Bagan, the postcard city of Myanmar. Located between the northern city of Mandalay and the capital of Yangon, there are many options of getting to Bagan.
Buses are often the cheapest and fastest way. Trains can be a fun change in scenery, but be warned they often take a long time and are not the most comfortable. Expect a bumpy ride, being thrown side-to-side and up-and-down, even in first class. There’s also a boat ride to Bagan, you can choose the fast or slow boat, but also expect a full day of travel. Lastly, you can simply fly.
I took an overnight bus to Bagan, arriving at 3 a.m. Overnight buses are fairly common, safe and mostly comfortable in Myanmar. Just remember to bring a sweater as they keep the aircon on full blast the whole time.
Which town to stay in?
Bagan is a bit confusing, as there’s old Bagan, new Bagan and Nyaung U. Basically old Bagan is where all the temples are. New Bagan is close to some of the temples and is kind of it’s own town. Nyaung U is furthest away from the temples, but is where the main city hub is.
I stayed in Nyaung U, where there are many affordable guest houses and places to eat.
You’ll soon realize Bagan is all about sunrises and sunsets.
I rented an electronic bike from my guest house (they don’t rent out motorbikes to tourists here) and drove to the temples. In Bagan, there’s only a handful of pagodas you can actually climb up on, which instantly make these hotspots for watching sunrises and sunsets. Don’t forget to dress appropriately or they won’t hesitate to make you buy clothing!
While I didn’t visit the two main pagodas Htilominto and Shwesandaw Paya, I was informed the police are often at the entrances of these two pagodas checking for your Bagan entrance ticket.
Hot air ballooning
Many activities in Bagan involve the pagodas, and I decided to splurge and do the mother of all tourist activities here – taking a hot air balloon ride above all the pagodas.
There are only a couple companies that offer hot air balloon tours over Bagan now. I decided to go with Oriental Balloons. There’s not much of a difference between the companies, they offer Western designed equipment and guides, and cost around the same amount. The deciding factor for me was availability.