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The North of Myanmar

BAGAN

Global Mark : 14.36    Top Five : No5

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
5 4 1 5 1 3 4 3 1 12.00

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
21 95% (20) 81% (17) 100% 10 to 20 16.71


Description :
One of the archaeological wonder of Asia

Comments : This is by far the main touristy attraction of Myanmar and, indeed, rather unavoidable. 

What to do ? Pay your $10 fee / Rent a good bike / Cycle the zone / Cycle the zone again in reverse way for a great different perspective / Cycle one more time in late afternoon for your photos / See Buddha of all sizes, colors & decorations / Examine frescoes / Go up Stupa or a pagoda for great view & sunset points / Wake up real early to experience sunrise at Mingala Zedi / Then cycle again ! / Or what about an expensive horse tour ? / Learn about lacqueware directly at workshops around Myinkaba Village / Scare the kids asking you for money / Become a luckier person or win in lottery thanks to the wishing wheel of Swezigon Paya then learn about the other 9 wonders of the place (trees bloom all year round, drum beaten on one side can not be hear on the other side, etc) / Buy Thanakha wood or lacqueware souvenirs there as well / Swim at the Golf Resort ($5) / Watch monkeys at Mt Popa 

What you may not like ? The high fee, difficult to avoid as guesthouses will ask to see your ticket / The additional fees for the museums : Archaeological ($5) or Lacqueware ($2) / The additional fees to use cameras (K30) or videos (K50) inside the most famous structures / The temples-supermarkets where visitors are continuously offered "cold drinks" or "postcards" in any language / Being treated as a walking dollar / Not being a squirrel to go up all the structures and avoid the sellers / The "give me money" or "give me present" kids / The cars on the sandy & dusty small tracks and the subsequent clouds of dust / The rather ugly & kitschy Buddha inside most of the temples / Buying arts from unauthorized dealers and get either a fake or, if real, have it possibly confiscated at the airport / Learning that the population of old Bagan was in 1990 generously given by the government one week to clear out / Stepping on a snake

How long ? It depends of your love for old stones. Visiting all the structures thoroughly would take weeks... A good general visit can however be done in two or three days, plus eventually one day for Mt Popa


Where to stay ? All the below places are located at Nyaung-U (where transports are convenient). Rates incl. breakfast. 

- Between the two main roads in a peaceful environment :

  • ® New Park Hotel (70122, Yangon 290073, Mandalay 32297) / Bungalow in small garden w. AC, HW shower, fridge & balcony $3(1) or $6(2) / Free transport from train station / Bike K200 / Go there for the best quality-price ratio in town. It is even possible to strike a better deal with one smaller room in the back... 
  • ® Golden Village Inn (70088, Yangon : 566677), Block 5, Thiripyitsaya Rd, continue west from the above / Rooms "bungalow" style w. balcony, AC & HW shower $4(1) or $6(2), $8 in HS / Free transport from train station / Bike K200 or K300 per day / The second best choice in town, in particular for Dbl occupancy 
  • ® New Heaven GH (70061, Yangon : 566677), north of the above / Same owner as the above / Room w. AC & HW shower $3(1) or $6(2), better rooms $5 per person / Free transport from train station / Bike K200 or K300 per day / Also set in a garden but basic & not so fresh cheaper rooms 

- At other places in the village :

  • ® Oasis GH (70452), Anawratha Rd, in front of Tel Office / Room in house w. AC & HW shower $3(1) or $6(2), HS $4 & $8 / Free transport from train station / Bike K200 / Go there for the comfortable rooms 
  • San Yeik Nyein GH (70427), near the above / Room in house w. AC & HW shower $4(1) or $6(2), discount if long stay / Bike K300 / Not as fresh as the above but acceptable comfort
  • Large Golden Pot GH (70014), by the roundabout / Small rooms w. AC & HW shower $3(1) or $6(2) / Bike K200
  • ® Eden Motel (70078), near the market / Room in big house w. AC, HW shower & satellite TV $3(1) or $6(2), bigger rooms w. fridge $4(1), $7(2) or $9(3) / Bike K200 / Sun timetable / Go there for the acceptable rooms if window or if you wish to watch English TV / What you may not like : the grotty atmosphere if no window / Better rooms in the opp. branch for a few dollars more
  • Inn Wa GH (70125) / Nice rooms w. AC & HW shower but expensive at $8(1) or $15(2), discount after 4 days ($5 or $10), without AC $4(1) or $8(2) / Bike K400 ! / Sun timetable
  • Lucky Seven GH (70047), opposite the above / Small & grotty basic rooms without AC $3(1) or $6(2) but bigger breakfast / Bike K300
  • Zar Chi Win (2) Hotel (70166), left side / Room without AC $3(1) or $5(2), w AC $5(1) or $8(2) / Correct rooms, breakfast with pancake but expensive & not so nice atmosphere
  • ® Pyinsa Rupa GH (70067), right side / Sgl w. AC & HW shower $2, room w. bathtub $3(1) or $6(2), big bungalow style rooms in the back w. AC & shower $2(1) or $4(2) / Bike K200 / Go there for the cheapest rates in town, the bathtub and the acceptable basic rooms / What you may not like : the lack of garden to go with the "bungalows"
  • ATA Motel (Yangon 282604), left side / Bungalow style nice room w. AC & HW shower $4(1) or $7(2) / Satellite TV in restaurant / Bike K300 / The further from the road, the best...
  • Pan Cherry GH (70147), right side, by road toward Swezegon Pagoda / Rather basic & grotty small rooms w. AC & HW shower $4(1) or $7(2) but free water in the lobby / Bike K250

