It’s all about stupas and hot air ballon. Full Stop!
There are generally two hangout zone in Bagan, New Bagan and Nyaung-u. Both places are 25 minute e-bike apart so staying at either place works because you will rent an e-bike to explore both places anyway and time is all you’ve got during vacation, right?
“I survived my first long distance bus ride in Myanmar” , that was the first thing in my mind once I know that’ve have arrived Bagan. It was a a safe ride by JJ Express and I will definitely ride with them again.
While being half awake, I was able to hear my potential driver shouting : “hotel, hotel, sunrise, sunrise!” They must be at least 20 of them waiting for a 40-seater bus to arrive. They charge K7000-K8000/person which normally includes sunrise at 6am then towards your accommodation area. Being a little disappointed that Bagan has become such a commercial place, I took up one of the offer anyway.
While on our way, we stopped at Bagan’s entrance, to pay our entrance fee of USD10. This should last for 1 week. While I was at Inle Lake, I was informed by some travellers that one may be able to avoid the entrance fee by obtaining the entrance ticket at the hostel’s counter, prior to your next destination, if there is traveller who decided to leave one there. There is entrance fee at Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake.
Our driver brought us to one of the common stupas to enjoy the sunrise moment. It was still dark, stars and moon were still up in the sky. This allowed enough time for me to locate a good spot and set up my camera for the golden moment!
Mine you, the stupa we climbed was 4 storey high and slippers are not allowed. That’s correct, you will have to go up there bare foot at 15 degrees Celsius. I must say, it was really an unforgettable experience!
The morning mist and hot air balloon flying low over the countless stupas and pagodas in Bagan is the main reason people stopover here before heading to Inle Lake.
I have had conversation with people who had been to Turkey that commented the scene in Bagan is simply breathtaking! Several publications also cited bagan’s hot air balloon a must-see and must-do!
Throughout my 4 days stay in Bagan, I woke up at 5am every single day, rode on my Chinese made electric bicycle, driving against the cool wind towards my private stupa to enjoy my personal sunrise moment.
Here’s a short compilation video of my Hot Air Balloon chasing at Bagan
More: sunrise and hot air balloon photos and videos.
Stupa and Pagoda Hoping
One could spend hours exploring the available stupas and pagodas in Bagan. I would suggest to not only explore those famous ones plotted on your map, stop by any which attracts your attention. Overall, instead of crowding with other travellers, I found myself most happy looking into carvings in unknown stupas and speaking with random monks who happen to be meditating there. One may find peace too!
Said to be a historical town comparable to Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Bagan however is not listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site due to their structure restoration strategy that did not follow the strict rule. Still this is a magnificent place worth checking out.
The Time reported the following:
Their so-called beautification projects have been controversial, though, because hundreds of ancient sites were shoddily recast — with materials and designs that differed from the originals — rather than authentically restored. Burma’s dictatorship insulated itself from criticism, but their imprudent stewardship of Bagan may stand in the way of the country’s bid today for the ancient city to receive World Heritage status — a gold standard of sorts for historical sites — from the U.N.’s cultural agency, UNESCO.
Remember to bring a bottle of water, I brought two. It is really hot during the afternoon.
More: 7 stupas and pagodas I like.
This is a the perfect place for people watching in Bagan. The town started as early as 6am with locals setting up stalls selling live chicken to vegetables. One and also hear people bargaining among sellers for the best part of the meat. I love the atmosphere at morning markets!
Souvenir stalls are also available. What you see is similar to what Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand offers. Vietnam and Thailand offers the best price and bargaining experience.
Arrive at Nyaung-U market around 7.30am, walk with the locals, sit at a food stall along the street, sip local coffee with Khao soi enjoy the scenery or become the scenery.
I stayed at Mya Thida hostel. If you like to hang around with random solo traveller this is the place!
More: My Bagan Accommodation