Myanmar: The Baganning of the End

It’s pretty easy to get from Mandalay to Bagan and Mama was happy to arrange a minibus for me. The 6 hour journey costs 9000 kyat and my bus included free pick ups from/to my hotels at both ends. I hadn’t booked my Bagan accommodation but decided to go for Winner Guesthouse as it’s midway between the famous Bagan temples and Nyaung-U, the town where the bulk of the hotels and restaurants are. I got a decent single room here for $12 a night or could have paid $15 for one with a private shower. It all seemed reasonable and it was good to be closer to the temples than if I stayed in the town.

However, tonight wasn’t about the temples. Tonight was about the big football final between neighbours Myanmar and Thailand. All day the streets had been filled with people donning shirts and flags and there was a real buzz in the air. After a tasty burger at renowned Wetherspoons (you can take the boy out of Warrington…) I headed to the town’s square where a big screen had been erected. I didn’t see any other tourists there and the locals were delighted to see me in my Myanmar football shirt.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be for Myanmar but it was still a great night cheering for the team with the locals and getting caught up in the loyalty they have for their team. I’ve always loved an underdog and I love the Burmese people so I’m so glad I was on this side of the border for the match.
Sadly though, my experience in Bagan went downhill from here as the next day was pretty much a write off. Bagan was stiflingly hot and I’d underestimated just how much water I’d sweated out as I woke up very dehydrated and generally a bit bleurgh. The whole day was spent just replenishing lost fluids and throwing up. I did muster enough energy to visit the temples for sunset (leaving my mark on Bagan by throwing up in a bush on the walk down) which was spectacular.

I think the key to Bagan is (apart from drinking lots of water) not hitting the touristy temples. You can get spectacular views from a whole host of temples without getting the moment ruined by loads of other people. I didn’t really research Bagan before I went so I just wandered up to various temples and had a nosey round. The majority of them were almost completely deserted. I also tried not to go in too many as I didn’t want to spend the whole time jumping from one to another. Also bear in mind that during the day they’re almost impossible to go up unless you want fried feet.

The views were stunning though. I missed sunrise as I was ill but sunset was even more spectacular than I imagined, even with the clouds. Many people complain that Bagan is overrun with tourists but I didn’t feel that at all. I guess it depends when/where you go. The other thing I was never asked for was the $20 entrance fee. This wasn’t a deliberate attempt on my part to avoid paying but rather I was never given the opportunity to pay. I assumed I’d be asked when leaving the bus but it never happened and I wasn’t asked at any of the temples. I guess it’s not too strictly enforced.

Overall it was a mixed bag for me in Bagan but I can’t deny how stunning it is, especially at sunset. I’ll just pack more water next time!

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