09.04.2016 – 11.04.2016
As soon as the bus door opened all you could hear was locals yelling “TAXI, TAXI” as they pushed each other out of the way to get to the door (a little bit overwhelming at 5 am in the morning, after a 16 hour bus ride). Fortunately, we shared a taxi with an American couple we met on the bus (Casey and April), to make the ride into town cheaper. Thankfully they had some inside information about the town that we didn’t. All taxi drivers will take you passed the tourist office where you pay 25,000Kyat (approx. $27AUD) for a ‘tourist tax’ that allows you to climb only two of the 4000 pagodas in the town. Apparently, if you pay the taxi driver a little more money they will drive around the office, and no need to pay the exuberant fee. Sounded good to us!
Bagan has clearly been the hottest place on our trip. Each day the temperature exceeded 43 degrees and made it unbearable to be outside between 11am and 4pm. Even with the air conditioning in our room constantly set to 18 degrees, it made no difference and the heat just permeated into every part of your life! Although we were indoors for much of the day we still got to experience what Bagan has to offer. The government has banned tourists from using motorbikes and you are forced to hire e-Bike’s. ‘E’ must surely mean extreme for extremely slow. With a top speed of 35km/h downhill, they potter around at best. The e-Bike is the cheapest (approx. $7aud) and easiest way to cruise through the towns and local roads exploring pagodas and local life.
Although above, we brag about not paying the tourist tax, we did get in a pickle when we did unknowingly enter a pagoda (only 2 of 4000, how did we get it so wrong) that required the special tourist ticket to be presented. But we just batted our eyes, and acted like silly uninformed tourists, and they let us pass with ease.
The pagodas are the main attraction in Bagan and the reason people come. Standing on top of one and looking out at the horizon at hundreds of them is beautiful. Apart from a few sunset/sunrise sightseeing options and the expensive hot air balloon ride, there isn’t much else here. However, we did get to experience some awesome Myanmar food. Slow cooked Pork (melt in your mouth) in a sweet curry/gravy – DERICOUS.
After getting lost on our speedy E-bikes with our new friends, we stumbled upon a local village by the river, who very welcoming painted our faces with traditional Tanaka and took us on a wooden boat to watch the sunset. It was a fairly scary experience as the boat (carrying 5 adults and 2 children) sat 4cm above water level, any ripple of significance would have sunk us!
OUR FAVOURITE BITS
- Black Rose (in New Bagan) and The Moon (in Old Bagan) restaurants.
- Meeting and hanging out with April and Casey.
- Seeing many of the 4000 pagodas and even climbing one.
- An afternoon by the river with locals.
- Hiring a e-Bike is a great (slow) way to get around the three main towns of Bagan (Old Bagan, New Bagan and Nyuang U). Top speed is around 35km/h, but it’s a cheap and easy way to get around. Make sure you’re riding on the right side of the road. In Myanmar you drive on the right hand side, but it’s not always the case; just drive where you fit.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions of locals here, they speak much better English than in Yangon.
If you have an extra day get a taxi and go to Mt Popa. We didn’t get there, but others have recommended this attraction, but only if you have time!