Bagan is high up on my list of favourit places. The area and view from one of the thousand pagodas is hard to describe in words. It is breathtaking climbing up a pagoda and overlooking the flat sandy plain with numerous pagodas, stupas and zedis between the green bushes and trees. It comes as no surprise that sunrise and sunset watching is a highlight in Bagan. Finding the perfect spot to watch either the sunrise or the sunset isn’t easy. The obvious choice is the white Shwe San Dwan (or so?) pagoda where all the tourist go and wrestle for a spot. We’ll come to alternative sunset and sunrise temples further down in this blog post.
Nyaung U, Old Bagan and New Bagan form a triangle inbetween theae towns are most temples located. Many budget conscious people stay in Nyaung U, the same place where most of the buses arrive. Old Bagan is convenient to stay close to the main sunrise and sunset temples but pricier. I stayed in Nyaung U.
Shwe Na Din Guesthouse was a nice place to stay as it was finaly a place where price and standard was on a par. The ten dollar room came with air-condition, nice double bed, breakfast and cheap bicycle rental. It is south-west of he roundabout on the main road. There is a traditional Myanmar Massage place up the road, which I can highly recommend. I’d title the massage Snake-Bite-Massage as the technique used reminds me of how a snake would bite – but in a good way. Also on the same road a plethora of restaurants can be found, from Chinese, Italian, French and local cuisine everything is available.
I had planned to get up for the sunrise the first morning. Set my alarm clock for 5, woke up, got outside to check the weather and retunred back to bed as it was too cloudy. Later in the morning I rented a bicycle. Definitely the best way to get around the temples. You don’t necessarily need a map as a big road or one of the three towns is never far away. On my first day I rode from Nyaung U to Old Bagan and explored the temples in this area. During the day I was one a really nice smaller temples where it was possible to go up to the top. I made a mental remark to come back there for sunset. Unfortunately it isn’t possible anymore to climb up every temple, just a handful are open. During midday it was too hot to go around so I stop for an hour and talked to some sand-painting-sellers. I was amazed how many languages these guys could (loosely) speak and how much Western-Knowledge they had. Don’t be fooled by all the painters, some of them just by a template and fill in the outlines with colours.
In the evening I had a hard time finding the one temple for sunset again. There are just too many similar looking temples. Just for the last sunrays I found it. The next morning I did actually get up for the sunrise. It was cloudy and unspectacular. I got rewarded only later inhe evening when I was inn for a stunning colourful sunset on a temple far away from the main tourist drag.