Bagan has to be one of the most scenic and sight pleasing destinations in Asia. We budgeted two days here and we thought was just enough. Some travellers recommend 3, but 2 was enough to do everything we wanted to do without rushing in time.
Transportation: We took the overnight bus, VIP, at 25$ each. Left Yangon at 8PM and arrived in Bagan at 4:30AM.
Accommodation: Options are to stay in New Bagan, near Old Bagan or in the Nyaung-U area near the Shwezigon Pagoda. What we did was to book in between Old Bagan and Nyaung-U, on the main Old Bagan road also called Bagan-Nyaung-U road. There are many options, but we went to the New Wave Guesthouse by trust of our friends that previously stayed there. We believe anything around there is the perfect central location to get anywhere. It is close to get right through the hundreds of pagodas, which is the thing you want to most if you’re thinking about early sunrises or sunset trips.
Our review of New Wave Guesthouse: Perfect for early check-ins. They keep your bags after check-out and let you shower at the end of the day before heading to your next destination. Staff are very nice & helpful. The rooms have minimal decoration, bathrooms are quite old; they could give it a good refurbishing session and it would be worth 50$/night.
How to get around: Don’t get push-bikes, you will be exhausted by the heat and sun very fast. This applies to anytime of the year! It’s just not worth it, there is a lot to see so don’t waste your energy over a few bucks. Don’t go by horse and carriage. Again, it’s not very time efficient and the exhaustion from the heat added by the bumping ride will make you regret your decision. Plus the poor animals work very hard in the heat. Best is to get E-bikes. We had a shop just beside the guesthouse and got the “jumbo” ones so we can both fit. It will cost from 8,000-12,000 kyats depending on your negotiation skills. An easy choice.
After a good snooze, we went to get E-Bikes to stroll around Bagan. First thing we decided to do is to scout for the Temple we wanted to dibs for sunrise. You want to make sure you know where you go at 5AM or you will miss the sky changing colors! Our adventure was a fun 2 hours getting lost amongst all the Temples and visiting a few on the way. We met some other tourist that were proclaiming “We will get the tour guide, the signs are in Burmese and you can get lost so at your risk”. Forget about them. Get a map at 1,000 kyats at your hotel and get lost! It’s not as bad as you think. After two days, we knew the temple field like the back of our hands.
Around noon, we went to have lunch and recharge our e-bike. You don’t want to be out there around 11-2. It’s so easy to get exhausted by the sun not to mention walking barefoot on the brick floors of the temples will hurt you terribly. Best is to visit temples in the morning.
In the afternoon we went to visit the Shwezigon Pagoda, where we definitely had our feet burning! Beware of the ladies that gives to flowers and tells you to pray for good luck as they ask you to give the money so they “donate” it. Just put it in the donations box yourself! Also, you might get your sandals taken away by the ladies at the shops that will put it in front of their own shop to convince you to sit there and look/buy. Silly ladies.
For sunset, we went to the popular sunset spot, the Shwesandaw Pagoda. April is part of the low season so it wasn’t too crowded. It was slightly cloudy so we did not have a sunset money shot!
For dinner, we simply went to a Thai restaurant next door which was decent and cheap! Day 1 was a very early night as we have to wake up at 4:30AM the next day for the sunrise.
At 5:10am we were on the e-bikes on our way to our temple of choice for the sunrise, #294. Each of the temples are numbered and can be found on the map. Some are not listed so you can have some fun exploring!
Sunrise was okay that day. First of all, we didn’t get to see any air balloons takeoff as it is low season and the sky was quite cloudy. Again, we didn’t get our money shot of Bagan or Nat Geo/Lonely Planet shot like they say, but it was quite a fun quest to get to our temple in the dark and climbing up the steep stairs!
We then for a ride around Bagan before getting a good nap. For lunch we went to New Bagan and check out a few pagodas on the way. We ate at the Green Elephant restaurant. Average restaurant, better food than the other Thai restaurant with huge portions, but definitely overpriced. The best was the mixed juices/smoothies. I had a little sore throat from the crazy A/C in the bus so Mitch ordered me the “Restore Me” that is honey and lemon tea with ginger and got himself a “Energize me”. You guys should stop for those drinks and best is to eat in Nyaung-U. After lunch we we’re so exhausted and decided to go for a treat: a 1 hour traditional massage at a hair salon close to our guesthouse. It cost us 15$ each for the session. It is 30$ for an oil massage, so we decided to pass on that.
Before leaving Bagan, we had to stop and The Weatherspoon, a restaurant in Nyaung-U, that apparently has the best burgers in Asia.
By 6:30PM, the bus company pick-up arrived at our guesthouse to bring us to the bus station. Another 8 hour bus ride was waiting for us to head to Inle Lake!