Monday, August 24, 2015

Circling Myanmar: Bagan

Day 4 – August 24, 2015

Bicycling around temples, pagodas, stupas around Bagan seemed like a dream come true.


I arrived at New Bagan Bus Terminal at 5am. To my dismay, the bus dropped me and the American at the sidewalk several meters from the station. It was dark yet so I planned to stay inside the terminal building. A couple of “taxi drivers” crowded around us bidding for the lowest fare. I settled for the man who looked gentler than the rest and offered me the ride for 5,000 kyats. Then I was on board a horse-drawn carriage adorned with soft foams of lower quality than Uratex. Only the horse shoes made the early morning sound as we cross the road towards the Old Bagan’s Archeological Site. The driver whom I thought was gentle was insisting on me to watch the sunrise for a “little more money” until we reached the archway and stopped at the roadside kiosk. As a foreigner I paid 20USD for the 5-days pass around the archeological site and that’s the reason why I declined the 4,000 kyats sunrise watching.

I knocked at Bagan Princess Hotel at little past 6am. I later discover that my assigned room was in the annex building separated from the main wooden-themed hotel structures. I had room 604 but it was in the ground floor of a concrete building several steps away from the main hotel. It looked like a usual residential house far glamorous than the luxurious ambiance of the main building. The free breakfast was plated and I was to choose from fried rice, vermicelli with bread, or fried noodles. The toilet inside the restaurant area is scary as it was colonized by flies. The wifi signal is only available at the lobby around the reception but was so slow. My assigned bed however was huge, comfy and of high quality mattress, that was why I had a quality respite during my overnight stay.

Had my room become available by the time I arrived, I would have settled in and snoozed that morning. Good thing I had to wait for a while, so I decided to rent a pedal bike upon noticing some at the façade. The security guard accompanied me to a nearby restaurant that rented me the bicycle at 2,000 kyats for the whole day. I deposited my luggage at the front desk and inquired from the front desk clerk the best sunrise point. He drew lines and stars on the map before handing it over to me.

It has been a long while since my last biking, so I started shaky, keep stopping here and there. I like to note as a good thing that Bagan Princess Hotel is close to clusters of pagodas and temples. Noticing the red-bricked stupas here and there, some at arm’s length, I fired up and my biking became spontaneous and easy. But I still struggled in areas where sands amassed in the middle of interior soiled roads. I did enjoy riding; stopping to take pictures, entering interior crowd-free roads to get close to pagodas that sprouted like mushrooms everywhere. For more than 2 hours of bicycling, I have reached a number of major temples like Htilominlo, Ananda, Shwegugya, and Byinyu before I went back to the hotel to break the fast and take a rest.

That afternoon after my recovered sleep, I resumed my bicycling tour and reached the other side of the Bagan Archeological Site and climbed major pagodas like Shwezigon and Shwe San Daw – the best place to view the whole Bagan during sunrise and sunset. I shared those wondrous moments along with the citizens of the world that congregate in Bagan, Myanmar, from Europeans to Australians and Asians.

I found it fitting to close my day tour with grilled chicken and pork barbecues over with Myanmar Beer bottles.

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