Myanmar Bagan 2002.01.27 - 01.30

Land of Pagodas

Over 5000 pagodas were built between 1044~1287 A.D. Today, more than 2000 are standing. With a wide variety of architecture and size, the pagodas of Old Bagan are a site not to be missed. The pagodas are spread in a 5 km by 5 km area. The easiest mode of transport is by bicycle rented from most hotels. Tourist bus is the worst mode to capture the serene magic of the area. Unfortunately, due to tourism, children in Bagan beg for candy and money. At every pagoda entrance, adults sell souvenirs with insistence. Compared to Egypt, India, or Bali, however, Bagan is hassle free. Other travelers recommended 3 full days in Bagan. We think 2 is sufficient to see all the major sites.

5 km Northeast of Old Bagan is Nyaung-Oo with the best selection of hotels and restaurants. Within Old Bagan are more expensive hotels, no restaurants, and continuous 24-hour per day annoying prayer broadcast by megaphone. New Bagan is 3 km South of Old Bagan. We didn't enter New Bagan and have no advice about it.

Possibly the best US$1.50 meal in the world is found at Pho Cho Restaurant on the Western edge of Nyaung-Oo. The Burmese style set menu must be ordered 24 hours in advance because it takes 5 hours to prepare. Depending on the curry ingredient selected, the price ranges between 700~1300 Kyat. Add a drink and the 5 main, 3 side dish, candlelit delicious dinner comes to US$1.50 or less per person. Fresh flowers are arranged on every table and the service is excellent. Find Pho Cho Restaurant 1 km from the center roundabout in Nyaung-Oo down Bagan Nyaung-U Road towards Old Bagan. Turn at the paved side street, with 6 or 7 hotel advertisement signs, entering Bagan Nyaung-U Road from the left. Although this side street is nameless, the restaurant calls it Taung-Za-Lat Hotel Road after the most expensive looking hotel on the street. Pho Cho Restaurant is the second building on the right.

The beauty of Old Bagan valley defies words. The standard tourist route is along the paved roads between Nyaung-Oo and Old Bagan. Tour package groups stop at the main sties, kids beg for candy, and souvenir sellers are persistent. Off the beaten track between Nyaung-Oo Airport and New Bagan near Minnanthu Village are pagodas in relative solitude with very few tourists, minimal souvenir stands, less restricted access to upper levels within the pagodas, and better preserved interior wall paintings. With 2 full days, visit the more touristy sites first and enjoy the peaceful settings later.

Sunset over Old Bagan.
Ananda Temple Mahobodhi Temple
Izagawna Pagoda Thatbyinnyu Temple

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