This was supposed to be the highlight of the trip. I first got to know that such a place existed when I was googling pictures and came across a particular photographer who had visited and took amazing photos of the place ( this was probably less than a year ago ). I also admit that I am no history buff and most of the places that I have visited or want to visit is purely because they interest me pictorially or if they have awesome food. History tells me that if you have the 2 it usually means a great place to visit – for me.
So tickets booked and as I was flying from Singapore, I needed to go via Yangon – click here to see my earlier posts on that.
I had almost 2 full days in Bagan and for me I felt that was just about right. I hired a guide with car on the first day. My ultimate goal was to see the sunset at Shwesandaw Pagoda and what a sight it is (more on that later), but I also wanted to get a more local taste of things. Plus, I thought it would be easier and quicker to navigate with a guide since my time was limited. I had pre-arranged my guide before-hand and I had advised him that I wanted to visit the best places for photography.
The agenda which was pretty much discussed once we met. I did tell him my key points were the sunset and a local monastery and I left the rest to him to fill-up the gaps. I won’t go into too much details and specifics of the tour as I was pretty much ‘templed-out’ after the first 2 that we saw but in brief, we went to see a few temples to start off with, then had an early lunch. After lunch, we went to a small village to look around. To be honest, there wasn’t much to see in the village in a sense that, it wasn’t really bustling with people but it gives you a sense as to how some of the locals still live. We then went to a monastery where there were many novices (young monks). The time of the visit wasn’t actually that ideal as it was time for them say their daily prayers which made for photo taking quite awkward and although I had permission from them to take photos, it didn’t seem that right to me.
I was pretty much knackered after that so I requested to go back to the hotel where I could rest for an hour and then head off to Shwesandaw, I will cover that I a separate post.
Once the sunset was over, I returned to the hotel (Bagan Thande Hotel, on the riverside) where I freshened up and lapped up a pleasantly cool evening on the banks of Irrawaddy river with a bottle of Myanmar.
I was in a bit of a lull the following day. Having felt that I had covered what I wanted to see and do I really didn’t know what to do so I rented an electric bike from the hotel and just wondered around aimlessly. To be honest, I really didn’t enjoy it that day. Maybe I was ‘templed-out’ and perhaps my original idea of this being some kind of India Jones adventure somehow didn’t stack-up. Although I have to say a large part of it is probably due to the fact I wasn’t at all comfortable riding the electrical bike. After wondering around for 2 hours or so I felt that I had enough and returned back to the hotel, again to the comfort of starring aimless at the Irrawaddy which I felt was completely relaxing.
Some pointers below…
– I took Air Mandalay. Booked online and collected tix at the domestic airport. For further details refer to my earlier post…………..
– At the domestic airport in Yangon & Began, everything is manual. They have people to physically carry your bags on the plane. Your seat number is manually written on your ticket and your luggage tag is stapled to your ticket (how retro!!!)
– once you have checked-in you wait in the waiting area (where all the coloured seats are) they will call you for your flight. This is done by a man or woman walking around with a sign post so look out for your flight number. Note that the flights from Yangon to Bagan (NYU) proceed to other destinations so make sure you follow the calls via your actual flight number.
– On arrival at Bagan – Once you get off the plan you enter a building. If you have checked-in luggage you need to wait here for your luggage. They will physically bring it to you.
– Once luggage has been collected there are a few money changer counters (although there was only one that was opened when I arrived) for you to get some local CCY.
I contacted one of the guides who was mentioned in Trip Advisor. Well I actually contacted a few via email but only 1 or 2 came back with a reply surprisingly. My guide was Naing Naing. If you want his email please feel free to contact me or leave a message.
He was very polite & helpful and the car provided was in very good condition. Always on time and had previously answered my emails promptly. Overall I was satisfied with his service, he was very attentive and flexible to what I wanted to see and what I didn’t want to see. A point to note that as a tourist, I would say I am quite self-sufficient and not demanding in terms of asking a lot of questions about the place and history. I am more the type to kind of take it in on my own. What I am trying to say that if you are a real history buff, I wouldn’t be able to tell you how good his knowledge was because that was not my criteria. But he was very fluent in English and provided what I had asked of him so from that aspect I would recommend him if you are looking for a guide.
New Bagan or Old Bagan?
I see a lot of these questions. I can only comment on Old Bagan as I did not visit New Bagan. Firstly, there are not that many hotels in Old Bagan I think maybe 5. All of which I guess are classed or marked as higher-end in terms of the price. The advantage is that its close to the sites. My hotel was 10mins by electric bike to Shwesandaw and that’s because I was going slow! The disadvantage is that its isolated from the main town and therefore you are limited to your choice of food / restaurants. You can take a taxi but I was quoted 6,000 kyat as a one-off fee one way which I thought was rip-off. In any case, I was only staying for a night and although the food at the hotel was not great, it was sure relaxing dining on the river (ok the view is not fantastic, but I found it extremely relaxing).
In conclusion and looking back, I did enjoy my time in Bagan. How much time you want to spend depends on the type of traveller you are. 2 days was good for me, whilst some I met were spending 3-4days. If you are like me who is rather fidgety and need to be on the move then I think 2 days is good enough. The temples and sights are amazing for what they are but after a few, they were pretty much the same to me, but that is just me.