The other Myanmar tourist hot spot is Bagan, our next destination. If you have any picture of Myanmar in your head, most likely it’s Bagan. A city built between the 11th-13th century, all that remains are the 2000+ pagodas and temples that once adorned this city, which was abandoned as the Mongols started to invade. That means 2200 temples in around 40km. Needless to say it’s well known for its temples, especially watching sunrise/sunset from atop of them, looking across a field of stupas and spires.
We arrived off a very long and uncomfortable minibus journey with a driver who I can only imagine had hopes to enter the minibus Formula 1, and after a bit of a rest we’re ready to spend our 3 days visiting temples – once during the day, once at sunset and once at sunrise.
Scooters are prohibited to foreigners in Bagan, so we rented an e-bike (it felt basically like a scooter, it just maxed out at 45km/h), which took us through the winding dusty paths that lead to and connect the temples. Ironically, we’ve been riding scooters in Asia for months now, and it was on an e-bike we had our first accident. As we were speeding along at 40km/h, the tyre actually came away from the wheel and wobbled us around until we fell off. Slightly scary for the novice rider I am – Katie brushed it off as a mere stumble of course. Though we were promptly given a new one and ploughed on!
The temples all range completely in size, some one story, some 7 stories, some are in clusters, some isolated – there really is something for everyone here.
There are few that are well known, so we tried to avoid those for sunset and sunrise to avoid watching with tour buses of tourists, so we trusted blogs to give us hints for hidden gems. We decided on one for sunset, only to find it was closed (we got the feeling they opened and closed at will), so we quickly found a ‘viewing hill’ and watched sunset from there.
Sunrise the following morning was at another blog suggestion, though this time it was much busier, but we still found ourselves a great little spot and enjoyed one of the most beautiful sunrises of our lives. A popular way to see sunrise for less budgeted travelers is by hot air balloon, so as we watched the sunrise over the misty field of temples, we were also gifted the sight of around 20 hot air balloons drift past the sun one by one. It really was magical. Probably a prettier sight watching the balloons than being on one! Pictures can say more than a thousand words about this place, so I’ll give the spotlight to them:
When we weren’t visiting temples, Bagan didn’t have huge amounts to offer so we made the most of our hotel pool, and enjoyed a handful of excellent eateries dotted around. One of our favourites being Bibo’s, where we enjoyed Myanmar’s take on guacamole with lentil chips, another Myanmar delicacy of tomato salad (tomatoes are grown in abundance ON Inle Lake), and Katie’s favourite, coconut soup.
We’ve certainly seen our fair share of temples in the last few days, but have been blown away by the beauty of this place.
Next stop for us is Yangon, the de facto capital, which we’ll get to by night train. Our first experience of a Myanmar railway system that has had only a few minor updates since the British built it over 100 years ago – wish us luck!
Bye for now x