Bagan was a nice contrast to the madness of Mandalay – much less traffic and far easier to find places to eat. The main attraction in Bagan is the multitude of temples, of which thousands are dotted across the plains around Nyaung U (the main town, where we stayed), Old Bagan, and New Bagan.
The easiest way to see the temples is by bike, and you can rent good old pedal bikes or e-bikes (electric bikes), which we rented (10,000K per day). Both of us could ride on one, which saved us some cash. Shaun was the driver and I rode on the back. It was so much fun!
For two of our four days in Bagan we rented the e-bike (which we called the Pink Phoenix) and zoomed around the countryside and climbed up lots of temples with help from local kids (there are secret stairways inside the temples to get to the top), got accosted by postcard sellers, and joined a couple of hundred other tourists up the Shwesandaw Pagoda for sunset.
One day was rainy (what?! I thought this was the driest time of year in one of the driest parts of the country…) so we hung around Nyaung U and saw the local market which was pretty interesting. Lots of raw chicken and fish sitting out with flies all over, people selling rice, dried beans, longyis (the skirt/sarong type things women and men wear here), fruit, vegetables, and lots of unidentifiable objects.
One morning we hired a horse cart for 8000K to see the sunrise. It was a bit of a flop because it was quite cloudy but it was nice to see the temples in the early morning light, and was quite fun riding on the horse cart.
We ate at a vegetarian restaurant called Be Kind to Animals The Moon (weird name, I know!) and the food was delicious. Shwe Moe on the main road in Nyaung U near Inn Wa Guesthouse had amazing Burmese food, and it was really cheap too.
We really enjoyed Bagan, but we definitely had too much time there – two days would have been enough to see the temples and the market and walk around the town. Inn Wa Guesthouse was a good pick at $25US per night for a double room with bathroom, but it was a 15 minute walk from the main (western/non-Burmese) restaurant street (if that’s what you’re after).
After Bagan we headed to Kalaw on another overnight bus (8 hours this time). There were no blankets and it was freezing, and a Burmese soap opera was playing loudly most of the ride. When we got to Kalaw we couldn’t find the guesthouse we had booked so walked around for an hour at 2 am until we found another one owned by the same people. Natureland Hotel had a nice big bed and a huge bathroom with very hot water, and was nice and quiet (although it was a 10 minute walk from the centre of Kalaw). Our reason for going to Kalaw was to trek from there to Inle Lake… more on that here!