Backpacker's Tips : Zoe, Singapore (Sept 04)
« May Kar Lar guesthouse in Bagan is extremely clean, feels fresh, bright and airy, tastefully furnished, and the breakfast is excellent. Ms Cho and her staff are caring, friendly and very very helpful. Ms Cho is very knowledgeable and reliable. I felt comfortable and safe within the guesthouse and for the price we paid ($12 a night for a double including b'fast), is the best deal we found throughtout our stay in Myanmar. She arranged private transport for us to Kalaw in a roomy comfortable van with a skillful driver...» 

Backpacker's Tips : Marine Rebillout, France (July 03)
« I just want to react about Kai Gerlinger's tip! I had the same experience at New Heaven Guest-House! Except that I didn't let the money in my pocket for the laundry. I stayed ten days in Bagan and after several days it was time for my room to be cleaned. I let the keys at the reception, as they proposed it. When I came back, my room was cleaned, no problem! But it seemed that they also cleaned my bagpack from inside. Just 5000 kyats. That's nothing (hum, well, the price for one night in the room for two) but I was really angry. And, as I went at the reception to complain, the manager suggested me if it could not be my daughter, 10 years old, who could have taken it?! I felt insulted more than robbed! And I moved from New Heaven guest house to the New Park! So, your note is correct: bad experiences can happen anywhere, as sure as dishonest people can be found anywhere.»  

Backpacker's Tips : Kai Gerlinger, Germany (March 03)
« Myanmar in general is a very save place with honest people, but avoid to stay at the New Park Hotel in Bagan: I was so stupid to forget my money in my secret pocket of my trouser before giving it to the hotel laundry - well, someone of the hotel staff must have found it and kept it, more than 400 US$..... The manager of the hotel wasn't very helpful to find the thief, the owner didn't even regret the loss and at the police station no one spoke English..... So, it's not safe to stay at the New Park Hotel !»  Note from Passplanet: Bad things happen everywhere and dishonest people can be found everywhere.  This affair is certainly very unfortunate but it may be a little bit too extreme to condemn this place altogether... 

Where to eat ? One suggestion in Nyaung U would be : breakfast at your GH, lunch at the small street noodle shop by the shade of trees (just after ATA Motel, K70), dinner at one of the small restaurant by the bus station (some with English menu, around K200) and finally ice cream at central Pannu (strawberry or vanilla only, K50). But for a more romantic atmosphere, you might prefer Pyi Wa Restaurant (between the two main roads, around K400)

Backpacker's Tips : Hans & Greet, Belgium (Nov 02)
« Italian food : San Kabas-restaurant (in Myaung U). / Toe Toe Win , near the Anada-pagode, near Tour en Travel Myanmar in Old Bagan. (Wrong situated on the map in the Lonely Planet !). A typical Myanmar buffet with almost 20 different things for only 600 Kt/pp. We're sure that you also will like Toe Toe : A Birmanese version of Nina Hagen !!! / Also excellent food in the restaurants one street away from the Village Inn or the New Heaven !
To see: Ask for the "smallest photo lab in the world" when you visit the big white pagoda - we forgot the name, but it is the one they still use, 10 minutes west of Myaung U village. / Fly with Schwe Lay Ta Gun Travels and Tours Co. Ltd. - for "only" 185 $/pp - in a balloon over the temples. Attention : “Passengers should be fit enough to climb in and out the basket and be able to stand for about an hour !” / Make a stop to visit a lacquer ware-factory (...if you like lacquer ware). Or buy a souvenir (textiles, woodcarvings,...) in one of the many shops around the temples (only if you can bargain VERY VERY VERY hard).»


