This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for details.
Today we were meant to arrive at 9.30am but it wasn’t meant to be. Last night the train stopped for a long time and we were wondering why since it was meant to be a nonstop train. We were later informed by the kind steward that the train was delayed almost 6 hours as the train in front had derailed during the night (not surprising since it’s like being on a roller coaster!) so we would now arrive in Bagan at 3.30pm, meaning we would be on the train for a full 24 hours.
Although it was frustrating news, we had plenty of scenery to keep us occupied and plenty of local children to wave at along the way. When we were planning our trip, many people advised us against taking the train, as many had said it was uncomfortable, bumpy and an awful experience. However bumpy the train maybe it has allowed us to get a real glimpse of local life, passing through remote villages, farm land and some amazing scenery. If you have the time, patience and don’t mind a bumpy ride I 100% recommend you taking it and skipping the fast route by bus!
For Information on deciding between Trains or Buses read my article “Train Travel Vs Buses In Myanmar” for some top advice, timetables and fare prices.
Finally we were approaching Bagan where we would be able to walk on solid ground again! We were expecting to see lots of pagodas on our approach into Bagan Train Station but we didn’t see any since the station is a few kilometres out from the main area and required getting a taxi to our hotel in Nyaung U (I think it was around 8000kyats but if you share it’s less but there was no other “whites” on our train). My first step on solid ground resulted in me falling flat on the floor with my legs in the air as my backpack was so heavy it tipped me over! All the locals laughed at me so we hurried off to the taxi 🙁 On the way we stopped to pay the compulsory US$15 or €15 Euro Bagan Archaeological Zone Ticket which you must have to visit Bagan and it’s valid for five days.
We checked into our hotel Yar Kin Thar Hotel in Nyaung U right on restaurant row, so it was pretty central but not as expensive as staying in Old Bagan. We were lucky we decided not to stay in New Bagan as it was even further from the temples. Our hotel was $55 per night and we planned to stay for three nights. It’s not the cheapest place but it was somewhat rated on tripadvisor. The staff were very helpful when we checked in and were kind enough to supply us with a map of the area and some advice of where to eat and visit in the evening as it was too late to start exploring temples.
Our room was quite small, and a little run down but we couldn’t complain as we plan to be out for most of the day so it we would just be sleeping in it. We quickly unpacked and headed out to explore a little, sticking close the our hotel since we didn’t want to be out too late as we had a full day of pagoda and temples tomorrow.
We walked down the main road and came across Shwezigon Paya. We thought it would be on the river and would be a nice spot to watch the sun go down but the locals pointed us in the direction of the entrance where we were hassled to buy souvenirs. Our first experience of pushy women selling lacquerware and jade jewellery! They even pinned handmade butterfly pins to us so they know to catch you on the way out! Not many tourists were here so it was quite nice to walk around and watch the color of the stupa change.
As expected on our way out to collect our sandals (which were surprisingly still there) we were cornered by the women who promised to sell us cheap souvenirs for $1-$2 each. Reality was they were much more and it’s only if you buy more than three that they become cheaper. She really was persistent and twisted my arm to buy a small souvenir so her family would eat that night. They will tell you anything to get you to purchase something. Although I understand they are poor, I do feel they lie to you an awful lot to get your money. In addition they won’t hand over your shoes until you do buy something!
Last but not least we finally sat down for dinner in a place that had been highly recommended on various blogs and forums as the go to place to eat in Nyaung U, Weather Spoons. The waiter was very quick to serve us and seemed pleasant but when we later tried to ask him a few questions he was more interested in getting more customers in than keeping his current ones happy. The food was quite nice and it was a very relaxing atmosphere but the wifi was god awful as in everywhere in Bagan right now. Apparently something to do with the weather???
A few notes:
The food served on the train is nice, but a bit tricky to eat when your constantly bouncing up and down.Two sweet and sour chickens with fried rice for dinner, coffee and an omelette with toast for breakfast, 3 beers, a coke, fried rice with vegetables and chicken slice salad for lunch came to a grand total of 35,000 plus a small tip to the kind steward. He was fascinated with our small speaker we plugged in to my iPad for music and he sat in our cabin with us drinking beer with a few of his friends for a while, looking through our pictures and really enjoyed himself!
When you get off the train the taxi drivers fight over who saw your first. Always negotiate a price first and if possible find out where other tourists are going so you can share. Makes it a bit cheaper.
In regards to the souvenir sellers there is no real way to avoid them. If you really aren’t interested a stern no will probably do the trick but some were following us out and being quite aggressive.
A torch light will be your best friend here! We are so glad we bought ours as walking back along a dusty track would of been a nightmare in pitch black darkness!