After a day or two of Yangon madness, Mike and I decided to change the channel. We had a limited amount for Myanmar, so we had to get cracking. Most people come to Myanmar for 2-4 weeks, because the country is so large and getting from place to place is rather time-consuming. We had only 8 or 9 days, so this was just a sample compared to everyone else. We decided that the next destination would be Bagan.
Bagan is an ancient city in the Mandalay region of Myanmar. It has some of the world’s oldest concentration of pagodas. It is the probably most popular destination within Myanmar. It is still a far cry from Siem Reap and Angkor Watt though when it comes to the number of tourists. The most common image you will see of Bagan is the pagodas ( temples) with the hot air balloons such as this one.
Our trip to Bagan was off to a slow start in Yangoon. We miscalculated the amount of time it would take to get to the station. We also were let down by a few Grab taxi in Yangon as well. Grab taxi ( Asian uber/lyft) is somewhat new in Myanmar, and it often the case that a. The drivers don’t know where something is b can’t read google maps c. Get too frustrated to pick you up. Our taxi angel finally pulled up. He was a funny man who spoke excellent English and even some German. He was a significant formula one fan, so Mike had a nice time discussing his favorite drivers while I was thinking about our option B because I was pretty sure we were going to miss the bus. I kind of did want to take the train anyway. The driver was pretty knowledgeable and made quite a few shortcuts. He even explained to us why they drive on the right side of the road in Myanmar.
Fun fact: Myanmar is one of the few ex British colonies that drive on the right. It is also not a recent thing either. They made the switch in 1970 by order of the prime minister (Ne win) of the time. He did not give a reason. There are several theories about why that usually relate to a dream he had or advice given by one of his. We thought it had to the recent thing as most of the cars have the steering wheel on the right side. That has to do with that most of their cars are from Japan. There has recently been a law passed that vehicles on the market must have a left-sided steering wheel. The right-sided steering wheels are allowed to drive, but the goal is to phase them out eventually.
We finally got to the bus station. Not only did our driver take us there, but he also took us precisely to the spot where we needed to be. The Yangon bus station is bigger than many villages. We choose the company. It was pretty decent. It was one of the ” nicer’ companies, but rather affordable. We choose JJ VIP bus. The trip from Yangon to Bagan is about 9 hours and costs about 15-17 USD. The bus had pretty comfortable seats with lots of leg room. Our seats almost could recline into a bed while also being enough room between seats where you could do so without pissing off the person behind you. They also passed out little goody boxes. They did blast the AC to the point that many central and eastern Europeans would complain.I’ve taken more than my fair share of suffocating and sweltering bus rides all over Eastern Europe, so I was more than okay with it. They also give out blankets.
The bus also took a couple of stops along the way. There is a more extended stop about at the halfway point. We were a little nervous because they weren’t very clear about the duration of the stop. I just walked behind a family that seemed to look like they know what they are doing. Many vendors were selling various snacks and a huge canteen. I selected some dim sim dumplings and chili fish dish. It was pretty tasty for rest stop food. The bus stopped again about 3/4s of the way for another break, and we had to change to another bus for the last stretch which wasn’t as nice as the original bus, but far from the worst. This section was more scenic as it was off the highway.
After a couple more bumpy hours later, we arrived at the gates of the Archeological site. All foreigners have to pay either 20 Euros or 20 USD or 2,500 Kyat. I think we were even able to pay for ours with a combination of all three since there wasn’t an opportunity to stop at a cash machine. After trying to come up with the correct cash amount, we received our passes and let through. We arrived at the Ostello Bello Bagan hostel which was our for a home for the next days. Stay tuned next time to hear about my Pagoda adventures, Irrawaddy floating and Burmese screw ups!