Express bus over dirt roads to Old Bagan
So we left Mandalay this morning via the express bus to visit the temple highlights in Old Bagan. It would be best if you took the term express with a grain of salt in Myanmar. The bus drives at an incredibly slow pace and underway, we easily stop fifty times to pick up local people. Moreover, there is entirely no question of a highway. Most of the time, we drive on asphalt, but regularly the journey continues over dirt roads, and a few times, we even have to go through a large pool. Quite an adventurous trip.
An unexplained health check
Around three o’clock in the afternoon, just before we reach our destination, we stop at a checkpoint. All foreigners need to show their passports. Plus the security agents also perform a health check. With a cotton swab, they take a sample of our nose fluid. Nobody explains the purpose of this examination nor which disease or condition they are looking for. Anyway, after this check, we can all enter the bus again and move on.
Nyaung U is the tourist area of Bagan
Shortly after this intermezzo, we arrive in Nyaung U, the town bordering Old Bagan, where most temples and pagodas are located. However, the original population was forced to move out of this place a couple of years ago. So nowadays there is also a New Bagan, which lies a few kilometers further. However, the tourist hotspot is Nyaung U, where you will find the cheaper hotels and guesthouses. There is also one street housing merely restaurants for tourists.
The Buledi pagoda is the first of my temple highlights in Old Bagan
I rent a room in a better middle-class hotel and decide as an initial exploration to go watch the sunset. On a horse cart, I am taken to the Buledi pagoda. After ascending this building, you see a multitude of temples and pagodas in the surrounding area, a promising first experience of the temple highlights in Old Bagan. The sunset itself is less spectacular today, as the sun disappears behind the clouds before going under. Nevertheless, I enjoy the beautiful view. The overall sight appears much greener than I expected; I thought I would end up in a dry sand mass. That is the advantage of staying here just after the rainy season, I guess.
No high season yet
In the evening I choose a restaurant where at least some people are present, especially Burmese. The high season clearly still has to take off. Most eateries are empty. And considering the services, things are definitely at a launching stage. I order grilled chicken with fries and fried vegetables and first get the fries served, ten minutes later followed by the rest of the order. The quality of the food served is good though. Tomorrow I will try to order an Asian dish again, hoping that will turn out as a better option. Wait and see.
Enjoying the tranquility in the streets
What I find so refreshing here in Bagan is the tranquility; there is no noise of thousands of mopeds and cars like in Yangon or Mandalay. Without a doubt, I am going to stay here for several days. Tomorrow I will visit the most significant pagodas and temple highlights of Old Bagan in a horse cart. I am ready for it; after all, seeing Bagan was my top reason to visit Myanmar in the first place and I intend to enjoy my stay until I am satisfied with seeing an abundance of historical temples, ruins, and Buddha statues.