Bagan, with its more than 3,000 Buddhist temples from the 11-12th centuries, is one of the most amazing places I’ve been to. We arrived late in the afternoon, due to a torturous yet fun train ride form Yangon, and decided to stay in the village of Nyang U, where most backpackers’ hotels and restaurants are located. After finding a good accommodation (Blazing Hotel, $25 for a double with AC) and eating the most delicious meal ever (Weather Spoon), we set to check out the nearby temples by foot. With little day light left and intermittent rain, we at least had time to visit the golden Shwezigon Pagoda, a couple random temples in the Nyang U area, and play tag-o-war with some local kids. It was a good introduction to the archaeological site, enough to get us excited for the days ahead.
On our first full day in Bagan, we rented bicycles (kyat 2,000, $2) and toured the north plain and Old Bagan for about 12 hours :S In the morning, the most memorable stops were: Htiliominlo and the temple in front of it, where we climbed up for our first aerial view; the river village of Leya, to where we detoured for a re-hydration break; the majestic, renovated Ananda Phato; and so many unnamed brick temples that we passed on our bikes. The heat was very intense, so we decided to grab lunch and rest for a couple hours in the shade, at one of the hotels in Old Bagan.
In the afternoon we hit, among others: the tall Thatbyinnyu; the well preserved Shwegugyi, which we climbed for great views; and the fresco-filled Gubyaukgyi in Myinkaba; all these before riding back to Shwesandaw for sunset. The views atop it were absolutely magnificent, with hundreds of red temples sticking out between the green grounds and the blue sky. The hordes of tourists, the only time we encountered this issue in our whole Myanmar trip, partially spoiled the experience, and I’m not sure I’d recommend this famous spot during peak season. We still enjoyed the changing colors of dusk and the crazy rain clouds for a while, before heading back to Nyang U in the dark.
For our second day, we swapped our bicycles for electric bikes (kyat 4,000, $4) and set to explore the central plain and the key temples that we were missing. Sulamani was probably our favorite, with its decorated exterior and interior; Dhammayangyi was also impressive. We again loved the feeling of going through dozens of temples and ruins. Though to be honest, we didn’t like the electric bikes as much as the bicycles, they felt unstable on the sandy and muddy trails.
For lunch and the afternoon, we had decided to leave Bagan with a bang. We headed to the Aureum Palace Hotel and bought their $30 deal for lunch and infinity pool… what an awesome idea! The food was mediocre, compared to all the delicious things we tried in Myanmar. But the water was perfectly refreshing, after two days of toasting and sweating, and the temple views were unforgettable. It was almost painful to put clothes back on and ride back to Nyang U, to catch the night bus to Inle Lake.