20 July 2012
An air-conditioned bus from Inle Lake to Bagan costs 16,000 Kyat per person. We took a 7:00 AM bus from the Nyaung Shwe Junction, which is located about 25 minutes from the town of Nyaung Shwe.
Since we were staying at the Aquarius Guesthouse, we had to arrange our own transportation to the junction. You can do this in several ways: (1) hire a taxi which might cost you upwards of 15,000 Kyat, or (2) take a pickup – a good option if you have several people going with you because the price decreases with more people or if there are only two of you, like in our case, it will cost you 8,000 Kyat or (3) hire a tuk tuk. Either way, they will pick you up from your guest house in Nyaung Shwe, which is nice. We opted to take a tuk tuk. You can find these on the Main Road north of the market place. They will be parked on the side of the road and just go towards them and someone speaking English will approach you. Our cost for the tuk tuk was 6,000 Kyat.
The tuk tuk picked us up at 6:00 AM sharp and our guest house was nice enough to pack us our breakfast to go! I have to say, the Aquarius, while very low budget accommodations, has excellent service. You even get a welcome plate of fresh fruit on your arrival. There are also bicycles that you can rent next door and along the street for 1,000 Kyat.
We arrived at the Nyaung Shwe junction at 6:30 AM and waited for the bus at the ticketing office, which really isn’t an office at all and we wouldn’t have noticed it if the tuk tuk driver didn’t tell us. If you don’t want to wait on the bench, you can head to a tea shop a couple of stores down. Also, this was the first place that we had encountered in all of Myanmar that charged to use their toilet! That will be 100 Kyat please!
The bus arrived about 20 minutes late at 7:20 AM and we were off in a few minutes after several westerners boarded. The bus was clean and we had good seats near the front of the bus. One of the employees also took a head count and handed out the usual 500 ML bottle of water.
As we drove out of Inle Lake over the mountains the scenery was lush green and we could see Inle Lake as we neared the top of the mountain. Quite an amazing site indeed! The beautiful scenery continued for another hour or so as we switch backed through the mountains and crossed tiny villages in the valleys.
At about 10:30 AM we stopped for lunch. Yes, that’s right, it was early but a good thing that we were hungry because the bus didn’t stop again for us to eat. Just a couple more bathroom breaks along the way. The restaurant was adequate with a semi-clean toilets and the food was bland but enough to satisfy our appetite.
Soon after lunch we were through the mountainous region and back in the plains of central Myanmar. At around the five hour mark we drove through the new capital, Nay Pyi Taw. There wasn’t much to see out of the window except when we passed over a river there was a gaudy but kind of beautiful giant golden ship in the shape of a phoenix or some other bird. Similar to the ones we saw at Inle Lake, but 10 times the scale. The only other memorable part was the brand new highway they built to the capital, which was in stark contrast to all the other roads that we saw.
At around 4:00 Pm we rolled into Nyaung U (or Nyaung Oo), the only real town near Bagan. The employees of the bus were very kind and was asking us and several other passengers where they were staying, because they were willing to drop us off along the way if we were near our guesthouse. Unfortunately, none of us had pre-booked so we all went to the station. But if you do pre-book, let the driver know and if it’s along the main road they will probably drop you off right in front of your guest house.