We had every intention of waking up early and getting an early start this morning but it just didn’t work out that way. After a leisurely breakfast on the rooftop comprising of a plate of fruit and toast with an optional omelette we set off on our hired push bikes we rented for 1500K per person from a place on the same street called a Private Travel and Tours. The hotel also rented bikes but they only had ebikes available on the day and we wanted to explore the old fashioned way.
The first temple we visited had no name, only 2101 on our little map. I think only the main pagodas had names.
We cycled a little further down the main road to Shwe Leik Too Pagoda on the left. This was bigger than the first one and appeared more touristy. Two boys greeted us and showed us around, telling us which pagodas we could see from the top and which ones were best to see. They were very cute and helpful and told us this pagoda would also be good for sunrise as it looks over quite a few temples and makes good pictures. So maybe we will come here for sunrise tomorrow.
We were getting a little hungry so we stopped for lunch at Sarabha II restaurant near the expensive hotel in Old Bagan. We knew it was going to be a little pricey but the staff were nice and there wasn’t many options around. For a vegetable curry and prawn curry with rice, two bottles of water, an espresso and a coke the bill came to 16,000K. It was much nicer than the Weatherspoons restaurant we ate in last night and the price wasn’t that different. Right opposite was the famous Ananda Temple.
Again it was full of tourists and people trying to sell you gold leaf sheets to place on the Buddha statues for good luck.
There are four big standing Buddhas inside this temple, 31ft high. We entered from the main entrance but apparently is better to enter from the east or west, as you get less hassle from the vendors selling things. We also had our Bagan ticket checked for the first time today, so they do check it but not at every temple.
We took this cool picture just off the track from the Ananda Temple. Took a few attempts but we got it in the end!
A quick jump on the bike took us the the next temple called That-by in-hyu. We were approached by vendors almost immediately before we even parked our bikes, but there was far less tourists here. Since we didn’t want to buy any more souvenirs we gave two of the children a lollipop and a bouncy ball that we had bought from the UK. In an instant we were swarmed with adults and children that were sitting around the temple. We must of given out about 20 lollipops and balls, the adults loved them more than the children. Two girls showed us around and gave us some information about the temple. It was the highest temple in Bagan, and was built in 1144.
They pointed us in the right direction to head to the famous sunset Shwesandaw Pagoda and we set off on our bikes once more. We cycled a bit too far and ended up in New Bagan so we had to turn back and peddle fast as the sun was setting and we were nearly a kilometre away from the pagoda we needed to get to. But after peddling through some tough sandy spots we arrived just in time before the large coaches full of tourists began to arrive. Quickly climbing to the top we claimed our spot and waited for the sun to start setting. It was unbelievable how many people turned up just to see the sunset. It’s definitely worth arriving at least an hour before sunset starts, we got there just in time to claim the perfect spot, so allow yourself plenty of time including time to climb up the steps.
It took some time to climb down as there was so many people. It was a race to cycle the 5km back to the hotel before it got too dark. It was lucky we had a torch on our backpacks as it got dark very quickly, and we nearly got lost! Still, we returned back to our hotel and showered and set off for dinner in a local restaurant on the same street and then turned in for the night. Tomorrow we are waking up for sunrise and then taking an excursion to Mount Popa! 🙂 So we need plenty of rest, as we have 700 steps to climb tomorrow!
Note: Plenty of people will follow you around the temples, most often children or teenagers. They give you useful insight about the temple but always lead you to their stall and expect you to purchase something. We felt bad since we couldn’t afford to buy something from everyone, so maybe it’s better to make it clear at the beginning that you won’t be buying anything from them.
The cycle from Nyaung U to Old Bagan is around 5 km. There are two straight roads you can take so its hard to get lost, and some of the larger temples have asphalt or distinctive dirt tracks leading to them which are easy to cycle on. Some of the smaller temples are a bit harder to reach as its pretty sandy, cycling is ok but we saw some people on the e-bikes struggle a bit.