We arrived at Bagan at 5am by VIP bus (which means you get a little more space and as I’m short, I can spread my legs) on Saturday Jan 28th.
We fought with the taxi drivers to find one. They are on us even before we get off the bus, don’t let us breath, and never leave us. After quite some time, and with Mika feeling worse than ever, we finally find one that is ok not to swindle us too much.
The hotel is in Nyaung-U but we couldn’t check-in to the rooms that early. But as soon as they saw how Mika was feeling, they agreed to let him use a small room for the day. We greatly appreciated it! At least he could sleep. Lou, Ludi, and I went to try to find a pagoda to see the sunrise. Since we were up that early, we might as well do something! But in this village, there is no good point of view. We got back to the hotel to have breakfast and get our official rooms.
The afternoon (we usually don’t have lunch during our trips. We do one breakfast and one meal around 4pm and that’s it) we follow the river up to the harbor (which is nothing like a harbor to me…). People are bathing and doing laundry in the water, which doesn’t seem very clear to us… but this is nice to watch.
A man with a pirogue accepts to take us to three pagodas which are difficult to reach otherwise.
To get to the first one, we were supposed to follow a path but we followed the wrong one. This allowed us to have quite an experience! As we were getting lost, a monk on top of a little hill saw us and asked to follow him. He wanted to show us some stuff. He lives in a cave (very messy) with a dog and a cat (the cat was really precious and purring the whole time).
The monk showed us his cave and wanted to show us something more at the back of it. It was really dark and as we passed a little « door », bats started flying above our heads which we really didn’t expect! We had to explain to him that even though we loved cats, bats were another story! Then he started to « bless » (I don’t know if this is the right word for this in the Buddhist religion), mumbling incomprehensive sounds and following one of his tattoos with his finger. We were still at the back of the cave, everything was silent and the atmosphere was oppressive (no light and very little air). When we left, we thought that nothing bad could ever happen to us now!
I almost left with the cat, but I held back…
Then we watched the sunset on the river. Very few boats were passing by. It was very quiet and beautiful!
We went to bed early as we wanted to watch the sunrise the next day, and this time on a nice spot. And for those who know me, getting up early is not an easy task!
We left at 5:30 am on e-scooters to find the perfect spot. Mika was up too.
It was very dark and the path was not always easy. We had in mind to climb a temple as many guides (lonely planet etc) advised us to do, but it is not allowed anymore since very recently. At least on the major ones, where the view is stunning.
I think we followed other tourists who seemed to know where to go. We climbed a little monument with a terrace and joined about 50 other people. Incredible view which becomes just amazing as hot balloons started filling the sky.
Later that day we went to visit Old Bagan and New Bagan and the temples around. What is known as « Bagan » is a group of temples and stupas scattered around these spots. There are hundreds of them. Some are old and neglected, some are old and under reconstruction (especially after the 2016 Earthquake), and some are well maintained. There are normal roads to reach them, where buses can go, and some are only reachable by little sandy paths. To drive there on an e-scooter is quite something! I’m glad I have 17 years of scoot driving in Paris behind me!
I had Lou behind me and Ludi drove her own scooter. Mika was back in bed, still sick…
We visited dozens of temples, following the directions from MAPS.ME as much as possible. It is beautiful and we discovered all sorts of temples. We had to take off our shoes before entering them, which at the end tends to be a pain, but we could then admire some incredible buildings, paintings, and hundreds of hidden Buddhas.
We ended up on a well-known belvedere as we see many buses full of tourists coming to watch the sunset. We had another spot in mind, but it was closed. Nevertheless, the scenery is gorgeous and as long as the tourists are not in front of me or my camera, I don’t care if they are there or not.
Tuesday, Mika was feeling a little better and was craving pizza.
Then Lou and I went back on a scooter to visit some more temples.
We found some beautiful ones, very quiet, away from the bitten tracks. They have small gardens and shadow. We really liked those and the time we spent there. The air was fresh and the buildings are beautiful. Very few tourists. Even the souvenirs sellers were not harassing us. We ended up only visiting 3 temples that day, but I felt like I enjoyed the experience more. My goal when I travel is not to see EVERYTHING there is to see, but rather feeling the place and watching people live.
We then looked for a nice place for the sunset. We followed some MAPS.ME instructions, but the spot didn’t seem that great. So we decided to follow some Chilean girls who were following a Burmese guy who promised them a great spot. After several minutes dribbling in the sand, we got to a terrace with a 360° view. Really beautiful!
