There’s a photo on the inside cover of our Myanmar guidebook. It shows a landscape dotted with temples as far as the eyes could see. Ever since I saw that, I’d wanted to come to Bagan and see it for myself.
Fast forward to short while after, we arrived in Bagan.
We arrived at 3 in the morning in the dark and deserted bus station. All the locals immediately got off and disappeared into the darkness, leaving behind a handful of sleepy, confused tourists still on the bus. We weren’t scheduled to arrive until 5 am.
“This can’t be it. We have 2 more hours to go,” we said to each other. I even turned around and got ready to go back to sleep.
But the bus driver came back up, “This is Bagan. The bus goes no more.”
And that was how we arrived in Bagan. As soon as got off the bus, the horse cart drivers descended upon us. Stumbling in darkness with our stuff, rubbing sleep off our eyes, and being pursued by horse cart drivers wasn’t a welcome we had in mind.
(Btw, Bagan is so small we got together with other tourists and ended up walking to where all the guesthouses were.)
But in the end, it was all so worth it.
The Temples of Bagan
Later on that day, we rented a horse cart to take us to see the famous temples of Bagan. Individually, they are not as intricate as Angkor temples but I like these temples in Bagan so much better.
For one, they’re almost completely deserted. Almost eerily so. We didn’t have to compete with busloads of sweaty tourists, jostling elbows to get inside.
As a matter of fact, some of the people we jostled elbows with were the locals. Some of these Bagan temples are being used daily as a place of worship so we got to see how much religion played in the daily life of the Burmese people.
And lastly, they are just so many of them. So, so, so many.
Seeing the sun setting over dozens, no hundreds, of temples dotting the grassy landscape of Bagan was probably one of the most amazing sights I’d seen. My brother and I climbed up one of the temples and simply enjoyed the view. It was one of truly unique landscapes I’d ever seen. How did I get so lucky?
I was utterly enchanted.
I was afraid I’d be disappointed in the real thing after seeing the postcard perfect version. But in Bagan, the real thing was so much better.
How to get to Bagan from Yangon: Bagan is about 10 hour ride from Yangon (15000 Kyats). Buses leave from a bus station 45 minutes away from center of Yangon. Far from ‘bus from hell’ experience, it was a decent, air-con bus and the road was paved all the way.
Where to stay in Bagan: Just like everywhere in Myanmar, there’s a shortage of guesthouses at that time. Booking ahead is recommended. We stayed in May Kha Lar guesthouse. It was decent.