Bagan Stories and Tips

Warnings and Tips for Bagan

Women Cleaning on the River Photo, Bagan, Myanmar

Yangon offers a far better rate of exchange than Bagan and far more choices which isn’t saying much. Prices of little things are so much more costly, stock up in Yangon if you didn’t bring enough into the country.

At the tourist sites water is 40 cents a bottle while the restaurants and markets charge 30 cents. Across from Shwe Na Di Hotel was the only place charging less at 25 cents as well as offering the 5 liter bottles which is highly recommended.

Beware of the infinite number of people selling paintings. While walking, riding a bike, in a horse carriage, on a moto or visiting a temple you will be pursued. Yes, I mean on all these occasions I was hit up. Come-ons include the greeting and asking where you are from and then pointing things out in the temples to telling and showing you the best sunset temples. Some even want to just "practice" their English. After making "friends" with the person, you’re expected to buy from the stacks of paintings you’ve had to endure looking through just to be polite. If you decline you get remarks like, "bad for business" guilt trips. Had they been up front they wouldn’t have wasted either of our time.

They are tenacious and persistent, following quite a distance. Be wary of anyone carry cylindrical shaped bags. By no means tell them where you are staying. I had one that came to my room in the evening and another parked outside the hotel when I came out still trying to sell me.

If I thought the kids selling lacquer ware and postcards were bad, along with their "coin collecting", they are nothing compared the afore mentioned. Everyone in Bagan seems to be a painter. Don’t ask anyone what kind of work they do.

There is also the coin collecting that goes on. I found it interesting when a woman holding a $1 bill wanted to exchange it for 1000K which is a far better rate than I could get for a $100.00 which is the minimum to exchange. Same was asked of me when I said I had just come from Thailand.

Upon arrival at the airport when you are asked for your passport, there is a sign that you can buy the ticket that allows you into all main temples in Bagan. I bought my $10 ticket there as a measure of convenience. Not one place that I went to had anyone checking for tickets or selling them. There was no kiosk of any kind. When I went into Mandalay I didn’t buy one and was grateful because during certain festivals such as the water festival places are either closed or don’t require the ticket. And in Myanmar, you never know when either will occur.

As far as general information, Bagan is made up of three, all of which are bikeable. I stayed in the northern area nearest the airport and biked southward to the next area. I choose this area as supposedly it had more restaurants and shops and trust me that isn’t much. It was also purported to costs less with regards to things like carriages through the temple sites.

The fixed airport prices to this area is $5. Within the town and around the temples, a bike will cost you $2 for the day, a horse carriage is $15, or you can opt to rent a motorcycle.

There is plenty of dirt and sand to traverse around the temples. However the main sites are easily navigated by bike, but inland I prefer a carriage. Surprisingly the terrain from town to town and around the temples is flat.

The highlights of the area included the proximity to the water. There is one main road and if you go one parallel road over, you will find stilted houses with pigs underneath cooling off in a mud bath.

At the water’s edge, women washed their clothes and bathed. Kids frolicked along side them. And other brought up buckets of water for their gardens nearby.

If I had to do it all over again, two days would have been sufficient. One day in the carriage with the evening on the boat and the next day on bike.

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