After a 10 hour drive our bus arrived to Nyaung U at 5am in the morning. There weren’t many cheap rooms available anymore and after having looked at a few guesthouses (the first we were taken to by horse and carriage) we settled for a room in Pyinsa Rupa guesthouse. Most buses arrive at night and many guesthouses (like the one we picked) don’t charge you for this first night/morning. After the long bus-ride we had a long morning sleep and after lunch we started planning how to best spend our two days (1,5 by now) in Bagan. There was really only one purpose for coming here: see the amazing amount of pagodas, temples and stupas that are scattered around a 100 square km area. Some background from Wikipedia: “Bagan is an ancient city located in the Mandalay region of Myanmar. From the 9th to 13th centuries, the city was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan, the first kingdom to unify the regions that would later constitute modern Myanmar. During the kingdom’s height between the 11th and 13th centuries, over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the Bagan plains alone, of which the remains of over 2200 temples and pagodas still survive to the present day.”
For the independent budget-conscious traveller that wants to see this area for himself, there are three main ways of getting around this area: by bicycle, horse-cart or e-bike. Bikes are cheap to rent, seemed in good condition, but for us the downside was that the heat (35+ degrees during the day) would make the distances quite tough. The horse-cart is a cool way of getting around plus you get the local knowledge of the guide, but also fairly expensive and apparently quite uncomfortable. We chose the electric bike or e-bike. We got one for two people with a bigger battery that should last 40+ km. It’s not a very ‘manly’ bike as it wouldn’t go much faster than 30km/h, was bright pink and made a few of the locals laugh, but it served it’s purpose. In the 1,5 day that we rented it we saw more pagodas and temples than we really needed and without breaking much of a sweat.
We spent most of our time driving in the areas between old and new Bagan. On the maps you can get, mainly the larger structures are highlighted, however that also means that these are mostly quite busy and therefore most of the time we just viewed them from the outside. An additional reason is that if you want to enter these main sights there is a US$15 fee that goes directly to the Myanmar government. With the current political situation in mind we’ve tried to limit our government-contributions as much as possible, except for where we really saw added value. We mainly enjoyed driving up to secluded small pagodas climbing on which would give you a great view of the whole area. Seeing the taller and more visited structures in the distance seemed to be more impressive than actually standing on top of them. Sometimes we would be greeted by a family living around a specific group of temples/pagodas working here as caretakers. Have a look at this video to get an idea how widely dispersed these ancient buildings are across the Bagain area:
Sunset and sunrise are great times to get on your e-bike and find yourself a nice spot to enjoy the Bagan area appearing or disappearing with the sunlight. After driving around for a while we found a less-frequented temple for sunset just behind the Shwesandaw pagoda. Once you find your spot you just sit, wait and take a few pics.
Sunrise was less spectacular, mainly because the hazy weather. We decided to take our chances and go to the very touristy Shwesandaw pagoda where ticket-checks tend to happen. You can climb up all the way to the top but as it was pretty busy there already, we settled for one ‘ring’ lower as we were the only ones there. We enjoyed our breakfast of cookies and bananas while the sun was coming up.
Also, there is a fourth way of transport that we didn’t mention yet: air balloons. We saw many of them in the morning, quietly floating above all the temples; must be a magnificent view! In one of the temples that we visited, Lucia was especially happy to come across a lady from one of her favourite tribes – the Kayan tribe. They wear up to 24 golden rings on their bodies, mainly around their necks. One of the reasons for these rings we were told was to protect from tiger-bites!?
We had squeezed Bagan into 2 days and took a night bus in and out. The night buses are tiring, but we do think you get close or over your pagoda-seeing-limit in this time period. The bus took us to the northern highway bus station in Yangon where after walking around for quite a while we found a cheapish guesthouse for the night (or morning really) before we set off to Bago for our meditation adventure.
Po hodinovej ceste autobusom sme o piatej rano dorazili do Nyaung U. Na stanici sme nasadli na konsky povoz a vydali sa hladat ubytovanie. Vela nizkorozpoctovych moznosti uz v meste neostavalo, takze sme museli prejst par kym sme nasli ten pravy. Nakoniec sme si vybrali hostel Pyinsa Rupa. Vacsina nocnych autobusov sem dorazi velmi skoro rano a tak hosteli su zvyknute na skorych navstevnikov a vacsina dokonca ponuka prvu noc, resp. rano, zdarma. Po namahavej ceste a hladani sme si rano zdriemli, zobudili sa okolo obeda a pri jedle planovali, ako stravime tieto 2 dni v Bagane (ostavalo vlastne uz len 1 a pol dna). V podstate jedinou atrakciou Baganu, ktora ale stoji za to, je ohromujuci komplex chramov roztrusenych na ploche takmer 100 km stvorcovych. V anglickej verzii Wikipedie sa docitate: Bagan je staroveke mesto v mjanmarskej oblasti Mandalaj. Medzi 9-tym a 13-tym storocim mesto bolo hlavnym mestom Paganskeho kralovstva, prveho kralovstva, ktoremu sa podarilo zjednotit regiony, ktore dnes tvoria Myanmar. Pocas najuspesnejsieho jeho najuspesnejsieho obdobia – medzi 11-tym a 13-tym storocim, desat tisic chramov bolo vztycenych v oblasti dnesneho Baganu, z ktorych 2200 chramov a pagod sa zachovalo dodnes.
