A random list of bests I decided to compile on Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)
Avoid the midday heat. Go for sunrise and visit a few more temples in the AM before returning to town and the comfort of your A/C hotel room. It starts to cool off by about 4, so head back out and catch the sunset.
Best Way to Get Around
You could jump on the back of a horse draw carriage and travel the same way they’ve been doing for thousands of years, but I never turn down an opportunity to rent a bike and cycle around. They’re 1,500 Kyat for the day and you can take in the temples at your own pace, stopping if you see something interesting or picture worthy, or just to take a nap in some shade. The main temples are about 5 km from the town of Nyaung U, where you’ll most likely be staying, but once you’ve moseyed your way over, the temples are practically on top of each other. You’re never are out of sight of one. So many that you can have one or twelve all to yourself if you’d like. However, beware the one vice of bikes. Flats will stop you in your tracks. Luckily, the friendly locals are happy to lend a helping hand and a pump.
Best Place to Watch the Sunrise
Ascending the five terraces to the top of the Shwesandaw Pagoda has got to be the best spot to catch the first glimpse of light. While I admittedly didn’t actually see the sunrise from this temple, I really wish I had. Instead I had the pleasure of attending the sunset, which was impressive in its own right, but the largest concentration of large temples and pagodas was primarily to the east, while, as I’m sure you’ve come to notice over the years, the sun goes to bed in the other direction.
Ha, just kidding. It’s Myanmar and I didn’t find any good internet. That’s likely to change in the coming months at the rate the country is changing and tourists are flooding in, but until then, it’s closer to dial up speeds than anything resembling high speed. If you must, I suggest using the “Load basic HTML | (for slower connections)” in Gmail and the mobile version of Facebook (m.facebook.com). Everything else might be better off waiting.
Best Place to Watch the Sunset
The Pyathada Pagoda, while slightly out of the way, provides a grand viewing platform from which you can watch the sun disappear. Built in the 11th century and never actually completed, the pagoda lies east of Old Bagan and most all of the largest temples providing a temple studded skyline in the direction of sundown. It’s a good 10-15 ride down non-lit dirt roads, so lingering about will create a little adventure of its own as you attempt to get back to street lights.
Best Place to Grub
Smack in the middle of Restaurant Row, this restaurant, which you can’t miss, is the ideal spot to grab a bite after you’ve had your fill of temples for the day. It’s literally situated directly adjacent to an actual temple, providing the best ambiance, which is only emphasized when the nightly puppet show begins. To top it off the family running the place provides that good old Southeast Asian hospitality.
I recently raved about a certain purchase I made in Kalaw for my trek, but turns out, it came in just as handy in good old Bagan. That purchase was a rice picker hat and besides water, the main reason for my survival of the midday heat. If not a hat made from bamboo, I’d suggest having something to shade your eyes, especially if you’re doing the cycle thing.