We took a bus in the morning from Mandalay to Bagan. The ride was about six hours and was pretty painless, but we had our own assigned seats and there was air conditioning. That’s all you can ask for in Asia. We arrived and were immediately bombarded with tuk tuk drivers offering “cheap rides” to hotels. Meanwhile, they are clearly ripping everyone off. We shared one with these two English girls who were going to the same hotel as us. We paid 7000 Kyet ($7) total, which I knew was way too much, but the one girl claimed that the hotel was far away so we took it. Sure enough, she was wrong and it took 5 minutes to get to our place. It’s frustrating to get ripped off. We checked in and ate at the restaurant in the hotel. Matt and I then swam for a little and waited for the heat to become bearable. Around 3:30 pm, we rented bicycles for $1 each and rode around the area. We were really close to the temples so it wasn’t a bad ride, but it was still very hot. Bagan is world famous for having the most temples in the world in such a small area. There were tens or thousands in this one small area. Some of them are impressive and some are very small. I’m not positive of the whole story of why they are here, but I’m pretty sure some guy one thousand years ago claimed that he could turn temples to gold, so everyone built their own temples, or paid people to build them if they were rich. Some are huge and are impressive to walk around. Most are small and add to the beauty of the entire area when thousands of them are in sight from the top of higher temples. For this reason, sunrise and sunsets are the thing to do here. The view of many temples at once with a stunning backdrop is what make this place so incredible. We walked around a few large temples and then made our way to one that was recommended to us for a great sunset view. We didn’t have a map so it was a struggle but we eventually found the temple that we needed to go to, and we climbed to the top. There were 30 or so people there by the time the sun set, so it really wasn’t crowded at all. We had our own seat on the small top against the wall. We hung out there for an hour or so as the sun went down and soaked in the views from above. It was all we hoped for. We rode our bikes back to the hotel before it got too dark and we ate dinner at a place next door to our hotel. We saw the English girls who we met earlier that day eating there too, so after we finished our meals, we all had some beers together until 11:00 pm or so. It was a chill night at an outdoor restaurant on the side of the road.
Matt and I woke up early for sunrise. Our English friends were hungover so they didn’t come, but we were fine. We rented electric bikes today for $4 each. It is so worth it to not have to pedal all day in the heat. We looked like idiots because they were sissy looking bikes that didn’t go fast at all. They were like scooters but looked more like Hoverounds with two wheels. The wheels were small and the bike was almost silent with a small buzz as you rode. The top speed was probably around 10 mph but it was pretty easy to manage. It was more difficult to ride on dirt paths off of the main paved road but we did alright without falling off. We rode in the dark for 30 minutes trying to find this one temple that was recommended for us to go to for sunrise. Sunrises are known to be better than sunsets here so we wanted to get an early start. Since Myanmar isn’t that touristy yet, this meant we saw noone on the road and had no crowd to follow. We eventually saw a horse drawn carriage in the distance go down a small dirt path, so we followed it. Luckily, it went where we wanted to go and we made it to the temple. This temple was a little bit bigger than the one we went to for sunset, so it was harder to climb to the top on the steep side, but not too difficult. We got on top and once again, got a seat right on the wall facing the sunrise. It had around 100 people there as the sun came up so you could easily sit or move around freely. Sunrise was amazing. It was so nice from this location, too. We overlooked thousands of temples with their peaks looking like silhouettes as the sun came up behind them. We took pictures for an hour and enjoyed the view from all angles. In every direction, there were thousands of temples easily in sight. We climbed down and rode around for a couple of hours visiting various temples. After traveling around Asia for more than three months, we have seen enough temples, so after three or four, we couldn’t bare the heat anymore and called it a day. We went back to our hotel to drop our bikes off. We ate lunch at a restaurant on our street and we hung out in our lobby, looking up information on our next destination. We ate a small dinner and took a night bus to Inle Lake, where we didn’t book anything in advance because we didn’t know much about the area. We figured it would be fine because most people who visit Myanmar visit four semi-built up places: Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan Temples, Inle Lake. We were visiting all four and wanted to go to a beach after, so we decided night busses around give us more time there. Bagan was amazing and was definitely worth the trip. It made Myanmar worth the two months of visa hassle and rearranging of our backpacking itinerary.