The Road to Mandalay isn’t a road at all… It’s the Ayeyarwaddy river. (Line stolen from a Myanmar infomercial we watched on repeat!) In total, we spent 9.5 hours on the Ayeyarwaddy, travelling from Mandalay to Bagan. We sailed on the Malikha 2, which was actually quite relaxing, and I managed to fit in all my required reading for the holiday.
Bagan is probably the most anticipated part of this trip for me, the most photogenic collection of temples anywhere in the world. More than 2,000 temples dot the plain, which is lush and green after the summer rains. We stopped off for sunset photographs straight away on a lonely stupa (see previous blog photos!), avoiding the overcrowded Shwesandaw Paya. What a magical way to start!
We lucked out with an English-speaking taxi driver, so we wasted no time signing him up for a day trip. We picked Mt Popa, known as the ‘Mt Olympus of Burma’, and once I heard it was he home of ancient Burmese alchemists, I couldn’t resist! About an hour’s drive from Bagan, Mt Popa springs up out of the ground, an extinct volcano topped by a glittering gold pagoda and said to be the spiritual home of the ‘nats’, or Buddhist spirits. The volcano itself is also overrun by macaques – the pesky monkeys – some of which tried to steal Lofty’s lychee juice in quite a violent manner! A local fended the monkey off with a well placed slingshot.
Our taxi driver then gave us a tour of some of the major Bagan highlights, including the stunning Ananda Pagoda. He, of course, found us another amazing abandoned pagoda for sunset – you just can’t beat it.
As if sunsets weren’t enough, we got up this morning for sunrise! Adam and Tania sprung for the hot air balloon, while Lofty and I climbed the aforementioned Shwesandaw pagoda, which was still extremely busy, even at 5am! Still, it’s popular for a reason… The view was absolutely amazing.
For the rest of the day, we rented bicycles and cycled the temples ourselves. Luckily, it wasn’t too hot, although the bikes were far from in the best nick. We had to stop for repairs, but luckily the locals are used to rescuing flat-tire ridden tourists. It was amazing just being able to cycle around at our own pace, finding hidden temples away from hawkers and other tourists. Some of it felt very Indiana Jones!
The subject of food is never far from my mind, and so far, we’re still not disappointed. The vegetarian food in particular has been amazing, and we indulged in amazing guacamole and poppadoms at Be Kind to Animals the Moon restaurant in Old Bagan.