A whole other world in Bagan

The moment we came back from our US trip (or even when we were still in US), we already started planning out next trip to a new place we’d never been. Both Bandi and I burnt off all of our Annual Leave during the lengthy US trip so we didn’t really go far in 2018, so we planned some new adventure for 2019. We decided to finally do 2 things I’ve been wanting for so long: Experience Songkran in Thailand and visit Bagan, Myanmar. In this post, I’ll only talk about Bagan.

How to reach Bagan?

Bagan is one of the place that has always been in the back of my mind for so long, but it’s not the easiest place to reach; no direct flight from Singapore and further road travel from the landing international airport.

So when I planned my Songkran trip to Bangkok, I was checking if it was possible to continue my journey to Bagan.

Indeed it was! There was a possible way to fly from Bangkok to Mandalay and then take a 4 hours bumpy car ride from Mandalay to Bagan. The nearest airport to reach bagan is actually Nyaung-U, but then you have to take local flight from Mandalay or Yangon.

So please note that the first and last day in Bagan should be spared for traveling alone, if you plan to reach in Mandalay or Yangon.

What to do in Bagan?

Very simple, exploring the ruins. Bagan is like a whole new world, the landscape is like no other, it’s full of temples, pagodas and stupas with deserts-likeĀ  surrounding (because I visited in summer), the trees were dried up, sun was high, dust was everywhere, it looked so dramatic in every photos. But I must tell you, if you’re usually comfortable, Bagan is not the place to be comfortable (again, I visited during Summer).

Bagan is full of beautiful ancient temples and ruins. If you’ve visited Angkor Wat, the vibe is similar, but Bagan has more sporadic temples with beautiful landscape. This group of little temples and pagodas create some kind of a whole new different world feeling.

Ananda Temple, most known for its beautiful architecture.

Bagan is also famous for its sunrise and sunset, and chasing them requires patience and adventurous soul. Tourist used to be able to climb pagodas to the highest to get a better view of sunrise and sunset, since 2016, it has been banned. However, you may find some deserted pagodas or stupas where you can illegally climb. Ahem, find some local people to go with you if you’re unsure. You may comment if you’re interested and we can talk in private LOL.

There are a couple of secret sunrise and sunset spot that tourists do not know exist, here’s the two places that our local guy brought us to:

Sunrise spot, a secret temple

You need to climb 3 levels up to get the best view; first level is by stairs, second and third level is a 2 meters vertical climbing each. Since I was carrying a bulky item in my belly, I only reach up to the second climb, it was still scary, but not as scary as the last one and going down was even scarier!

Sunset spot, an ancient monastery

Keep hiking up to the highest point and wait the sunset there. Sadly there was a thick layer of clouds once the sun was setting, we actually could see the huge red sun when we were riding our bike there, but once it almost hit the horizon, it was covered by the clouds. :(

Where to stay?

I would only suggest 2 areas to stay during your adventure in Bagan, New Bagan area and Old Bagan area. We personally chose Old Bagan area, it has less cafes or restaurants, and practically just surrounded by temples, but the feeling was magical! We were staying just 1 step away from temple! We stayed at Thande Hotel Old Bagan and overall it was not bad!

New Bagan is like a small town, so it has more hotels/hostels and cafes. We usually go out to New Bagan for lunch and dinner, it’s just 20 minutes e-bike ride away! There’s another possible town to stay, which is Nyaung-U, but I personally don’t like the vibe of this town, so I won’t recommend.

How to move around?

There are a couple of choices but I will only give you the best: e-bike! Tourist can only rent e-bike, not the real motorbike. E-bike is electric and less powerful than the normal motorbike, so in another word, it’s safer. It’s very easy to navigate too! But please take note that some of the roads to some temples are not paved, it’s sandy and rocky, and navigating the e-bike in fields like these can be tricky, just be careful and stay safe!

Sandy roads to the temples

I rode e-bike with Bandi, and there were moments when we almost fell, it was a little scary, only because I was (and am) carrying our baby in my belly. I was 24 weeks pregnant on this trip and I was more careful than the rest of our trips. I literally couldn’t be reckless.

The road could be bumpy too, so imagine I was holding my tummy most of the time, but I guess my baby kinda enjoyed it, it felt like riding a transformers ride in Universal studios, haha.

What to eat in Bagan?

Be open. :)

Bandi and I personally like asian food with spices, so there was no problem at all for us, but I think it could be too much for some people, especially if your palette is very western, but try to be open and you will be rewarded.

But if you don’t feel that adventurous, there were cafes that serve western food like burger and fries too.

We ate a lot of Chinese Burmese food and don’t miss their avocado juice and passionfruit soda! They’re abundant on fruits, so take advantage of it.

This vegetarian cafe called Moon is so good!

Watch out on the season!

Please check out the whether before you book your trip. I didn’t and I was punished with crazy hot weather. It was up to 42 degrees in the afternoon! Imagine I was having hot flush because of my pregnancy and I needed to face the 42 degrees heat; maaaan, I almost exploded!

Please also take note of their big holidays, some shuttle bus didn’t operate during thingyan (water festival), which is exactly when we booked the trip (double hit). Thankfully we went in a big group, it was 6 of us, so we could book a private van from and to Bagan-Mandalay. It costed us US$ 270 for the return trip.

Try to visit in the colder season, from October to April; our driver told us the temperature could drop to 16, so that would be lovely!

Do I love Bagan?

Yes! I always love beautiful landscape! I’m not a big fan of temples (maybe that’s why I didn’t really enjoy Siem Reap), but Bagan has a unique landscape, so it’s what makes it special. Some people said Bagan is a mix between Siem Reap and Cappadocia. I would agree in some extend. :)

The Photogenic Bodhi Tree

But if I could change one thing, I wouldn’t want to visit Bagan during summer, it’s too harsh.

Traveling while Pregnant

I did travel while pregnant previously, but it was more like a relaxing trip, like Bali or weekend getaway to Batam; I also went for business trips. But this trip is different because it’s the typical Bandi and May’s adventurous trip, there were moments where I had to do vertical climb in the pagoda to catch a sunrise, and not to mention the constant bumpy bike ride. Not only the physical activities, I also needed to watch out for what I ate and be more mindful about the cleanliness. I don’t want to eat anything harmful for my baby, but if you know me, I usually never cared about what I eat, so it was a little difficult.

To be honest, this trip was planned before we got pregnant (or even account for it LOL), so I couldn’t-didn’t want- to cancel or change anything about it. I’ve been wanting to explore Bagan for so looong! Thankfully everything went well and again I’m grateful to have 2 fun guys in my life who love adventure (I assume my baby loved it LOL).

So, what’s next?

I don’t think there will be big trip until the labor, the only big trip coming up is a journey to be a parent! So this blog could be on hibernation for a while until we’re off for another trip, unless I could blog about the trip to hospital on our journey to be parent! That could be accounted as adventure too! :)

Share with me your travel stories when you were/are pregnant! It would be fun to read!

Cheers,

May, grounded for a while