Exploring Bagan Myanmar is definitely fun. This is especially true if you rent an e-bike and zoom around the place checking out different pagodas. However, there are many pitfalls you need to watch out for in order stay safe and to respect the Burmese culture. In this blog post, I will cover safety tips when it comes to food, the best city to stay in and other small tidbits to make your trip to Bagan much more enjoyable.
Tip #1: Make sure you rent an e-bike
Exploring Bagan is just not the same without an e-bike. Sure you can be one of those tourists that travel in giant tour buses; but, that’s not fun and you’ll miss out on really seeing the place.
Renting an e-bike costs between 8,000-15,000 Kyats ($8-$15 for the whole day) depending on the the company you rent with. I’d say they’re all pretty much the same and most hotels will provide the e-bike rental for you. From my experience, the town of Nyang U has the cheapest e-bike rentals. However, unless you are staying in that town, I wouldn’t recommend going all the way there to save a few bucks.
If you’ve never driven a scooter or motorcycle, don’t worry. Learning how to drive an e-bike is pretty easy as long as you know how to ride a bicycle. I’ve never driven a scooter or motorcycle before and picked up driving an e-bike within half an hour. The top speed is only 40-50km per hour and you can drive at your own pace. The roads between towns is also quite spacious giving you the perfect opportunity to practice your driving without the fear of holding up the traffic or getting hit by another vehicle.
Tip #2: Explore the many temples and Pagodas of Old Bagan
Old Bagan is the location of thousands of temples and pagodas. It could take you the whole day up to several days to see every single temple in the area.
One of the most popular temple in Old Bagan is Shwe San Daw. Refer to the map above to see its location. (The temple is located at the bottom right hand corner of Old Bagan)
People go to Shwe San Daw to watch the sunrise or sunset. Mainly because Shwe San Daw is one of the highest point in this area.
Be warned, tons of tourist flood this area during sunrise and sunsets which can be quite annoying.
I also noticed that people in Old Bagan are nowhere as nice as people from New Bagan or Nyang U. It’s probably because the government forced them to relocate as a result of tourism. I can tell the locals are quite bitter about the whole thing. Maybe they feel that tourists are disrespecting their sacred temples by littering or not respecting their customs. Some young locals from Old Bagan even threw a banana peel directly at me and Karen while we were riding an e-bike around the area. They are definitely hostile towards many tourist.
Tip #3: Eat your meals and stay in New Bagan
Because Myanmar is a developing country, food safety is not their top priority. Karen and myself actually got food poisoning while staying in Nyang U. I would recommend eating and staying New Bagan because not only is it a newer city and much cleaner, the food is also really good!
Eating in San Thi Dar restaurant (they got great ratings in tripadvisor)
While the hotel we stayed in at Nyang U had amazing customer service, the food safety of the restaurants in the area is just not that great and you risk getting food poisoning like Karen and myself did.
Tip #4: Visit Shwe Zi Gon Pagoda in Nyang U
The biggest pagoda in the whole Bagan area is the Shwe Zi Gon Pagoda located in the town of Nyang U. You can get to this place easily by riding your e-bike. They even have a parking lot for you for a small fee of 200 Kyat (20 cents).
Tip #5: Wear flip flops or sandals when exploring Bagan
The temples and Pagodas is very sacred to the Burmese people. As part of their religious practice, you must take off your footwear when stepping foot in a pagoda or temple. Wearing shoes will hinder your travel because you will be forced to constantly remove your footwear over and over again.
Tip #6: Bring mosquito repellant
When the sun begins to set, the mosquitoes starts to come out. I get eaten alive when I eat in outdoor restaurants or if I linger outside too long. Protect yourself from mosquitoes and spray yourself with a mosquito repellant!
Tip #7: Bring a towel or handkerchief
Bagan is extremely humid and you will be sweating non-stop when you explore the place. Be prepared to wipe down all that sweat before taking your pictures or selfies. Wearing a sweat wicking shirt will also be a life saver for you.
Traveling to Bagan has been both fun and a nightmare for me. If only I had the information above before going there, I would have avoided being food poisoned and have a much better trip overall. Do yourself a favour and apply the tips above and you will be sure to have an enjoyable time when exploring Bagan.
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