The Burmese are a wonderful nation and the people aided me without hesitation. My E-bike’s stand was causing me problems and a gentleman offered me his assistance. Another lad graciously reminded me that my bag was left on my E-bike as I meandered inside a temple. On one occasion when I rode through a field to get to a temple in the middle of absolute nowhere a police officer followed me just to check that I was ok. Welcoming and not shady characters make Myanmar a lovely relaxed place to visit.
Before visiting, I scoured the web for information about which temples to see. Honestly, the information was void as there are barely any signs in Bagan except for the dominant temples such as “Ananda”. Thus, get on your E-bike and ride, ride, ride! It sounds daunting for all you OCD planners out there but trust me, it’s the best way to explore.
When visiting temples be sure to look around every corner as secret passageways grant you access to the tops of the temples (some even 7 stories high). Breathe and squeeze through the narrow passages and bring a flashlight to avoid trampling on any sleeping lizards.
Remember to be respectful when visiting the temples as wearing short shorts will be frowned upon. Due to the lack of people in the area not many will actually notice your outfit and the locals will be too polite to say anything. However, as a representative of your country be respectful out of your own volition. You wouldn’t wear a leopard print thong and a mesh shirt to visit your boyfriends parents for the first time so be appropriate. I purchased a green and black longyi (Burmese cloth) in Yangon and wore that.
Use your head and don’t show leg.
Sadly, shoes are forbidden in the temple grounds. Prepare to be scorched. To give you some perspective I ventured to Bagan in the end of May and the temperature was consistently around 36’c and it even clambered into the 40’s! Flaming stone paths and bare soles will test your pain threshold. Screaming and running to the limited shade is all part of the Bagan experience…socks are also forbidden.
Bagan, compared to Yangon, is an easy place to satisfy hunger pains. An abundance of cafes and restaurants are waiting to serve you. I went to a lovely road side restaurant and ordered 1 curry to which 7 plates emerged. It’s just the Burmese way! Curry and rice dishes are the prominent food source and are full of spice and flavour.
Food in Bagan is inexpensive and splurging is unnecessary. Be sure to try the local Burmese beer “Myanmar” to wash the food down with.
Nyaung U is a town next to Bagan and the location of the airport.
I rarely ventured into the town as I was so entranced by Bagan. Nyaung U is a lot more chaotic than sedate Bagan but is nowhere near as chaotic as other Asian destinations. At night I stumbled across a funfair. This was a delightful and spontaneous surprise.
Seeing man-powered attractions was nothing short of astounding. Men would run and catapult themselves down a ramp in order to create momentum for the pirate ship and a lady would briskly walk in circles to spin a carousel.
This laid back place was swiftly becoming my favourite travel destination.
With many a pre-dawn trip to see the sun rise behind the temples a comfortable bed would be needed. I booked a stay at the Aye Yar River View Resort in Old Bagan.
A little more pricey that other hotels but with a perfect location to access the temples and an efficient airport transfer the hotel was a luxurious gem to rest my weary feet.
The room was very big with a bathroom bigger than my Hong Kong flat! A rain shower with powerful jets soothed my blistered soles.
The staff were friendly and the breakfast hearty. The best part of the breakfast was sampling the local snacks that definitely left a great impression on my stomach.
The hotel had many E-bikes to rent and at cheap prices. The staff couldn’t have been any more courteous and the bikes were always fully charged. Upon returning to the hotel to change clothes the hotel staff would recharge your bike so you would never be out of juice.
Without a doubt I would stay here again.
The E-bikes provided have no helmet and come night time the front light does not penetrate the night much on the unlit streets. Be careful and use that horn.
Blister pads will be your best friends. Don’t forget them.
Wearing flip flops around the temples is the best idea so time is not spent putting on and taking off shoes.
A fee must be paid to gain access to the temples. An all-round fee is collected at the airport.
Try to get an airport transfer from your hotel as I didn’t see many taxis waiting outside of the airport.
Hot air balloon rides that plague travel magazines only operate during a very slim portion of the year. If you really want to soar into the sky make sure you check the dates.
All pictures taken by myself. Follow me on Instagram: Arik_Dane