Tuesday, December 2, 2014
My travel buddies and I decided to splurge for our time in Bagan. We did have a budget we were trying to stick to but there was one accommodation that we couldn’t pass on. Accommodation prices for
Myanmar are relatively expensive compared to the
rest of Asia, so we decided to pay that
$10-$20 more to get something that was better quality than the others we were
looking to book with. We definitely made the right decision, too. We were going
to Myanmar in April, which is one of their hottest seasons. Bagan is pretty
much a desert. Around midday the heat can get so unbearable you do have to be very
careful with your water intake and getting shade, as there is a very high
chance of heat stroke. We luckily had booked into a hotel that had AC (that
actually worked!) and a (clean) pool to cool us down. If you do head to Bagan,
especially around this time, I do recommend having AirCon and a pool high on
your list when choosing where to stay. It really does help because you won’t
understand how hot it gets there until you arrive. The best times to go out are
either very early in the morning and later in the evening when the sun is going
down. In between it’s best to stay back at your hotel/hostel. The only time we
were out during midday was when we hired a taxi for the day to drive us around
to certain sites.
The place we stayed at was called Blue Bird Hotel. It is a small property therefore only a few rooms so best to book this one in advance. The staff were so great and the facilities were immaculate. Also, they have amazing waterfall showers in their rooms. These were the best showers I have had in my life! You’ll understand when you stay there =)
Anyway, that’s enough about the awesome place we stayed in. I just had to give them the credit they deserve. This post was about my top three temples to see amongst the vast amount of temples sprawled all over Old Bagan.
In no particular order:
1) Dhamma Yan Gyi
The largest temple in Bagan. It’s 9 stories high, however, shortly after construction some of the higher levels weren’t as well supported as they initially thought so many areas were closed off soon after opening. You are able to climb to the second level and there are still great views from there.
2) Shwe San Daw
While not the most elegant temple, it is a very popular spot to see the sunrise and sunset. Also, it is the one of the best spots to see a panoramic view of Old Bagan .
Said to be the most beautiful temple in Bagan and they aren’t wrong. It is also the most intricate with many beautiful old stone carvings and paintings within. It survived a major earthquake in 1975 however it was still badly damaged. When we were there a lot of renovations were happening and they even had some landscaping going on. Once everything is all finished, I’m sure this is going to be one grand place.
The two best ways to see these temples are:
1) Electric Bikes
I have a love hate relationship with these things. They are awesome but they are a bit hit and miss when it comes to the quality. You can rent these usually from the accommodation itself. They are a great way to get around and are a lot of fun however, just like normal bikes, they are hard to handle when you’re driving through soft dirt or uphill.
If you’re with one or two more people, this is an inexpensive and comfortable way to get around. Plus you can get to temples that are further away and, if you’re stuck on time, you can go during the hottest part of the day. You can request a driver that speaks some English where you can ask them for recommendations on which temple to see. Otherwise, if you already know where you want to go and have a map then all you need to do is point and they will drive.
FYI: As you enter Bagan the bus will stop where they will request all foreigners to pay a $15 USD entry fee, which then you will be given a Bagan Archaeological Zone card. It is best to carry this around with you whenever you sightsee as some temples will ask you to see this card to confirm you have paid.
Also, they have only just started to learn how to really restore all their historic temples. Many have been ruined when they thought it was a good idea to cover all faded paintings with ugly, white paint and cover the floors with kitchen tiles. One temple was so bad that it made us really upset we just had to leave. Luckily, they have stopped doing this.
Lastly, just remember the more popular or modern the temple the more pushy and persistent the vendors will be. Be strong and you can say no!
Enjoy your Bagan adventure =)