Taking Shwe Man Thu bus from Mandalay, friends and I arrived in Bagan at 4 o’clock in the morning. It took around 6 hours to go to Bagan from Mandalay. At the bus terminal we were picked up by a horse cart, it’s free as a compliment from Inn Wa Guesthouse, a place where we stayed for 1 night. We actually wanted to see the famous sunrise at Bagan before heading to the guesthouse, but it turned out the horse cart rental fee for sunrise tour has doubled from what we’ve planned. I already knew that the entrance fee in Bagan is now 15USD, it has risen by 50% since October 2013 (previously it was only 10USD). However, I didn’t know the horse cart rental fee for sunrise tour also rose from 5.000kyats (in February) to 10.000kyats per horse cart. Not to mention, the whole-day rental fee was 20.000kyats per horse cart. Hence, we had to cancel our plan to see the sunrise.
Due to the change of plan, we decided to sleep in our rooms and asked the whole-day horse cart driver to pick us up on 8am. Luckily the guesthouse let us to check-in so early with no extra cost. Before we continued our journey of temple-hopping around Bagan, we had breakfast along the way since the guesthouse didn’t provide breakfast for us. We had mohinga with milk tea for our breakfast. We ate like locals though we didn’t look like them. Hahaha.
First stop was Shwezigon Pagoda. Shwezigon is the only pagoda or temple in Bagan I remember so well among other temples. Well, maybe because of its similarity with Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon with its golden surface stupas, but it is still smaller than Shwedagon. Temple to temple we visited. Sometimes we climbed up to the top to see how beautiful Bagan was from above. From the top of a pagoda we could see the view down to the hundreds or thousands of different temples. Bagan, located on the banks of the Ayeyarwady River, is a home to the largest and densest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and the ruins of the world. Speaking of the temples, it is fair to say that Bagan rivals other temples in Southeast Asia; Borobudur temple in Indonesia and its sister temple, Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The sheer scale of Bagan with its hundreds of buildings which spread in a large area is astonishing. The temples range from tiny stupas to multi-level structures.
Around 5pm, the horse cart driver took us to a temple where we could climb and see sunset from above. I didn’t remember the name of that temple but I thought it was Thatbinyu temple, the highest temple in Bagan. We managed to have a good spot to see sunset. This temple offered us a beautiful view down to the 360 of temples around. Oh, even though it wasn’t the best sunset I have ever seen, the view was just BREATHTAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL. Going down with orange canvas behind and silhouette of temples and mountain, it’s just something that you have to experience yourself to understand what I am talking about. After that we were heading back to the guesthouse to have some rest since the sunny day and the dusty road in Bagan made us so exhausted. Satisfied with the sunset, we agreed to have sunrise tour before leaving Bagan because we thought that it would offer us a different experience with the sunset.
It was 6 o’clock in the morning and we were already at one of Bagan’s temple. We thought it would be full pack of people as we experienced during the sunset yesterday, yet we only saw two horse carts. The darkness was pitch-black and the horse cart driver lent us a flashlight to lighten up our way to the top. The buzzing of mosquitoes accompanied us when we were waiting for the sun to rise. As the minutes passed, the dark sky slowly turned into brighter. The sun started to shine through the blanket of clouds. The silhouette of temples emerged among the fogs. It was nothing like I saw in Borobudur from Punthuk Setumbu since Bodobudur is the only temple there. The transformation from total darkness to a beautiful scene happened in a matter of minutes, illuminating the whole area of Bagan’s temples. From a far, we could see some hot-air balloons rised up to the sky. It gave more dramatic effects to the already-dramatic sunrise. I found that the time I spent in Bagan was amazing and definitely should be on everybody’s MUST VISIT list. In many ways, Bagan was the most stunning ancient place I’ve ever seen. I really wish I would have had more time there, so I wouldn’t have been in rush to catch the bus to Yangon.