The temples of Bagan, whether you’ve slept or not.
Bagan is one of the four corners of Myanmar’s tourist circuit, and is arguably the most tourism-developed, since it was Bagan that people visited back in the era of the 7-day visa. It’s a plain heaped with heat, consummately devoid of coolness, and cluttered with temples beyond belief. You know how, if you give stickers, stamps, or some such to a five year old and have them decorate a picture, they will put far too many of them in there to be quite reasonable? That’s how Bagan is, only instead of stickers, it’s temples, and instead of five year olds, it was kings.
The “Thing to Do” in Bagan is rent a bicycle, motorbike, or horse carriage (no, I’m not being facetious about that last one) and head out to watch the sunrise and/or sunset from one of the approximately 4,000 temples. Some are crumbled, most are restored, and a few are covered in gold. You can legally climb on some, informally on others, and not at all on the main ones, but you are guaranteed the experience of watching the sun’s arrival or departure in the company of an ancient Buddha or six.
One more peculiarity about Myanmar is the overnight bus. Because it’s not. Overnight. They all seem to leave at 19:00, and deliver you about 8 hours later…at 3:00 in the bloomin’ morning. That ain’t overnight, that’s….in-night.
There’s a reason for this. Apparently the ol’ USA recently gave Myanmar a big development grant to pave their roads. Uncle Sam is such a sweetheart! This reduced the transit time for these buses by a few hours…but they haven’t adjusted the schedules yet. They still leave at 19:00 instead of moving everything back a couple hours. Whichever company removes its head from its culo first is going to make more money for the few days until the other ones notice and emulate.
In the case of Bagan however, 3:00 AM is okay, because then you have time to hop on one of the bicycle-&-sidecar “trishaws” in the pre-dawn stillness to find a guesthouse. You can drop off your stuff, brush your teeth, rent a bike from the sleepy attendant and pedal out to a deserted temple of your choice. Mine had several Buddhas happy to see me, happy to watch the sunrise over my shoulder, happy to…everything.
Good morning, Enlightened One. Not a bad introduction to a place.