As soon as the boat stopped at Bagan, we knew we were in for a bit of R&R here. Despite the landing area (note, not a pier, a landing area) having a couple of motorised modes of transport for the more plush hotels, it was just a collection of shacks selling stuff, and a load of horses and carts waiting to get as much as they could for taking us to a guesthouse. Two woman, an Italian, and Australian travelling together and rescued Tracy and I’s lack of hardened haggling, and we were off on our bumpy ride up the road for arond $0.50. Splashing out, we decided to have our own rooms, at around $3 each per night…with private bathroom.
Like Cambodia, you usually pay for flights, boats and accommodation in dollars, and everything else in Kyats (although most will happily take dollars for stuff). We didn’t do too much the first day except have a stroll around the main streets, bewildered by another step back in time – the main transport being horse, carts and pushbikes, the rest being made up of motos and large trucks.
At night we were joined by the two woman for a pizza and more travel and life chat. I love meeting different folk when travelling as you tend to have pretty interesting chats about local and internation travel, and anything else that crops up. We finished the first night with a beer in the ‘local’ having a brief chat with an artist. Of course, we had been sucked into buying the ‘hand painted’, sand based buddha paintings on the first temple we visited. The local artist said they were genuine, but we still had our ‘I reckon they were screen printed’ doubts, as everone seemed to be selling them. Despite me paying $34 for two, and the two woman finding them for $7 each, we put it down to experience. At least we gave the seller a bit of entertainment with a ten minute game of paper, scissors and stones to find out which of us would be able to buy the one we both liked. Of course after I parted with my cash, he popped round to a mate’s to find a similar one in different colours for Tracy, happily taking $20 for hers.
The second day here were hired a horseman for the day to be taken around some of the stupas around the area. Like a lot of these things, the general setting was pretty amazing, but once I had seen a few of them, anymore would have been too much. After spending a pretty trivial sunset on our own a the top of the stupa, with thousands more spreading as far as the eye could see, we made a call to leave the following morning to get to Inle Lake, bypassing a couple of other local attractions.
To end up, we were back in the local ‘bar’ chatting to our artist friend, and his mates, having a right good laugh for a couple of hours. They told us some local lingo (largely around telling women whether you liked them, or loved them), we looked at their English lessons, and we tried the local ‘Chee Root’ cigarettes – Myanmar tobacco wrapped in some kind of leaf – all totally above board, but what most men smoked here. We took a couple of group photos, laughed a lot, then retired too late, knowing we were up at 4am to hope we got a space on the 5am bus to Inle Lake.