July 24, 2012
We spent our final day bicycling in Bagan, but mostly to run errands and see a couple more temples. We rented our bicycles in the morning near the market in Nyaung U. There are plenty of places to choose from so make sure you test the bike including the brakes before you settle on your bicycle. The cost was 1,000 Kyat per bicycle, which is a bargain for the whole day! They just told us to return by 9:00 PM. No forms to fill out or anything, completely on the honor system.
Our first stop was to find the bank and exchange money. There area couple of banks on the main road past the market in either direction, you can go straight or turn left at the junction and you will find the bank a few minutes past the market. We took the straight road North and exchanged at one of the banks for 830 Kyat per U.S. dollar.
Next, we ventured south in search of a wooden Buddha, preferably made of teak wood. We stopped at several shops on restaurant row and on the Bagan Nyaung U road as we headed to Old Bagan, but we didn’t find the ‘right’ one. The sandal wood Buddhas were amazing and intricately carved but you will pay a hefty price for one of those (U.S. $50 – $200 +)!
We continued to Old Bagan and visited a couple temples where our horse cart driver, Minthu, recommended we watch the sunrise, but you can probably guess that we didn’t make that! While these temples are small they do allow you to go to the top of some of these and they do offer some great views and chances are that no one else will be here, just like when we got here! We were also warned ahead of time to check for snakes, in particular cobras that like to rest inside some of these temples. So we grabbed a long stick from a bush outside and used that in conjunction with our flashlight before proceeding inside. It was a little creepy and scary checking for snakes and luckily none were to be found!
As the heat began to rise we got back on our bikes and continued south towards Old Bagan and stopped at Hti-lo-min-lo Temple. This temple was built in the 13th century. The inside layout is square and kind of similar to Sulamani Temple that we visited on our first day at the temples. It has glazed sandstone carvings on the exterior that have survived centuries through the elements of mother nature.
Next, it was time for lunch and we headed inside the walls of Old Bagan and found the restaurant where we ate the first day. On that first day, we told the restaurant owner, Daw, that we would return the following day and she mentioned that she would have a gift for Heidi. However, I injured my ankle on the horse cart that first day and had difficulty walking so we stayed in Nyaung U and didn’t make it back here until now, three days later! We found her napping in the shade of the scorching 40 Celsius heat but she seemed happy to see us even though we were late. We ordered her amazing coconut rice and had some curries as well. She brought us a lot of treats and said we were like her family.
Soon, our little new friend Zi Zi (pronounced Gi Gi) showed up and was also excited to see us. She visits the restaurant everyday after school to see the restaurant owner, Daw, as they are family friends. Daw said she is trying to convince Zi Zi to stay in school as she is a smart girl, but she has discovered that she can make easy money selling postcards to tourists. We hope she stays in school too! We hope to keep in touch with both and also influence Zi Zi to keep studying!
Before we left, Daw gave Heidi a gift – thanaka wood and stone! I think this is an amazing gift to have and something I’m sure that Heidi will use and cherish!
After lunch we had to make a detour and head back to Nyaung U as Daw had told us that the Post Office might close at 3:00PM. We were leaving the next day so we had to get there! We said our goodbyes and headed back to our Hotel in Nyaung U. Soaking in sweat we arrived twenty minutes later and quickly grabbed our bag of goodies to send home and headed to the Post Office. The Post Office is located on Anawratha Rd, near the market in Nyaung U, but it’s best to take a map so you don’t get lost. Also, the building name on the outside says it’s a telecommunications building, not a post office, but that is the building! We arrived around 2:30PM, but we were told that we were too late! The post office actually stays open until 4:00PM but the foreign parcel section closed at noon! To make our trip to the post office somewhat useful we bought a bunch of postcard stamps at 500Kyat per stamp and Heidi began licking while I sat there trying to dry off from the heat and sweat. Thanks Heidi 😉
With our bag full of souvenirs, we returned to our hotel and cooled off for about an hour then headed back to Old Bagan to visit a couple more temples. We rode our bikes to That byin hyu Temple and Shwe gu-gyi Temple (they are very near each other). Both are amazing and worth a visit. We climbed to the middle section of Shwe gu gyi and it had amazing views of the plains of Bagan!
Surprisingly, there were only a couple other tourists up there! It started to rain, but that was okay since we chose not to watch the sunset becuase it gets very dark in Bagan and we didn’t want to have to ride back by flashlight. We were able to see Hti-lo-min-lo lit up at night, quite amazing!
By the time we returned our bikes in was around 8:00PM and completely dark! Good thing Heidi had her flashlight! We stopped at a market on the way home and bought a coke for 300 Kyat, which is a bargain. We drank it in a few seconds standing in front of the market and then went back in and bought a 1.5 liter bottle of water. The locals were quite amused by this! Then while dirty and stinky we ate at the restaurant right next to May Kha Lar Hotel and called it a day.
While we had four full days in Bagan and had a great time, I think you could easily spend a week or longer here to fully appreciate all that Bagan has to offer. Not just the temples, but the people and the culture. Bagan is THE NEXT Temples of Angkor and if you love temples and history you must visit here!
Tips for Bicycling in Bagan:
- You can rent a bicycle from many places in Bagan. Your accommodation will most likely have bicycles, but check them out and make sure the brakes work, the tires aren’t flat you have a passing bell. A bonus is a basket so you can put your bag in it. Also, make sure you ride it around to see if it fits you well.
- You can certainly get a cheaper price for a bike if you rent from outside your hotel.
- If you are going to be out late, make sure you have a flashlight (torch light) as it gets very dark and its a twenty to thirty minute ride back to Nyaung U from Old Bagan.
- Start early since it gets very hot. You might want to split your day into two parts, morning and evening. Or have a long lunch in Old Bagan.
- Bring lots of water and sunscreen!