Backpacker's Tips : Léandro Diano, France (Nov 01)
« A very new restaurant : Medium Restaurant, New Heaven street, Thiripyitsaya n°5, Nyaung-U, near New Heaven Guest House. Unforgettable Lassi and pancakes.» 


Bikes ? At every GH for the usual K200 or K300 per day. Half day for half price

The entrance fees ? It cost $10 for an unlimited stay for most visitors but $5 for kids aged 5 to 12 and K60 only for diplomats or foreigners working in Myanmar. It is difficult to avoid paying (it is not impossible to avoid the ticket office, in particular if coming by boat but then you will probably be asked by your GH to show your ticket as this is the procedure for checking in) and even more difficult to pretend not knowing about the fee as you have postings everywhere. Considering the size, interest & restoration costs of the place, $10 is really not that excessive anyway. Not having a ticket is subject to a fine of $20 but as there are no controls at the temples... The museums cost extra fees : Archaeological ($5, open 9 to 16:30) or Lacqueware ($2, open 9 to 11 & 13 to 16)


A few nice structure ?
For frescoes, head toward Alo-Pyi, Ananda Temple, Gu-byauk-gyi in Myinkaba village or Sulamani Patho (the nicest but not so old)
For carvings, check Sulamani Patho, the structures around Minnanthu village
For panoramic views, get up Mingalazedi (sunrise plus any time), Shwesandaw Paya (busy for sunset and not that striking) or Oak-kyaung-gyi (right side of Anawratha Rd, before reaching old Bagan, bring light as dark narrow stairs, beautiful north panorama)
For activities & shopping, tour Shwezigon Paya, Alo-pyi, Ananda Temple, Thatbyinnyu Temple, Dammayakaza Pagoda or any of the other big structures
For peace, cycle the small paths toward small villages around the lesser visited structures.

Backpacker's Tips : Jean-Marc Delatre, France (Sept 00)
« You can share a taxi to go to MT Popa: 15$ both ways (for 3 people). A little bit expensive but the Mt P. is interesting. 
Visit of Bagan temples by bicycle is very nice and tricky (temple names are not always in English...), bring a good site map and... a cap! If you have a puncture... (rough tracks to reach some temples), fare is 50 K per hole in a repair shop on the main road.  It is now necessary to pay 30 K to take photographs in Shwezigon. Even if you paid an entry fee of 10$, you need to pay again some Kyats in larger payas for photographs!  Not to be missed : Ananda Ok Kyaung (beside Ananda Patho): given some Kyats, a kid will open you, superb murals.
 » 

 << Discover a few sights

 

Bus Schedules :

To Company Tel Cost Type Time Duration
Yangon Popadagon Travel 70400 1800 AC 15:30 15
Ye Thu Aung Exp 70489 2000 AC 16 15
Minn Thar Exp 70400 2500 AC 15:30 15
Mandalay Nyaung Mann Exp 70400 1000 ordi 7,9 7
Taungyi Nyaung Mann Exp 70400 1500 minibus 5:00 10

Notes : To Yangon via Pyay (same price) / To Taungyi via Kalaw (same price, 8 hrs)


Trains Schedules :

To Deluxe Cost Ordinary Cost Depart Arrive
Yangoon $32/29 $12/11 8:30/22 3:30/17:50
Mandalay $9 $4 7 18


Boats Schedules :

To Type Cost Day Time Duration
Mandalay Exp (gvt) $16 at jetty daily except Mond & Thurs 5:00 11 to 15 (dry season)
Slow (gvt) $10/$33 Wed & Sund evening 16 to 18 (dry season)

Note : slow boat go via Bakokkhu Town (2 hrs away)


The trip to Kalaw : SSSSS / L / K1500 / 7.5 hrs / Minibus
Departure time was 5am but the bus was supposed to pick me up at the GH at an indefinite time between 4 and 5 am. Lucky as I am, it showed up at 3:55 ! I was the first passenger and it took one hour for the minibus to fill up, having to wait at each GH for the westerners to emerge from their sleep.
The driver was apparently in a hurry : we reached Meiktila (K1000) at 8:20, Thazi at 8:50 and Kalaw at 12:30, well ahead of the advertised time. And this despite a 15mn break for breakfast and an optional lunch at 10 am... Everything can happen in Myanmar !
The trip was very pleasant, thanks to the great scenery which became truly spectacular when approaching the hill station. The left side offered the best panorama plus the less exposure to the sun. 

See also the trip from Mandalay