Burma days: Bagan

The night bus to Bagan was horrible. 10 hours sitting right at the back, seats unable to recline, lurching forwards, up, down, side to side on terrible roads. Vomit inducing, even with travel sickness pills.

After getting no sleep whatsoever, we arrived at 4am to the sound of taxi drivers screaming and squabbling over us like gannets. We sat down and tried to get our bearings away from those maniacs. Every new bus that arrived, they all ran alongside it in their flip flops, jostling to be the first to shout in a tired tourist’s face as they came, dazed, from the bus. We finally got a taxi to Nyangoo, just outside Bagan, where we found a little guesthouse with a very eager lady who was keen to make sure we were comfortable and even gave us breakfast that morning.

There had been flooding in the monsoon rains so the street on one side was completely under water. Kids were playing in the water with floats and blow up tyres and people were getting about on big wooden canoes.

Myanmar feels much less developed than anywhere else we have been. People labour in the fields, tilling the ground by hand or with wooden ploughs led by big white oxen, with big bumps on their backs.


Lots of people here – particularly women but also the men in Yangon – have light foundation-like patches on their cheeks and foreheads. Like contouring gone terribly wrong. At first I thought it might be a religious thing but actually it turned out to be a fashion thing – it’s just trendy to have white patches on your face, plus it protects from the sun as no-one wants to look too tanned, like farm workers.

After our breakfast, we went over the street and rented a little electronic bike, too lazy and tired for the energy required to use a real bike. Hugo loved it – so zippy and it makes absolutely no noise. You just press “on” and off you go! I perched on the back, basically on the rack as there weren’t really two seats, riding pillion with both feet on on a little platform at the side, like the locals. It was a great way to get around.


We spent two days zipping about and exploring the temples. At first we tried to go through a list of “must see” but quickly realised that it was more fun just to scoot about and get off the bike at random sites and explore. Some temples are massive, flanked by little markets with touristy souvenirs and kids selling postcards, others are tiny and deserted, still others with local artists or farmers living next door, who point out the features of that particular temple with little torches.

The smaller ones are my favourite as a lot of them have tiny, dark, steep and often crumbling staircases taking you up into the ramparts, where the view is fantastic. You can see out over the fields and forests of palm trees to other temples rising out of the haze, and then to the mountains or the bloated Irrawaddy River in the distance. At one point, we just lay down and looked out, listening to a farmer chivvy on his cows ploughing the field below.

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