Nezavisly cestovatel s obmedzenym rozpoctom, ktory si chce prezriet Bagan na vlastnu past, ma na vyber niekolko moznosti: bicykel, konsky povoz alebo elektricky bicykel. Pozicanie bicykla bolo velmi lacne a vyzerali, ze su v slusnej forme. S prihliadnutim na 35 stupnove teploty cez den sme si ale vybrali e-bike aby sme sa na ceste osviezili vetrom vo vlasoch a nemuseli tolko slapat. Konsky povoz nas tiez celkom lakal, ale tato forma sa nam zdala malo pohodlna, pomala a trosku drahsia, nez by sme chceli. Nas elektricky bicykel bol vybaveny silnejsou bateriou aby zvladol dvoch ludi. Na ziarivo ruzovom stroji sme sa premavali po oblasti rychlostou nie vacsiou ako 30 km/h. Cely tento obrazok vyvolaval casto usmev na tvarach domacich. Po dni a pol sme boli velmi spokojni s volbou, kedze sme stihli vidiet velku cast komplexu v relativnom pohodli.
Vacsinu casu sme stravili medzi starym a novym Baganom. Na mapach, ktore su k dizpozicii v hosteloch alebo pozicovniach bicyklov, su vacsinou znazornene len tie najvacsie chramy. Tieto su samozrejme aj najviac navstevovane a velmi rusne a tak vacsinu z nich sme si obzreli len zvonku. Do niektorych sme sa ale viacmenej nahodou pozreli. Hlavnym dovodom naseho vyhybania sa velkym chramom ale bol 15 dolarovy poplatok, ktory ide do vrecka priamo statu. Kedze pocas celeho vyletu sme sa snazili vyhybat sa podpore sucasnej vlady, ani v Bagane sme nechceli urobit vynimku. Ako sa ukazalo, najvacsi pozitok sme ale aj tak mali hlavne z jazdy prasnymi cestami a splhania sa na mensie opustene chramy a ruiny, odkial sme mali vyhlad na celu oblast i s velkymi pagodami a chramami. Pri niektorych chramoch nas vitali rodiny, ktore mali na starosti strazenie skupinky pagod a privyrabali si predajom chladenych napojov ci suvenirov. Vo videu v anglickom texte mozete vidiet, aky ohromny cely komplex naozaj je.
Vychod a zapad slnka su najlepsimi momentami na to, aby navstevnici vyliezli na jeden z chramov a uzivali si komplex miznut a znova sa ukazovat svetu v krasnych farbach. Po celom odpoludni na cestach sme tak urobili aj my a nasli si zdanlivo opusteny chram s dobrym vyhladom. Sedeli, cakali a fotili.
Pri vychode slnka nam pocasie velmi neprialo a vdaka oblakom a hmle sme slnko uvideli az neskor a to uz vysoko na oblohe. Rano sa nam ale podarilo vyliezt na jednu z velkych pagod – Shwesandaw pagodu – a uzit si lahke ranajky na chrame.
Stvrty sposob prepravy po Bagane sme este nespomenuli – za zhruba 300 USD sa na komplex chramov mozete pozriet z balonu. Pri vychode slnka desiatky pomaly stupaju ponad chramy. Vyhlad to musi byt k nezaplateniu! V jednom z chramov sme natrafili na nieco (niekoho), co najma Lucii urobilo velku radost – staru pani z kmena Kayan. To su tie pani, ktore nosia okolo krku a clenkov az 24 zlatych kruhov, vysledkom coho je mimo ine hlavne predlzeny krk. Ako sme sa dozvedeli tradicia zacala tak, ze miestne zeny sa chceli ochranit pred uhryznutim tigra.
Bagan sme stlacili do dvoch dni tak ako sme prisli, tak sme i odisli – nocnym autobusom. Tentokrat smerom Yangonska autobusova stanica, kde sme sa rano vyspali a kratko poobede vyrazili smerom k mestu Bago, kde sme zacali nase slavne meditacne dobrodruzstvo.