I loved my time at Thabarwa, so I was a little nervous to continue my trip in Myanmar for fear that it wouldn’t be as amazing as my time there. I was so wrong, but it would take an adventurous bus trip from Yangon to Bagan to see that.
Getting to Bagan from Yangon
3:00pm: Leave the Thabarwa Centre on a public bus to Yangon
5:30pm: Arrive in bustling Yangon. My overnight bus to Bagan leaves at 8:00pm, and the taxi from downtown to the bus terminal is reportedly 2 hours long. I hurriedly hail a taxi to the Yangon bus station.
7:30pm: Arrive to bus terminal just as darkness settles in for good. The scene at the bus depot is fucking chaos. The bus terminal is enormous, taking up at least 5 city blocks; it’s also riddled with taxis, neon lights, motorcycles, buses, people, and animals.
People and animals everywhere!
I thought riding South American buses was crazy, but this terminal is a whole new level of intense. I’m actually a little scared to get out of the taxi, for fear of not being able to find my particular bus company (the signs are in Burmese and English, but the volume of them and the assault of colours and lights on your senses is overwhelming).
Travel and life experience was my antidote here, though. The more places and things I become exposed to, the more I have begun to see the difference between real fear and perceived fear, as well as how capable I am of handling a fearful situation. I’m not saying I’ve learned to forego my intuition, but I have learned that I’m often more scared than I ever need to be in 95% of the situations I encounter. So, rather than panic, I negotiate with the taxi driver and he gets me pretty close to where I need to be.
7:45pm: Thanks to my big girl solution-oriented pants, I get on the bus on-time and am happily greeted with a lovely neck pillow, a reclining seat, and a snack. As we set off on our 10 hour bus journey, I feel dirty, tired, and … happy to be on the right bus in the first place. Eventually, we arrive with the dawn to Bagan.
5:00am: Gather myself, and my things (not my hair though, watch out world) and get off the bus, only to be greeted by swarms of men yelling, “Tuk tuk?! Taxi?!” This is the first time in Burma where I had experienced a classic “tourist attack” at a foreigner hot spot, and I am disappointed. In retrospect, however, Bagan’s economy exists purely because of tourism, so it should not have been a surprise to arrive to men yelling in my face at 5am. Still, what a way to wake-up.
Settling in to Bagan
I jump in a taxi with a few other tourists who seemed to know what they were doing more than I did, and eventually find myself at Ostello Bello hostel. I walk into the lobby am blown away by the cleanliness, the amenities, and the service.
Even at 6am, they were smiling, hospitable, and ready to welcome us. There were beds set aside on the rooftop for us to sleep in while we waited for the 2pm check-in, luggage storage closets, and get this, showers on the rooftop for us to use while we waited for our rooms. That shower was the most amazing shower of my trip – I was dirtier than I had ever been, and really needed it. Post epic shower, I had a little rooftop nap in the shade and felt like a different person when I awoke.
Sometime in the late afternoon, I felt refreshed enough to wander downstairs to the common area. It was easy to make friends, and soon I found myself on one of the electric scooters available for rent ($2/day) heading to every single sunset and sunrise.
Bagan the Beautiful
The beauty in Bagan is indescribable, so I’ll let the photos do the talking here, but I have to say there may not be many other places in the world where you have exclusive access to more than 2,000 ancient Buddhist temples. Almost always, my friends and I were the only group perched on the top of a beautiful brick pagoda.
Why you should go to Bagan
Bagan is a can’t miss on your itinerary in Myanmar, and despite it being more touristy, it’s nothing when compared to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, or Cambodia. There’s something for everyone here, whether it be riverside luxury resorts, hostels, horse-drawn carriages, hill-tribes, or just plain good ice cream … catch those moments of sunny peace and quiet while you can – Myanmar is changing rapidly, and you don’t want to miss this authenticity.