It was the most spontaneous trip I’ve ever had. I usually plan ahead and do a lot of research when I go on trips abroad in order to save time and money, but for this one I just booked the plane tickets on impulse and went. I didn’t even plan on going to Myanmar. Two weeks before the trip, I found out that it was going to be a long weekend because of a holiday so I decided to go on a trip. I was thinking of places to visit, then while checking Air Asia’s website, I saw an unfamiliar place, Yangon. I looked it up and found that it’s a city in Myanmar. Then I said to myself, “I’ve never been to Myanmar!” And so I booked the tickets.
I only had 4 days in Myanmar, so after booking the plane tickets, I researched on how to get to Bagan from Yangon. I’ve heard of Bagan before and it was definitely my destination. There are overnight buses from Yangon to Bagan and vice versa, and the trip takes about 9 hours. I was lucky because a colleague of mine at the office has a friend who lives in Yangon. So when I arrived in Yangon I had someone who showed me around.
Day 1: Yangon
My first destination was Myanmar Plaza, where I met my new friend. It was a bus ride away from the airport. I found it hard to communicate with the Burmese people because they hardly speak English, except for those who work in hotels. But they are very nice people.
We had lunch at Myanmar Plaza, then we went to Kandawgyi Lake, which is one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen. It has a long bridge made entirely of teak, and along with the Karaweik, it makes a truly picturesque scenery.
I went straight to the bus terminal from Kandawgyi Lake. My trip to Bagan was at 8PM. I took the JJ Express bus, which is the most popular bus company in Myanmar. I booked the bus tickets in advance, which is advisable since buses get fully booked especially during peak seasons. I booked the bus tickets through the new friend I met in Yangon, since he has a friend who owns a travel agency. I booked VIP tickets because I’m a light sleeper, which costs 24,700 kyats per ticket. It was worth it, the bus had enough leg room and they provide blankets and snacks. I was also able to charge my phone on the bus. There were 3 stopovers, the first of which required all passengers to get off the bus for about 30 minutes. I was too tired so I slept the rest of the way. The bus left at 8PM and arrived in Bagan at around 5AM.
Day 2: Bagan
The bus terminal is in Nyaung-U, which is also where my hotel is located, so I didn’t have to travel far to my hotel. I met 3 Malaysians on the bus and we shared a horse-cart ride to our hotels. Before entering Bagan, we paid 25,000 kyats or 20 USD each for the Bagan Archaeological Zone.
Bagan has over 2000 temples and pagodas, which made it seem like a magical place. It is truly beautiful and one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever seen. The temples and pagodas were built around 11th to 13th centuries, and Bagan was the capital of the Pagan Kingdom that unified the regions which would later constitute modern Myanmar.
The best option for sightseeing in Bagan is to rent ebikes, which most hotels provide. There are also packaged tours which is not a good option for me. I couldn’t drive a bike so I was so lucky I met new friends and the four of us went sightseeing together on two ebikes. The ebike rent is 5000 kyats for a whole day.
I was so happy with my hotel, Motel Zein. They let me check in early and even gave me free breakfast that day. My room was very spacious and clean.
Our first stop was Shwezigon Pagoda, one of the biggest pagodas in Bagan. After that I could no longer keep track of the names because there were too many of them. One thing to note is that you have to be barefoot when entering all pagodas and temples.
Shwezigon Pagoda is in Nyaung-U. Below are the temples and pagodas we visited in Old Bagan.
One of the highlights of Bagan sightseeing is the sunrise and sunset. It was rainy season when I went there in August so it was very cloudy and we didn’t get to see the sunset. After the earthquake in 2016 climbing the temples and pagodas are no longer allowed so they made a place on top of a hill where people can watch the sunrise and sunset. Unfortunately it wasn’t high enough and it was very cloudy that day so we didn’t get to see the sun set behind the beautiful pagodas of Bagan.
A trip to Myanmar wouldn’t be complete without Myanmar beer. We ended that day with a tower of Myanmar beer during dinner. Meeting new friends is truly one of the most rewarding things with traveling.
Day 3: Nyaung-U Market and Mt. Popa
In the morning I went to the market with my friends. Like any market, we found all sorts of food and merchandise for sale, from meat, fish, and vegetables to clothing and souvenirs. People in Bagan live very simple lives, and we could see their tradition and culture are so much alive in the market.
We went to Irrawaddy River for a short while, and we watched Burmese women doing laundry in the river.
Our last stop was the post office, which is a beautiful old building. One of them had business to take care of.
We parted before noon that day, since they had to travel to Mandalay at noon, while I had to go back to Yangon that night. I checked out of the hotel and booked a tour to Mount Popa in the afternoon. The tour was at 3PM. I had 3 hours before the tour so I went out and walked along the streets, towards Shwezigon Pagoda, and back to my hotel. The streets were not busy and there were very few tourists. It was a really nice walk.
I booked a tour to Mount Popa with my hotel for 9000 kyats. It was very cheap, considering that Mount Popa is about 50 km away from Bagan. I was expecting a group tour, but when the driver arrived to pick me up, I found out that I was the only one on the tour.
Mount Popa is a volcano, and from the pictures I saw online, it looked like a stopover on the way to heaven. It looked so beautiful from afar, and even though I’ve read reviews online that the place is very dirty, I still went there anyway because I had nothing to do that afternoon.
The temple has around 700 steps, and like all temples and pagodas in Bagan, I had to leave my shoes. I had to climb the steps barefoot, and the steps were littered with monkey poop, since there are a lot of monkeys. It was the dirtiest temple I’ve seen in Myanmar, but it was also the most breathtaking. The views were absolutely spectacular.
A minibus picked me up at the hotel that night, which took me to the bus terminal. The bus to Yangon left at 9PM and arrived at around 6AM. They provide transportation to downtown Yangon, so I didn’t have to travel a long way to my hotel in downtown Yangon.
Day 4: Yangon
The hotel also let me check in early, and they let me take my free breakfast that day because I had to leave early for my flight the next morning. I just rested that morning so I went out in the afternoon. I walked all the way to Sule Pagoda, which is located in the heart of downtown Yangon, and not very far from my hotel.
Then I walked to Bogyoke Market, where I met my friend who lives in Yangon. He was with the friend who owns a travel agency, so my tour that day was very convenient. I shopped for souvenirs and bought a traditional Burmese dress.
Then we went to the temple of the reclining Buddha, which was under reconstruction.
It was almost sunset when we went to Shwedagon Pagoda, which is considered to be the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar. Legend says that the pagoda was built around 2500 years ago, and it is believed to contain the relics of four Buddhas.
We waited for the sunset in Shwedagon Pagoda, and it was truly beautiful against the dark sky.
We stopped by Kandawgyi Lake to see the Karaweik Palace at night, a glittering golden spectacle in the midst of the lake. It’s a restaurant where you can also watch cultural shows.
We had dinner at Burma Bistro, a classy restaurant that serves Burmese food.
It was a short but marvelous trip. Bagan has captured my heart, and is now one of my favorite places in Asia. I would definitely visit again, and next time I will ride the hot air balloon in the sunrise.