Myanmar

Two Days In Bagan, Myanmar

looking out bagan myanmar

Day One

After a long night on the sleeper bus, which included locking myself in the toilet, we finally arrived at Bagan, Myanmar. Problem is, it’s 4.30am and I am in a strange location being bombarded my numerous men demanding outrageous prices for taxis. Supposedly the sign right next to them stating fixed prices is old. Not the greatest start to exploring the magical Bagan.

Turns out there is another couple at the bus station heading to the same hotel. So, much to the taxi drivers disappointment we share a ride that costs me $2.20. That’s still overpriced by the way.

We are all staying at the Royal Bagan Hotel, them in a private room, whereas I had booked a dorm for $13.50 per night. Of course check in is not until later in the day so we locked our bags up at reception and walk down the dark road, determined to find somewhere open at this ridiculous hour renting e-bikes.

smile bagan myanmar

By the way I do not recommend staying at the Royal Bagan Hotel. The dorms there were just regular hotel rooms with extra beds squeezed in. This meant there were only a couple power points in the room to share between 6 people. Also I had booked a 6 bedroom dorm, but the Hotel thought it was okay to place camping stretchers in there to make more money. The 6 bedroom dorm soon become 9 beds. 

Also, there were only 3 room keys to share between 9 people. When a new person would arrive the staff would make the same promise to get another one, but it wouldn’t happen. Same thing if you complained about booking a 6 bedroom dorm and ending up with 9 people, they would promise you can change rooms tomorrow, but tomorrow they would say one more night, so on and so on. Sorry about the rant, just take my recommendation and stay at Ostello Bello, even if it’s a little more pricey. Trust me its worth it.

sunrises bagan balloons

Walking down the street we spot a large Burmese man pushing e bikes onto the side of the street. He is just opening and we get first pick for $5. Also I love that there is no need to pay a deposit or hand over your passport.  The couple I had just met were slightly more organised than me and had downloaded the maps.me app and bookmarked all top temples in the area.

With the sun rising soon, we were off to our first temple, Buledi. Riding over the sand was the true test of the 5 minute e bike riding skills we had just gained. Soon we are greeted by our first temple, along with 20 other e bikes, a couple cars and two horse carriages.

Staring up at the numerous people above us, it is obvious we arrived a little bit late to get a good seat. Though, we mange to find one next to a beautiful structure which provided some amazing photo opportunities.

As the sun rose, turning the sky all colours of pink and orange, the hot air balloons soon followed. It is a truly beautiful sight, even though I was absolutely exhausted from the bus, it gave me the determination to continue exploring.

Temple large bagan myanmar

Onward to Shweleiktoo where there are many stalls set up just outside the main entrance. My new friends have breakfast while I purchase a coconut for $0.70. There are lots of souvenirs being sold, from puppets to paintings and temple pants.

Within the archway to the temple is a long red carpet stretched out, leading down a path to the building. Unfortunately the inside is locked up, but with the trees spread out over the grounds and little squirrels jumping over the orange bricks it is still worthwhile visiting.

On the horizon stands a massive temple which looks like it would provide the best views over the area. Without looking at the map we manage to make our way there with little wrong turns. The complex of Pay-tha-da-paya is massive, with narrow staircases leading to the top. I had previously read about snakes hiding in the dark stairways, sheltering from the sun, but in this moment I lost all common sense. Luckily there is no surprise visitors and I make it to the top with nothing but a stubbed toe. There, on top, is the most stunning views and temples as far as the eye can see.

Tasha amy temples close up

It is getting close to check in time so we make the decision to head back and if any temples along the way catch our eyes we would stop. It obviously didn’t take long for this to happen.

We pull over at a temple where there is also a Burmese family living on site. They greet us all with a smile and their young son comes running over, super interested in the white foreigners. He shows us his goat, communicating through the common language of smiles.

