Bagan is a mind-bending town in the middle of Myanmar with over 4,000 Buddhist temples in a few square miles of land.
The classic beautiful shot taken of Bagan is across the green fields with the red temple tops piercing through. Having seen this image a squillion times I was a bit anxious that the reality would not live up to the photo. I needn’t have worried though as being there surpassed any feelings conjured up by a picture.
Our first foray into the temples was on bikes with a fold out map. We got up ridiculously early and set off in the dark, looking cool with our head torches on, to capture the sunrise. We found a decent sized temple and clambered up bare foot to join some other early birds; one of whom was a middle-aged American, only too pleased to narrate his thoughts and feelings on the world to a captive audience.
The sun came up and lit up the foreground to reveal the pointy tops of a never-ending array of temples. Shortly afterwards dozens of hot air balloons launched off and drifted all around us. The balloons were so close that we were able to shout hello to the passengers and hear their reply.
We spent the rest of the day following our noses to explore the back paths between temples and running across small villages. We felt very privileged to have such easy access to a wonderful world and without hordes of people around us. The equivalent in Europe would be roped off and guarded with a hefty entrance fee.
The second time we ventured out we treated our bums and legs to E-Bikes, which are basically electric powered mopeds. The bikes were easy to ride and hilarious fun. Again, the freedom to roam and get lost felt whilst “speeding” along at 30mph was great.
We also did a little exploration on foot to find a small village community tucked between the town and river. There was not a single tourist in sight and the locals were a little bemused to see us, however the kids playing on the riverbanks were too engrossed in throwing mud at each other to notice us.
To top things off we were wise enough to try out a restaurant called Wetherspoons as our wisdom was rewarded with amazing BLTs, salads and whisky sours. Needless to say almost our entire food and drink budget was spent here.
For me this place matched the awe felt at Machu Picchu and its surrounding villages; it has a powerful vibe and immense beauty accompanied by low-key locals just getting on with daily life.