The freezing AC bus arrives by 4am in Bagan. Hardly out, a guy hails me: what a surprise to meet Aurélien, a French guy I met in the guest house in Kinpun one week before! He is now coming from Yangon. A nice encounter! We travel together during my last weeks in Myanmar.
This time, I have a reservation in a guest house, but we still have to wait for the room to be free! So we go to see the sunrise over the temple! By night, we don’t find the closest temple to climb on. We are walking around for almost 1h, looking for a good temple. By dawn, we were in a potatoes field! We finally find the temple and see the later sunrise from it, and get a first “whoa” effect: it is very amazing to see temples everywhere around! There are about 4000 temples in the plains there!!
We hire bicycles to go around the temples, probably the best way to visit them. The biggest temples are already very touristic: when you arrive, many children are running to you and try to sell you some postcards. Many older locals are selling their paints or souvenirs around the temple!
Bagan is highly impressive by the quantity of temples, a bit less by the quality! Some are still well preserved and you can appreciate the paints on the walls. But the carvings lack the details of the Indian temples in e.g. Khajuraho! While writing this article, I am showing my pictures from Egypt to Aurélien: some 3000 years old paintings in some tombs in the Valley of the King in Luxor are much better preserved than the only few hundred years old ones here in Bagan! The temples of Bagan still stay in a high level.
The last hour waiting for the sunset, we are impressed by the Asian tourist groups coming by big bus a few meter from the temple and then all shooting with their semi professional DSLRs (Chinese and Thai in particularly)!
Just ignore the masses (much better now than in the future) and enjoy the breathtaking views over the temples!
We stay a second day in Bagan, enjoying the bike trip in the village and only a few further less visited temples late in the afternoon! We also spend a few hours collecting the options to go to Mandalay: boat, train or bus. My initial idea was to by boat to Pakkoku and then by bus to Mandalay, but with the new bridge over the river, locals now take the bus, not the boat anymore!