For some reason I decided at 12pm that it would be a great idea to hire a bike and cycle to Old Bagan from Nyaung-U. Along the way there are countless temples to stop at so it’s a really great journey, but the heat began to become unbearable. Here’s a tip – if you want to cycle anywhere, any distance, don’t do it when it’s 40C on an open road with no shade like I did.
I met some people who are travelling for 2 months and they set each other a rule quite near the beginning of the trip – don’t do anything between 12pm and 4pm. I need to adopt it quickly.
There are 4,000 temples in Bagan and it seems that you can go in or around any you wish. I frequently turned up at ones where nobody else was around and wondered ‘should I be here’? Then there were others with ‘official vendors’ selling various trinkets, and children trying to sell me postcards. At one temple I was accosted by about 8 kids all trying to sell the same thing. When I got inside the temple a very cheery 12 year old girl attached herself to me and showed me around, speaking excellent English and asking if I’d practise some French with her too. At the end of the tour she whipped out the postcards everyone else was selling and I relented. Good on her for going the extra mile even if I did get ripped off a little.
I was so exhausted from the ride to Old Bagan that I couldn’t bear the thought of cycling back yet so I sat in the doorway of a temple for ages and waited for sunset.
I was told that there’s one temple that has stairs that you can climb up for a spectacular view. Due to my tragic map reading skills I turned up at the wrong temple at exactly the right time. Two Americans had persuaded someone in this little unknown temple to open up the stairway and I was invited up.
When we were at what we thought was the top he shouted from the bottom telling us to climb the rest. Seriously? Those rocks were not meant for climbing but if he says it’s possible then I’ll give it a go. I don’t remember my insurance specifically covering this though.
The view was incredible, and from there we could see the temple I was actually aiming for. Tour bus after tour bus turned up and there were hundreds of people crowding the walkways, and here we were, just 3 of us with a 360 degree view of Bagan.
It made the day completely worth it to watch the red sun cast a glow across miles and miles of temple-dotted land. Once I’d taken photos from every possible angle I put the camera away and sat on the ledge and took it all in.
The bike ride back was a laugh – very dark and full of people trying to run me off the road. And to think I was worried about that bloody horse and cart! Anyway, I’m not dead so it’s another road success.
Practical Information: Entry to Bagan is $10 for tourists – a one off payment to your hotel and they give you the permit. Bike hire is 1500kyats for the day. Take a torch (flashlight) if you could be cycling back after sunset. I wore my head torch backwards so that people behind would see me and not mow me down, and could just about see the road ahead thanks to car lights. Has any of this information changed since 2013? Let me know in the comments below.