We hurried back as we had another night bus to catch. But our battery ran low and Lou and I had to lean forward to waste as little energy as possible! We finally reach the hotel with Ludi laughing at us!
Wednesday 31st, 6am, the bus reaches Yangon, near the airport. We had to say goodbye to Lou and Mika who were leaving soon for France. Ludi and I still had another bus to catch, in the other bus terminal, in Dagan Ayaye, pretty far away… Taxi want us to pay 10.000K to get there. We finally find a local bus for 200K each. It took 1h30 and we arrived just in time to catch the bus to Chaung Tha Beach, on the South West Coast.
Our bus to Chaung Tha is very local… we are far from the VIP bus we had at night ! We have 6h ahead of us, in a very old bus, full of local people not used to be on the road and who vomit everytime we make a slight turn !
Our hotel sent us a Tuktuk who picked us up at the bus stop. The Hill Garden hotel is in the middle of a small jungle and our bungalow is in bamboo. Because the village is not very developed yet, there is no electricity between 6am and 6pm and no hot water. I don’t care, my former job paid me a survival camp last summer, I can handle anything!!!
The hotel is in front of a small beach. Sceneries remind me of Brittany in France with the black rocks and waves.
We went to explore the village a little. There are some hotels near the main beach but nothing very luxury. We don’t see any westerners, and on the main beach, Burmese swim with their clothes on. They rent tandem bikes, buy banana leaves hats, play with huge inner tubes and buy food, because, you see, Burmese people eat all day long !
Thursday, I enjoyed staying quietly at the hotel with the hotel cat who spent her time purring and begging for cuddles! Heaven for me!
Friday morning, we decided to go to Ngwe Saung, another beach nearby, more touristic (especially for rich Burmese). To get there was the most fun part of the day! We rented 2 scooters at the hotel and left on an adventure ! We needed to cross three rivers to get there, putting the scoots on tiny little boats each time. It was so much fun! Especially when the boats stops a little far from the shore and you have to ride the scooter in the water !
In between each boat ride, we had around 5 km of scooter. The paths were usually very sandy (very close to beaches or actually ON the beaches) and we pass many small villages with smiling kids playing around. We love it! It took around 2h just to get to Ngwe Saung.
We had lunch there and decided to head back as I want to be back before dark. It seemed quicker on the way back but the sea level had changed and where we got off the boat was not necessarily where we had to catch the boat again!
Saturday, scooter to the North (5km) where an Australian man, married to a Burmese lady, opened a restaurant. On a beautiful and quiet beach. The sand is white, the sea is turquoise and there are hammocks and long chairs! Nobody is there so we can enjoy a bathing suit swim. We spent the day there, reading and just enjoying our last full quiet day in Myanmar. On the way back, we even saw an elephant crossing the road! They are used for construction and carrying wood in the area.
Our bus to Yangon leaves at 6 :30am on Sunday. The same ride back (although with more people) with sick people all around…
We arrived at 12 :30pm and there again found a local bus to take us to our hotel near the Shwedagon pagoda. Taxis drivers asked for up to 20.000K. We finally paid 200K each with the bus! The day they will understand that scamming people with outrageous prices is actually making them lose clients, they will go a long way. They don’t think long term and don’t understand how tourism works. Right now, the tourist guides say that local buses in Yangon are difficult to apprehend but this is not true. Also, Uber and Grab are there and they have decent prices.
The hotel is beautiful and the hot shower was wonderful!
We went to downtown Yangon, at the Bogyoke market to spend our last kiats and Ludi wanted to buy souvenirs. The market is closed on mondays, so this is our last chance to get there. We found a local bus for cheap. Apparently foreigners are not taking local buses so people were staring at us.
Monday, back downtown to buy the last things. Ludi is desperate to find mugs with a Myanmar symbol on it. I think we literally spent 5h and 15km searching for this… and the only ones we found at the end were too expensive for her budget!
We then took a cab (yes, you read that right). Ludi had her plane to catch and I had one last night to spend near the airport before catching my plane back to Bangkok the next morning.
So my three weeks in Myanmar/Burma are now over…
The country is beautiful, full of very nice and smiling people… except for the taxi drivers !
I had been wanting to visit this country for many years and what I’ve seen there was truly up to my expectations. My favorite parts were Hpa An and Chaung Tha. Inle Lake is also a beautiful place but tourism is already too developed there. That being said, the landscapes remain stunning!
To read about the first part of the trip, click here :
My pictures are here
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