Published: July 19th 2012July 19th 2012
The bus from Inle Lake to Bagan was yet another bus nightmare, an hour into the ride and the bus driver ran someone over. It sounds very selfish of me to moan about this but you weren’t there, I have never seen anyone make such a meal out of being hit by a bus in all my life. He was barely cut but he was wailing and screaming like a heavy metal band. Because of the idiocy of this man who couldn’t be bothered to look both ways on a street which averaged 1 car per minute we was doomed to an eight hour wait at a shop in the middle of nowhere. I theorised that this man was working for the shop in an effort to attract tourists; I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the Burmese version of the ‘national accident helpline’ adverts. After eight hours a new bus was brought and a new driver instated, we moved on, half an hour more and we had broken down again, this was followed by a succession of 5 more break downs each lasting a minimum of half an hour. By the time we arrived in Bagan we was 12 hours behind schedule and it was 3am. Everywhere was shut and we had to knock door to door to find a hotel, I stayed with two guys from America and Germany in a triple room for 21 dollars. We were all up early and rented bikes to go see the temples.
The bike ride was pleasant and driving to old Bagan from the town we could see some of the smaller temples, the drive was about 15 minutes before we stopped, a local showed us that we could climb to the roof of a small temple and get a view of the whole of Bagan. The view was amazing, there were no tourists at all and very little evidence that we were in the 21st
century, no roads in sight, no shops, no cars. From there we hoped from temple to temple, most of which you couldn’t climb, however there were some impressive statues and paintings inside. We headed to the temple famous for the sunset, however a few hours before sunset arrived. It was deserted, the tallest temple in Bagan and we was on top alone with 360 degree views of the plains, I imagined that the views I was admiring would have been similar to the views hundreds of years ago. I couldn’t think of a place anywhere else in the world that wasn’t infected with branding and tourism, I remembered climbing the great wall and seeing tourist buses and restaurants lined up along the dismount point. However at sunset, as if from out of nowhere hundreds of tourists appeared for the one moment, I had seen maybe two westerners the whole day. It amazed me how many had managed to slip by me un-noticed.
After the sunset I looked at how to get to Mraouk-U my next point of call. On a map it was approximately 4 hours away, I planned my trip to end there and then go back to Yangon to fly. However the locals told me that there was no transport to Mraouk-U and if I wanted to go I would have to take a 14 hour bus to Yangon and then a 14 hour bus to Sittwe and then a 7 hour boat to Mraouk-U. I couldn’t fathom it, why? The decision I made was to skip Mraouk-U because I had a limited amount of time and each journey would have taken one day. This was the biggest tradegy of my Myanmar trip but I had no choice as I couldn’t change my flight because the internet in Myanmar is horrific. Before leaving Bagan I took a trip to Mt Poppa, this mountain was 777 steps high and had a large temple on the top, the mountain was shaped like a cucumber and so the point of having a building on top was impressive. We climbed to the top and released 3 balloons, mine immediately popped which left me bitter all day but the sight was impressive. Again there wasn’t a tourist to be seen, I guess that in any other country a sight as inspiring as this would be a hive of foreign activity. It was a good end to my time in Bagan and as I couldn’t see Mraouk-U I had to make an alteration in my plan. I instead decided to not waste my final few days and so I got a night bus to Yangon, slept a few hours on the bus and then immediately jumped on another bus to the golden rock. Final thoughts on Bagan: My favourite place in Myanmar, the town had very good little restaurants, providing good western food and surprising good vegetarian curries. The atmosphere was relaxed and the views from the temples were iconic.