Friday, October 10, 2014

Bagan Day Tour 1st part; Strolling Self-guided Tips

4-days Self-guided Solo Tour in Myanmar (Burma)
February 02-08, 2014

Yangon City tour last part; just off the streets

Marco Polo once described Bagan as a "gilded city alive with tinkling bells and the swishing sounds of monks' robes". Bagan Archaeological Zone was described by National Geographic as “one of Southeast Asia’s greatest archaeological heritage sites”, while Japan’s permanent delegation to UNESCO describes it as one of Asia’s “major historical landmarks.”

Coming from a Yangon night bus trip from 1930H to 0400H the following day, it is highly recommended to wear a jacket as the chill becomes intolerable on the time of arrival. Horse cart fare bound for sunrise shoot in one of the Pagoda's inside Bagan costs 15,000 kyat ($15). Due to a very sleepy status and miscommunication problem with the locals, I thought I heard the driver said only 1,500 kyat that was why I immediate grabbed the offer. I kept repeating the fare on him while we're on the way and he kept nodding pretending maybe to surprise me afterwards. But unfortunately upon payment when he brought me to my researched accommodation (walk-in only, no reservation), this was the time he declared he did not understood that 1,500 is different to 15,000. So that's it, I gave 15,000 kyat and I told him that don't be a cheater to any tourist especially the one traveling alone, it's bad and unfair to other kind and honest horse cart drivers.

Bagan, located on the banks of the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River, is home to the largest and densest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins in the world with many dating from the 11th and 12th centuries. It is estimated that as many as 13,000 temples and stupas once stood on this 42 sq km plain in central Myanmar.  Approximately 2,200 remain today, in various states of disrepair.
Bagan day tour (inside the Archeological Zone)

Bagan day tour (inside night bus from Yangon to Bagan)

Bagan day tour (inside night bus from Yangon to Bagan, with free water & charging outlet)

Bagan day tour (night bus from Yangon to Bagan stop-over)

Bagan day tour (night bus from Yangon to Bagan stop-over)

Comparison of Bagan Archeological Zone (Myanmar) against Angkor Archeological Park (Cambodia)

1. Angkor ruins are like a Chinese Lauriat banquet where food is presented in spectacular servings with a suspenseful wait between items which are hidden beneath curtains of forests. On the other hand, Bagan is served in Spanish Tapas style, the ingredients exposed to the customer and shown in small bite-size servings, with the next attraction close and visible at hand, in shorter intervals.

2. Another analogy between Angkor and Bagan Sites when distinguishing temple structures is through their stupa and spire shapes. Artichokes and corncobs = Angkor while gourds and durians (or pineapple) = Bagan.

3. Bagan Archeological zone is a set of Buddhist Pagoda's while Angkor Archeological Park is a set of Hindu Temples.

4. Despite the majesty and importance of Bagan, UNESCO did not include it on its World Heritage Site, due to a lack of site boundary definition and legislative and management plan. On the other hand, Angkor, became UNESCO World Heritage listed in 1992. Cambodian government currently works with 14 countries and 28 international teams on 60 different projects to safeguard and develop the world’s largest collection of Hindu temples.

5. On my honest opinion based on my experience, Angkor is much better than Bagan due to temple's architectural designs, ruin preservation, historical publicity, alleged ancient alien creation, variety and accessibility. Nevertheless, Bagan and Angkor are as different as cheese and chalk and neither of them is to be missed if at all possible. Both have very different and special attributes.

Bagan day tour (e-biking inside Archeological Zone)

Bagan day tour (e-biking inside Archeological Zone)

Bagan day tour (warning signs before entering all Temple vicinity)

Self-guided Tips in Strolling Bagan Archeological Zone;

1. Night bus from Yangon is very safe and has comfortable trip, even the waiting shed has free wifi and television. Booking can be via office infront of Yangon Central Railway or direct in Aungmingalar bus terminal (around 45mins travel from Central Railway with average fare of 5,000 Kyat). Departs daily every 1900H, stop-over at 2200H at Feel Express for 25 minute vanity break then arrive in Bagan at 0400H (total of 8 hours). Bus fare is 15,000 Kyat ($15) that includes free bottle water, free use of comforter and vanity kit (toothbrush, wet tissue and comb).

2. Be cautious on negotiating with horse carts upon arrival in Bagan. As what my experience above, it is very expensive doing alone. So try to be friendly and use your persuasion skills with other tourists and share the expenses or negotiate wisely with the horse cart driver.

3. Book your accommodation in advance as Bagan is now blossoming into mainstream tourist spot. As what happened to me during my walk-in searched, it took me around an hour searching for best, cheapest and nearest location to Archeological zone. I found Eden Hostel III (they have 3 buildings) for only 10,000kyat ($10) on dormitory room a night with free wifi and breakfast serve daily at 0900H. This is located in Nyang U road, near market, New Bagan.

4. Bagan cultural authority has introduced a single 5-day pass to the Cultural Zone 15,000kyat ($15), apparently depends on your guesthouse. Since the USD is the best value of those options, it is best to bring the required amount in USD before arriving. Furthermore, ticket inspectors are only placed on famous pagoda's like Dhammayangyi Pahto.

Bagan day tour (inside the Archeological Zone)

Bagan day tour (inside the Archeological Zone)

5. Bike rental for a day costs 1,500kyat while E-bike costs 6,000kyat ($6). It is advisable to rent an E-bike as the off-road is very exhausting especially for the mini-uphill while under the scorching heat of the sun.

6. Wear comfortable clothing and sandals only without socks as ALL Pagoda strolling requires barefoot walking. All sites are considered sacred, so when visiting, be respectful including removing shoes as well as socks before entering or stepping onto them. I just know this requirement upon arrival only in Shwedagon Pagoda of Yangon, I wore Puruntong shorts (3/4 shorts), below knee is allowed.


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