Our next stop after spending the day and evening in Yangon was to beautiful Bagan, an ancient city in the Mandalay region of Myanmar. During the 9th – 13th centuries, the city was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan, and during the kingdom’s height over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the Bagan plains.
There are 3 main ways to travel from Yangon to Bagan – plane, train, or bus. After much research and deliberation, Kirsty and I decided that plane would be the best option for us.
The train seems to take anywhere from 12 – 17 hours, and after having read quite a few interesting reports and reviews, that seemed a definite “no way” for us! Despite lots of gorgeous scenery along the way, the journey is mostly overnight in the dark, and from what it sounds like, very, very bumpy and rickety.
The next option was to take the overnight bus, which takes approximately 8-10 hours. Departing Yangon around 6pm, and arriving into Bagan at around 4am. This is a good economic option as the buses cost around 20 US Dollars and from the sound of it are much more comfortable than the train (although air-conditioning is blasted on high!).
However, since we wanted to spend the evening in Yangon and watch the sunset from the Shwedagon Pagoda, we decided to give the bus a miss. Kirsty being pregnant was also another decision-making factor, comfort is key after all.
On to the last option – by plane. There seem to be a few small airlines which do the same routes, often with a stop in Heho or Inle Lake along the way. Obviously we wanted to fly direct so as to maximise our time, so booked a full fare ticket (approx $100 each way) with Mann Yadanarpon Airlines, which had the most suitable timings for us. There seem to be a lot of flights all leaving around the same time in the morning from Yangon with different airlines, and it’s fairly easy to book online. We only booked a couple of days before, and prices stayed the same.
Where to stay?
After a smooth 1 hr 15 min flight, which included a cold breakfast service, we touched down in Bagan Airport. Every foreigner arriving has to pay for the Bagan Archealogical Zone, which is $20 or 25000 Kyat (local Myanmar money – pronounced “chat”). There’s a counter right after you step out into arrivals, so after paying our fee and keeping hold of the little ticket, which must be shown at some of the bigger temples, we hopped into a taxi to our hotel.
The other option for getting around – horse-drawn cart! We decided to give it a miss with our suitcases in tow 😉
Despite Myanmar only being open to tourists for the past couple of years, there are already a lot of choices between hotels, and after browsing all of the options on Booking.com, we decided on the Bagan Umbra Hotel. Located in Nyuang-U, not far from Bagan Old Town, it was a charming hotel complete with an on-site temple!
Bagan is spread out over around 26 square kilometres, and there are over 2000 temples to be found everywhere you look. So it made sense that there was one right in the grounds of our hotel!
Our hotel very kindly let us check in early, and we were shown to our room despite it only being around 10am. After dropping off our stuff and a quick freshen up, Kirsty and I decided to explore a bit of the local area by foot. We wanted to save the next day for a full day of temple-touring, so decided to book onto a sunset boat cruise along the Ayeyarwady River.
What to do?
After spending a few hours relaxing, reading and recharging our batteries by the pool at the hotel, we got ready to make our way down to the river.
We’d just booked a simple sunset cruise along the river, and despite arriving a little later than the time stated, we managed to find our way to the boat. Our taxi driver dropped us off next to the Bu Paya temple, which is where a lot of the boats are located. However, our boat actually left from the next section over, so we strolled across the beach and with our piece of paper in hand, managed to find someone to direct us to our boat.
We cruised out for a good 15 minutes or so, and once we reached the calm waters, our skipper turned the engine off and we floated along enjoying the beautiful sunset.
Looking back across the water, we could see the Bu Paya temple glistening in the light of the golden sunset.
As the sun dipped below the horizon, and after our boat driver had been for a quick dip in the water, we sailed back towards the land.
We sampled some of the local cuisine for dinner, and with plenty of restaurants along the street our hotel was on, we didn’t have far to go for a delicious and cheap meal – most places will serve you up some sort of noodle or rice dish for not more than a couple of dollars!
Since we had plans to get up at the crack of dawn the next morning to watch the sunrise, we hired some bikes from a little shop just across the road, very reasonably priced at $3 for 24hrs. An early night was needed, and after being up so early that morning we fell straight into bed after dinner!
I’ll be posting more about Bagan soon, I have so many pictures that I thought it would be fun to split them up over a few posts, so stay tuned!