May 27, 2018
On our way to Bagan.. (after exploring Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar and the city of the most smiling people). Where should we make our base? We had three options to choose from – Old Bagan (historical center and the closest gateway to all the pagodas), Nyaung U (bustling town center) and New Bagan (the most southern part of the town). New Bagan is the winner. After the arrival, we head straight to the closest stand to greet “local businessmen” and rent an electric bicycle. You can get (almost) everywhere on it. And fast – well, as fast as your (almost) 30-kilometer-per-hour electric buddy allows you.
GoodToKnow: Foreigners are banned to rent a motorcycle here. However, the electric bikes are actually scooters. Scooters, for which you don’t need a driving license nor a helmet. They reach a maximum of 20-40 km/h and are ideal for exploring the surrounding. The rent will cost you 10,000-12,000 kyats per day (information from the year 2016).
Bagan is just beautiful. Hard to understand why it hasn’t appeared on the Wonders of the World list yet. 70 km2 and still more than 2,000 pagodas and stupas (there used to be over 10,000 of them in the past). You can “get lost” here for few hours, often without a single human being nearby. Unlike the Angkor Wat Temple Complex in Cambodia (whose charm kept disappearing with a number of appearing people – it had started at the sunrise, where you could only see the rays of cameras and phones, instead of the rays of the sun).
JustToKnow: Stupa or pagoda? In most cases, Pagoda is dome-shaped and was used to store mortal remains of Buddha. Pagoda is a terraced, tower-like structure, built as a temple or a shrine.
Sunset Pagoda (Shwesandaw Pagoda) – head here during the day. Hardly anybody is here. Leave sunset for the “lovers” of crowded spaces..
Most of the guidebooks advise you to reserve at least 3 days for the area exploration. If you are not a complete “pagoda freak”, one or two days will be just enough. The journey to discover all the hidden places is the experience itself. On the very first evening, we found a hidden pagoda with a beautiful view from the top. And we are all alone here! We got there by mistake and couldn’t even find out its name..
The next day, we decide to go to the famous Sunset “Shwesandaw” Pagoda. Personal recommendation? As weird as it sounds, skip the sunset and head here during the day. Hardly anybody is here. Leave before the sunset and leave it for the “lovers” of crowded sunset spots. Way too many people fighting for their piece of space. We gave it up just a few minutes before the sun goes down. We sat down onto our electric bike and a few meters ahead of us appears a much smaller pagoda. Two little girls with the candles show us the half-broken stairs to the top. And there.. beautiful view of the sunset. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the name of the pagoda out of them (I know, I know – it’s not a very helpful post to advise you where to go.. I just wanted to point out that if you let it go, your pagoda will find you – the journey to discover all the hidden places is the main experience).
JustToKnow: In order not to leave the Shwesandaw Pagoda just like that – you should not miss this beautiful building with its five terraces. It means “Golden holy hair” in the translation. According to the legend, there is a hidden relic of Buddha. A hair.
Close to Bagan, there is a smaller village of Minnathu with the original inhabitants, known for the production of peanut oil. One bad turn and suddenly we appear here. Thanks God! We are asking for the direction. However, instead of telling us which way to go, a lady serves us the best food! Simple fried noodles and fried rice. With an egg, vegetables, beer and the best peanuts. Her rice moves directly into the top three of my personal “Rice chart” :) I would eat it immediately right now.. From the same plastic plate and with the same plastic cutlery – what a nice stop and a feast it was!
Type #bagan into Instagram search and you’ll see A LOT of balloons in the sky. This pictures had been in Tino’s mind from the first moment we decided to travel to Myanmar for a month. Now I know it was a bit naive to try to book a balloon flight (less than) three days in advance. Many travelers deny ballooning immediately. As a really really really expensive joke ($300 / person, in 2016). However, everyone we met during the trip and has experienced the sunrise over Bagan from the balloon – was really excited. Flights are booked two to three months in advance. My poor booking attempt was thus very poor. Maybe a reason to come back?
GoodToKnow: Still.. you can watch people who succeeded (sunrise over your head included:). Ask the housekeeper, local people or try to find the Low Ka Oushang Pagoda (check, if it’s available for sunrise watching at this time). You will have a beautiful view of the sky full of balloons.
Mothers House, a restaurant divided into two parts. One part is the original tearoom, where locals chat sipping home-made black tea. The second part is transformed into a restaurant. Two daughters work here, pretty much never managed to bring the orders right (milk tea instead of mint tea tasted good eventually). Father, the owner, once in a while comes to see what is wrong and what else to bring. Girls write the orders with a chalk on a small board and can’t stop smiling. What a joy when we left the tip on the table! In Myanmar, tips are not expected (and not given). The vegetable curry here was excellent, traditional tomato salad, too. Tamarind candies came after food. This fruit helps to digest, so you will definitely meet with tamarind in various forms when traveling.
TEjST: Mothers House, Chauk Rd (Tinos Tip Here) not far from the hotel Floral Breeze, Chauk Rd
If you long for an espresso (small and strong) or for a drink (big and extra strong) we were always welcomed in “Bagan Zay“. It has a very pleasant atmosphere (especially their Mojitos warmly welcomed Tino:).
ToDrink: Bagan Zay, Thiripyitsaya 4th street, Nyaung U, Bagan
Another option is “7 Sisters Restaurant“. Big, full and I guess even more touristy now. Prices are a little bit higher compared to other places in the city. However, you can find there your favorite local food. I recommend extra hot soup Sonton Shan. And you can try the typical black bean paste, too.
ToStay: Floral Breeze, Bagan – Chauk Rd, New Bagan, Myanmar
Quite a nice hotel with the pool, breakfast and a little-overpriced restaurant.
Photos by Tino’s Analog camera Olympus Mju:
Also check out my other Myanmar blog post from Yangon → Myanmar – Yangon: In the city of the most smiling people
And here you find my Myanmar blog post what you HAVE TO DEFINITELY TASTE here (only in the Slovak language, soon in English) → Myanmar: To Taste