It took two hours by taxi from the center of Yangon to get to the big bus terminal at the outskirts of the city. The destination was Bagan, in the north of the country, a plain on the way to Mandalay. The departure was at 8 o’clock in the evening, the bus was fully occupied, I had booked a luxury sleeper and got a simple seat. As a result, I was accordingly exhausted and grumpy after a sleepless night, when we reached our destination before sunrise at about 5 o’clock in the morning after about 9 hours of driving.
The historical royal city Bagan is situated on the banks of the Irrawady and is with an area of about 42 km² one of the biggest archaeological sites of South-East Asia.
This is the largest area with the highest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins in the world. An estimated 13,000 !! Pagodas and stupas were built on this area between the 11th and 13th century, of which about 2,200 can still be visited to this day. A few of these temples may be climbed nowadays, the view over the plain is unique and opens the historical dimension of this area.
It was still dark when we took a taxi to the Bulethi Temple to watch the sunrise from its top. The number of cars at the parking lot and cones of light from the flashlights quickly gave me a hint that I will not be the only one to arrive at one of the upper floors of the temple.
There was quite a crowd on the temple, a real murmur went through the crowd, when the first balloons rose at dawn. It is a very impressive spectacle to see the balloons gliding at low altitude between the buildings through wafts of mist. Between 10 and 20 balloons fly daily at sunrise over the place of ritual worship for the price of about 350 USD per person. It is certainly a special pleasure to look at the multitude of buildings from above.
Myanmar is, with the exception of Singapore, one of the most expensive countries in South-East Asia. The region Bagan is once again in a higher price region, so I was relatively surprised to have to pay about 50 USD for an average room.
In my hotel in New Bagan I was able to rent an electric scooter, with which I went for the next two days on exploring. The battery of the scooter lasted for about 6 hours. But after I had been on the road for a longer time, I had to return to the hotel in the meantime to get the energy storage changed.
As a foreigner, you pay a fee of approximately 25 USD at a check post when you enter this region, so that you can move around the area completely free. Some of the pagodas and stupas are still visited today by believers from all over the world to honour Buddha. Others are only historical excavation places, therefore the crowd was less intense, you could only meet tourists there.
The daytime temperatures were beyond 40°C/104°F and therefore it was always a relief to dive into the pleasant coolness of the thick stone walls of the pagodas. In the late afternoon and early evening hours, when the individual sights filled up after the great heat of the day, the banks of the Irrawady are an ideal retreat from the hustle and bustle of the masses. There you meet mainly locals in their daily life.
I’ ve read some reports comparing the temples of Bagan with Angkor What in Cambodia. Bagan is beautiful and I do not want to miss my time there. I was on the road for about 16 hours within two days and after that I had the feeling it was sufficient. In Angkor What I was able to go on a ” discovery trip ” for about 36 hours within 3 days and after that I had the feeling that I need at least 3 weeks more to see everything I was interested in.
I am heading further north, to Mandalay.