Bagan Archeological Zone

I keep mentioning travel around Myanmar, but my journey to Bagan was by far the worst. A local bus with three English boys (Lowell, Ryan and Jonty) I had met on the Hsipaw trek, ended up being much more eventful than we had anticipated. To start we had to climb over boxes, bags and even people to get to our seat. Not that it mattered as 30mins in, we all got off again as the bus broke down for three and a half hours. Eventually back on the road, I endured a sleepless night, no aircon and no room (due to a half man/half starfish laying in the aisle next to me), which resulted in severely swollen ankles and feet. I have experienced swelling before, however not to this extent. It was a very terrifying experience, which ended in a highly emotional call at 3am (Myanmar time) to my poor mum. Eventually pulling myself together, we arrived in Bagan at 8.30am (leaving at 7.30pm the day before), paid our $20 site entrance fee and got to our hostel. Unable to check in until 2pm, we spent the morning playing monopoly. The afternoon I simply watched films in bed (and ate fruit), whilst keeping my legs elevated, to try and get the swelling down. 

Bagan is an ancient city and quite possibly the biggest tourist attraction in Myanmar. Between the 9th and 13th century this area was the capital of the Pagan Kingdom. This empire, is considered to be the foundation of Burma/Myanmar as we know it today. During their reign, over 10,000 Buddhists temples, pagodas and monasteries were built. Nowadays 2,200 remain in what is referred to as ‘Old Bagan.’

Unlike anywhere I’ve been in Asia (as of yet), tourists are not allowed to rent scooters in this city. However as this archeological zone stretches across a 13 x 8km area, transport is certainly needed. The solution – renting e-bikes, which personally I think is a brilliant idea. 

With Ryan suffering from heat stroke, Jonty, Lowell and our new friend Anna hopped on our ebikes to explore. Our morning consisted of finding and climbing a variety of pagodas, which was extremely fun. In fact we were very lucky to visit and explore Bagan like we did, because as of November, there will be tourist restrictions on viewing and climbing the monuments.Being in a ‘dry zone’ of the country, the heat and humidity in Bagan is like nowhere I’ve been before (except Death Valley in America). By 11am it was over 40 degrees, so we had to give in and head back to the hostel. However after deciding I wanted a burger and finding a restaurant called Weather Spoons, we had no choice but to brave the heat. N.B. The burger did not disappoint 👌. Being the toughest of the species, Anna and I took on the heat to explore more pagodas, while the boys retreated to the air conditioning. The afternoon was truly beautiful…Picking up Jonty (as Lowell was the second down and out with heat stroke), we were determined to catch the sunset. Turns out advising the ebike people earlier in the day my bike was running out of battery fell on wasted ears, meaning en route to the sunset, my bike broke down. Luckily a local guy picked me up and drove me to the sunset point. Just a shame the sunset wasn’t as spectacular as we hoped. Trying to push the bike along with my feet, whilst sitting on it, became tiring after a while. So abandoning the bike, I hitchhiked a ride back to our hostel. 

The following day I had booked an 8.30am bus, so to make the most of my last morning, we woke up at 4.15am to catch the sunrise. Again, it was slightly disappointing, but hey better do something than regret it.  So that was my Bagan adventure. As a city it is incredible to explore, however it’s much more fun with a good group of people 😊. 

Jessica Storm ✌️

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