Although our second night bus in Myanmar was less crowded than the first, the bumpy roads made it impossible to sleep as it felt like I was on a roller coaster. I should count myself lucky I don’t have the Asian gene which causes extreme travel sickness, with almost everyone on the bus throwing up throughout the night. We had stocked up on food unaware that the bus would make a proper stop so was left speechless when our bus pulled up at at a brand new service station which resembled something out of a sci-fi movie. These purpose-built stops in the middle of nowhere have been placed around Myanmar to cater for the growing number of buses which line the country. A number of eateries and shops cover the parking lot surrounded by flashing neon lights and loud music, you couldn’t get more modern. It was a little surreal passing children pooing in the street and a few hours later witnessing the sheer number of people shopping and dining at one of these stops.
Myself, Jaimie and James arrived in Bagan at 3am at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere with our only option but to jump in a taxi which in Bagan consists of a horse and cart. After requesting budget accommodation, we trotted along to Winner Guesthouse in the town of Nyaung U which was cheap and cheerful with aircon that actually worked, a godsend in Bagan’s blistering heat. Our room wasn’t available until 8am so we decided to take the opportunity to see the sunrise and jumped back on to the horse and cart to be taken into the unknown.
We couldn’t see a thing but we managed to climb to the top of Sulamani Pahto temple where I had a quick nap before being woken at around half five to watch the pretty, but rather disappointing sunrise. An hour later after little improvement on the cloud front we headed back to our guesthouse to have breakfast at the local tea shop on the street opposite.
Local Myanmar breakfast typically involves a choice of three dishes; greasy noodles, greasy noodles in a greasy broth or greasy fried rice. It wasn’t the best start to the day but there was little else apart from paying over the odds to have breakfast at a guesthouse which consists of chewy and slightly street white bread, chemically jam-like spread and oily eggs.
After over sleeping our alarm, we woke at 2pm and rented push bikes not wanting to waste the day. Bagan is best explored by bike with the main roads being clearly sign-posted with white dirt tracks providing a fun challenge. We refused to pay 700 kyat (70 cents) for a map in an area that has little roads let alone road names. It was nice to have the wind in our hair on bikes but it was extremely hot with temperatures reaching close to 39 degrees. Pleasant in my eyes as the heat was more dry than humid meaning sweat wasn’t a problem.
Like the bus stop, Bagan’s dusty plains are like something out of a movie. There are over 4000 pagodas covering miles of flat land covered in a red sand. For reasons unknown, the area was left abandoned and untouched until recent years with some pagodas being used as hiding place from the Japanese during World War Two. I enjoyed a cold Lychee Juice while watching sunset at Shwesandaw Paya and later headed to a local Myanmar beer stop with some new friends we had met including Emily who we had first met at Inle Lake.
It was good to speak to some other westerners again and hear all about their time on the road. As usual, myself and Jaimie shared dishes, striking lucky with one which was a flavoursome plate of baby corn. An ice cold Myanmar beer also went down well although I had to stop at two remembering the cycle home I had to come. My first day in Bagan left me excited for more.
Living life, loving travel,