Yesterday we arrived in Bagan after a slightly traumatic day of travelling. I would say actually that up until Bagan we have had worry and stress free travel. But as things go, as soon as you hit a tourist hotspot, everything works against you.
We took a bus from Magway and were meant to be dropped off in New Bagan. But instead we're kicked off at Nyuang-U. The town itself is another option for exploring the area of Bagan.. But New Bagan is closer to the temples and had a sleepier feel from what we read, plus the guidebooks said Nyuang-U was a backpackers town. My plan after last years stay in Khao San Road and this years visit to Ho Chi Minh is to avoid any areas that guidebooks say are ‘backpacker friendly' as that means a few things..
- Food will be overpriced and lousy (you know you are in trouble when you see signs advertising ‘Italian' and/or ‘western' food being served
- The locals will be instead of helping you, try to fleece you for every penny in your wallet
- Overpriced and terrible accommodation with a shitty breakfast that will make you feel shitty.
- Loud, expensive bars that serve international beers for quadruple their value
Also in Myanmar's case, probably a lack of quality locals Beer Stations which are the single biggest asset this country offers. A place to get good quality, cheap food and a nice cold drink.
Anyway, we arrived in Nyuang-U to our surprise and had to pay for a taxi back the way we just had come. The taxi driver took us to our first choice which was fully booked, so then recommended another hotel down the road. This place is called Kaday Aung. We were pretty tired at this point after hours of travelling so got a room for 1 night at $55 per night. Yes that's right, $55 per night. Slightly above our max $30 budget.
Anyway my advice to you for accommodation choices in this sleepy / dusty town is go to a place called Yun Myo Thu hotel. It's located fairly centre and offers clean, modern rooms. It has wifi, hot water, 24 hour electricity, swimming pool and breakfast included from $25 per night for a double! Yes that's right, you can still get a great hotel for cheap in New Bagan. Don't believe anything anyone says (or the Internet for that matter). You can't unfortunately book it in advance though.
Some options we came across for New Bagan, that are below $40 per night.. All have wifi, hot water, en-suite, 24 hour electricity and breakfast included…
(OUR PICK) Yun Myo Thu Hotel – $25 standard room / $30 Superior
Betelnut Hotel – $35 standard room
Thiri Sandar Motel – from $25 for standard room
Ruby Guesthouse – from $25 for standard room
So last night after running out of money from the taxi we didn't foresee taking and the overpriced hotel we decided to walk down the road to see the famous sunset from Swesandaw Paya. It was a fairly long walk from New Bagan (roughly 50 minutes) and you will be drenched in sweat by the end of it. The sunset was pretty cool and the sights are pretty good. Maybe an hour up there is enough time as there is only so many pictures you can take of a sunset before you can't get much of a better landscape photo..
The place is probably the busiest tourist attraction in the country and so is heaving on most levels. The tour buses of paid international vacationers come into the sight around 6pm and leave promptly around 7:30pm when the light has faded. I always find it funny in these sorts of places as there are so many people with big expensive DSLR cameras on tripod with their special filters all taking a similar if not the same quality photo as we can get on our new Sony NEX camera. But let them think they have the upper hand and can take a progressional grade photo without knowing how all their settings work! 🙂
It's always hard to be mesmerised by certain sights these days as we have seen a lot in Asia. When you get to this point, sometimes it's hard not to compare it to other places and whether it was worth it or not.
The one last point I will say is this country so far for me has not been about the big landmark sights, but more about the people. History is always set in stone (literally) and is timeless. But the people tell a different story and one that is ever changing. Take that as you will.