This is the first moment were I am shown the realities of their world. The young boy grabs a lighter and starts pretending to smoke, turning the lighter on, putting his fingers up to his mouth, then inhaling and exhaling. This catches me by surprise, especially when he offers me the lighter. I politely decline and say nothing else, like who am I to judge their world? Changing the subject I show him my camera, taking photos of the goat and laughing. I give him a carabiner off my backpack which caught his interest, then it was back on the sand road.

hidden temples bagan

It is about a fifteen minute walk into the main food street where we stop a Weather Spoons Restaurant. I have a scrambled egg and avocado sandwich with a soda for $3.60, while the others enjoy their holiday and splash out on a hotpot.

hot pot weather spoons bagan

It is too hot to go out and explore in the sun so we wait until to afternoon before heading out again. Unfortunately, we leave it a little bit too late, especially as we are heading to see the temples on the other side of town. Luckily, I manage to find a parking spot and crawl through more narrow staircases just reaching the top as the sun is going down. With temple views surrounded by a pink and purple sky I have no doubt Bagan is truly magical.

With poor sense of direction I follow my friends back to the main eating straight which seems to take forever in the dark. All day I had been wearing sunglasses to avoid getting sand in my eyes, but that’s not possible under nightfall. The streets are filled with tourists heading back and locals heading home from work.

We decide to go back to Weather Spoons Restaurant for dinner where I get a pizza and soda for $4. I call it an early night after barely sleeping on the night bus and crash soon after getting back.

bagan life myanmar

e bikes tasha amy bagan

More tips on exploring the temples of Bagan here!

Day Two

Today I woke up feeling not the best, with a scratch in my throat and a sniffly nose. Seriously, only I would manage to get ill in thirty degree weather. But alas, I was determined to enjoy my time in Bagan exploring this amazing city I had seen in numerous Facebook videos and Instagram posts. Onward to my second sunrise.

I walk down towards the same gentleman as the previous day to hire e bikes, but unfortunately no one is awake. Soon a light turns on next door and a lady emerges with multiple e bikes. Problem is she is wanting a lot more than the man the previous day, and they are in way worse condition. I tell her the man next door charges $5 and she agrees to give it to me for $6, even with a missing wing mirror.

The streets are dark, but I am determined to get a good spot to see the hot air balloons. Today I am be exploring by myself. I do enjoy the company of other people, but today’s agenda was one which I know no one else would really want to do; a photography day.

close balloons bagan myanmar

Back to Buledi, this time getting a seat up top with only a handful other people who were crazy enough to get up so early. Now it is a waiting game, first the crowds come, then the hot air balloons go up and finally the sun rises. Slowly each one happens and with camera in hand I catch all the magical moments. Filling up my camera with nearly the same photo of the sun about a centimeter higher than the previous. I am  enthusiastic to say the least.

With my tripod squished between my legs I travel over the sand roads, attempting not to loose control, until I reach one of my favorite temples. Pay-tha-da-paya is on the other side of the archaeological zone to Buledli, where many people watch the sunrise. To get there you have to constantly drive half an hour without being tempted to stop at all the other beautiful temples along the way. This meant it would be quiet, perfect.

tash amy monk bagan myanmar

tasha amy temples bagan

Arriving there my instincts proved correct with just me and a Burmese family who were all dressed up taking photos. Even the stalls below hadn’t opened yet for the day. With the balloons descending in the background a manage to get a few photos.

You know those amazing photos of solo travelers you see on Instagram. Well chances are they use a tripod, running back and forth looking like an idiot. Well, right now I was doing the exact same. To say I got some strange looks from the locals would be an understatement. Though, it is certainly easier than asking a stranger to take your photo as you can set it up exactly as desired, ensuring you’ll get that dream shot.

After running around like a mad man I quickly drive back to the hotel before the breakfast closes. If breakfast is included in the room rate I promise you two things; number one that I will always be there for it; and secondly that I will at least have seconds; no shame.

I manage just in time to get some toast, fruit and scrambled eggs before heading back to bed for a few hours more sleep.

stalls temples bagan myanmar

Way past lunchtime I wake up and decide to get some lunch. Heading back down towards the main eating street I decide to try something different. A Little Bit of Bagan Restaurant takes my eye. The staff seem super happy dancing around and there are a few tourists there which at this odd hour is a good sign. I grab a lemon and lime drink, pasta and chips for $7.30.

What I do love about Bagan, nearly as much as the temples, is that with every meal you get a little plate of peanuts to munch on. To say I ate well here would be an understatement.

