We finished off our last day in Yangon with an amazing Burmese buffet for lunch and prepared ourselves for the 19hr train journey to Bagan that awaited us. Being typical Westeners we stocked up on enough food to feed a small army as the concept of being hungry for a few hours scared us.
We boarded our Upper Class carriage which consisted of somewhat comfortable seats that turned into uncomfortable beds, no air conditioning and a metal toilet with a wet floor and prepared ourselves for a 19hr journey fearing that the train would come off the tracks at any point with its constant swaying. We did however see some amazing countryside and you will be happy to know that we arrived in Bagan a little smelly and tired but safe nonetheless.
We caught a bus to our guest house accommodation with no idea what lay ahead and immediately set on a trek to Taung Kalat Temple which is on top of a volcano plug. By this stage we all thought that was pretty cool, until we were told we had to walk up the volcano plug to the top barefoot. To us, we were thinking we would have to walk barefoot on some hot gravel path in the sun to get to the top… but it all became clear when we got there. There are 777 steps that lead to the top and it’s all undercover. As it is considered a sacred site you do the hike without your shoes but don’t worry because the tiles feel nice on your feet. There are some steep vertical stairs and some random big ones (to get the exact 777 steps) but it’s quite doable. There are a lot of monkeys on these steps as well so be careful because they seem to like shiny cold things (aka coke cans) so they will cling on you or jump on you but just push them off (hopefully I haven’t scared anyone off! There were only two incidences on our round trip). This is definitely worth the trip and the hike up. The view from the top is amazing and you can see Mount Popa (the volcano) not too far away.
After a beautiful lunch and some relaxation at the Mount Popa Mountain Resort (yes we treated our stinky selves to a nice lunch) we ended the day by visiting one of the temples and watch the sun set over this ancient land.
You can opt to do a hot air balloon ride over Bagan for sunrise (which is exactly what we did the next day). These flights are only available from October to March and will set you back $320 US but it is definitely worth it. Bagan is home to 3,000 ancient temples and when you are flying over them you can see just how true this is. It’s quite a magical experience to say the least.
After our balloon ride we grabbed a bicycle and started on a tour around some ancient temples but with a stop at the Nyaung U markets first. These markets are probably one of the more crazier markets I have visited in Myanmar. As soon as our bums left the bicycle seats we had ladies putting Thanaka on our faces and trying to get us to buy things. As you make your way through this bustling market, people will follow you all around the markets trying to sell you items and they don’t give up easily!
After our market experience, where we all seemed to have left with at least one item, we made our way on our bicycles through the ancient temples before stopping for lunch. If you ever make your way to Myanmar make sure Bagan is on your list of cities to see. There is something magical and relaxing about cycling through an ancient city and having all these ancient temples pass you by. Just make sure you end your day by finding a nice quiet temple to watch the sunset over.
I also recommend you to buy your lacquerware in Bagan. Head to one of the many family run workshops to buy the good quality items. The ones you buy in the markets are of poor quality and will crack easily, whereas if you go to a workshop in Bagan they are made of the highest quality and can take months to produce a finished product as it is all naturally made.
However you choose to spend your time in Bagan, I can assure you it will be a city that stays with you forever.