Bagan was the most awaited and last destination of my whole Myanmar trip. Whenever I saw photos of the city with all those hot air balloons in the sky dominating over the pagodas, I felt like running to the city and enjoy the moment out there.
So I took a bus from Mandalay to Bagan which was a minibus since the journey is only of 4 to 5 hours and if your bus doesn't take too many stops, you will even reach earlier. Apart from the bus journey you also have another but a costlier option of traveling by water on the cruise. There are various cruises which take you from Mandalay to Bagan on Irrawaddy river. Everyone has mixed reviews about these cruises. Some say it has been a good experience some say it just a regular cruise to go from one place to other. In terms of timing, the cruise leaves at 6:00 AM from the pier and reaches Bagan in the evening around 4:30 PM.
My bus dropped me directly in front of my hostel of Bagan. Before entering into Bagan, officials asked us to pay the Bagan Archeological Fees of 25,000 MMK per person. I chose to stay at Ostello Bello Bagan Pool which was the best choice I could have ever made in Bagan. This hostel was the cleanest and best of all the hostels I stayed since Yangon. They also have their hostel chain in Mandalay and Inle Lake which are also reviewed very nice by all the travelers. One thing I noticed that whatever time you arrive at the hostel, you will only be able to check-in at 02:00 PM which can be good and frustrating also at times. But that means a strict professionalism and it is still fine.
The hostel is located in the heart of the town and you have plenty restaurants and other facilities available just at a walk of 1 minute.
They offered two tours which were 1. A Mount Popa Tour and 2. A free day tour where you need to get your own bike which you can hire anywhere in Bagan. And me not knowing how to ride a bike went on looking for a bicycle and couldn't find one. I ended up asking the bike rental person in front of the hostel to teach me how to ride and Yay!!! he taught me and most importantly I learned it immediately.
The point is, these bikes in Bagan run on batteries and are not as heavy as regular scooters which makes it easy for even a person like me who never rode a bike in their whole lifetime. That is the only best way to explore around Bagan on E-Bike and it costs you as low as 6,000 MMK from sunrise till sunset. If you borrow it only for sunrise or sunset it costs you 3,000 MMK.
Most of the people I met were staying in Bagan for at least 3 to 4 nights, I on the other had planned my stay only for 2 nights. And so I wanted to make sure I make the most of my time here. Although I visited only 5 major destinations in Myanmar, if you have more time, you can check the 10 Places to visit in Myanmar.
How to Make Most Of Your Time in Bagan
I arrived in Bagan at 1:00 PM and had my lunch in a nearby restaurant after which I checked into my room. Bagan weather gets really hot in the afternoon time and I had no plans to get anymore tanned in the heating Sun. So I had a very good nap and left my hostel in the evening around 5:00 PM to head towards Bu Paya Pagoda where I was supposed to enjoy my complimentary Sunset Cruise Ride in Irrawaddy river. Since I booked my ticket with myanmarbusticket.com, they had a free ride for their customers.
Since when I went over there, I was the only one on the cruise and the whole cruise was dedicated to me. I was served the traditional tea leaf salad with green tea on the cruise. It was a ride of almost an hour and gave some fantastic view of the sunset.
For next day early morning, you have two options available -
1. Go for the experience of your lifetime i.e. hot air ballooning in Bagan. They say that you haven't been to Bagan if you haven't done Hot Air Ballooning in Bagan. But the cost of this activity was pretty much the entire budget for my whole trip so I decided to skip it.
2. Ride your bike and head for one of the sunrise points where you can see Sunrise along with hot air balloons and multiples pagodas in the background. There are various points for sunrise, when you are in Bagan you can simply speak to your accommodation person and they can recommend the best one for you which can be nearest to you.
NOTE:- Legally you are not allowed to climb any pagoda or temple but there are some people who still do it. If authorities catch you doing that, they politely ask you to get down, and if you ignore them, things might get dirty and you really do not want that to happen.
After your early morning activity, once you have the bike and map of Bagan you can roam on your own going around the town and explore all the temples. But I decided to go with the guided tours which fairly covered most popular spots of the town. And whatever number of days you stay in Bagan, you, of course, cannot cover all 4,000 monuments which include pagodas and temples as well. After the major earthquake that hit Myanmar in 1975, most of the temples are under renovations.
- This is the largest and the widest Buddhist temple in Bagan among all the temples.
- There also is a small building behind this temple, where you are allowed to climb up on the roof to experience sunrise or sunset.
- This small village is located on the interior side of the Bagan, it is very difficult to drive on your own and reach since you need to reach this place by a dirt road.
- Google maps do show this location, but I have experienced being a bit confused on the dirt road.
- This is the temple located in the Minnanthu village and is one of the popular spots for tourists to stop here.
- The specialty of this temple is the frescos. But do not confuse it with the ones you get to see in Europe.
- These frescos are the painting made by natural color, but it feels bad that those are not preserved and just kept open. Anyone could damage it by a lot of means.
- Yet another Buddhist temple on our day tour. The structure somewhat looks like Dhammayangyi Pagoda.
- This was our last stop on our day tour and my most favorite temple I have visited in Bagan.
- After spending a whole day visiting temples made of red bricks, this temple brings you into a complete world.
- The whole temple is built with white marble with a golden pagoda. And houses various statues of Buddha.
After completing my day tour we had a delicious lunch at Taste of Bagan and I headed back to my hostel for my another evening tour which was supposed to go to Mount Popa. But because they couldn't gather enough participants I could not go on that tour.
Since it looked very much attractive in the photos I badly wanted to go there, but maybe next time. Mount Popa is a volcano which is located almost one and half hour drive from Bagan. There are Buddhist pagodas on top of the mountain. Once bus drops you at the parking, you need to take 777 steps to reach the top. Although there have been a lot of cleaning nowadays there are certain places where you find monkey poop. And you need to climb without wearing your shoes. In all, it must have been a good experience for those who visited it.
Being the last destination of my tour, although I was very happy to get back home, I was not really willing to leave Bagan that early. Hope you will have a wonderful stay when you visit it.
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