For the afternoon I let laziness take over and enjoy the pool. I also manage to book tickets to my next stop, Mandlay, which cost $7. Walking down the street, I check out a few of the souvenir places. Surprisingly, they are well priced. I feel like I get so much value for my money here, and I never feel the need to haggle which is very unusual for South East Asia. There are beautiful decorative umbrellas which line the street catching each passerby attention with their bright colours.

umbrellas bagan myanmar

For dinner it is back to Weather Spoons Restaurant. I am a creature of habit if you haven’t noticed by now. This time I add chips to my order of scrambled egg and cheese sandwich with a soda costing $7.

After returning my e bike back to the seller I realised I had left my only jacket it there. Somehow I manage to communicate with her through hand actions that I had lost it. When we didn’t know which scooter I returned, I am able to communicate that it was the one with a missing side mirror. A minute later she comes out with my beloved jacket;  I do feel sorry for her having to deal with my horrible sign language skills though.

food bagan myanmar

I actually spent four days in Bagan, but unfortunately got sick half way through my stay. Therefore I decided to only write about when I explored the city. Lets be honest, a blog post about my days sleeping in bed wouldn’t be too exciting.

 

More tips for exploring the temples of Bagan here!

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  • Jenn Singer

    I’m sorry to hear that your hotel was not up to par. It looks like you were able to make the most of the situation and had a good trip!

    • Yeah I have stayed in a lot worse places though, so its no big deal. Just hate the false advertising online so got to warn others, especially when there’s better options around a similar price point

  • Leigh

    What a bummer that you got sick, and that hotel sounds super shady! Looks like you still managed to have a bit of fun, though! The one positive of jetlag is being up super early before everyone else!

  • Meghna Malhotra

    I’ve always wanted to visit Myanmar and your gorgeous photos with the hot air balloons floating across just fueled my desires further! Thank you for a very honest opinion of the hotel… very helpful!

  • Beautiful pictures! This looks like a great way to spend a few days. Thanks for the heads up on the hostel too. Sounds like a place to avoid.

  • Jasmine Chen

    Your photos are super gorgeous, Tasha! Definitely worth looking like an idiot running around to capture this beautiful scene. I’m planning to visit SE Asia in January and I know where I won’t stay.

  • Elaine J Masters

    What a full two days! I hadn’t seen that part of Myanmar before and the balloons are exquisite. Great pictures and I’m so glad you shared.

  • All photos I see of Myanmar sunsets are stunning. I really must make it there one day. Such a shame you got ill for half your stay but looks like you managed to fit a lot into two days!

    • Thanks heaps! Yes definitely visit! The sickness stuck around for the following 3 weeks, it’s easy to get unwell on the road, but after a overdue pharmacy visit in Chiang Mai I quickly got better

  • Wow, stunning pictures. I would love to try hot air balloning some time. It’s been on my bucket list for a while. I think to do it in Myanmar at sunrise would be magical!

    • Yeah I didn’t get to do the hot air ballooning unfortunately, but it looked amazing! You must visit it is such an amazing country 🙂

  • Amy Rebecca Krigsman

    Myanmar looks like such a beautiful country to visit. I don’t know that I could do a group dorm room, though. I like my privacy.

    • I found the other dorms I stayed in Myanmar quiet private, though obviously not including where I stayed in Bagan. In Yangon it was only a 4 bed room with curtains around the bed and in Mandalay I stayed in a capsule hostel

  • So beautiful that you saw the balloons! I was there at the wrong time of year (rainy season!) but we still managed a few great sunsets/sunrises on the top of temples – so magical!

  • Your photos are incredible! I views look amazing, and the food is making me super hungry! Your hot air balloon photo is beautiful 🙂 Great post!

  • Dinh-Long

    Finally, the missing mirror helped you out 😉 Enjoyed your article, reminded me of my days in Bagan!

  • Oh my goodness you have the best photos in this post! Please tell me you’re a professional of some kind? I really want to visit Myanmar, and this seems to be the perfect way to do it. Thanks for sharing!

  • Fascinating story! I totally get the photography day thing and taking a LOT of photos of the same thing. I do it, too!