After a jam-packed first day on arrival in Bagan, the second was just as busy, but somehow, much more leisurely.

First things first, after a sensational sunset from the North Guni temple looking out over Old Bagan, we had an early start to catch another beautiful phenomenon, it was time to see the sunrise.

For this, we made our way to a different temple, one where we could not only watch the sun climb up into the endless blue sky, but also where we could witness hundreds of hot air balloons rise, float and then gently fall back down to earth. Bags packed with just a few essentials, Min arranged for our early bus pickup and with the help of torches and phone lights we headed up to the top of the temple in complete darkness. There was not as many people here this time (nobody likes to get up this early). The area was much more spacious at the top of this pagoda, I couldn’t wait to see the view unfold in front of us.

As the light started to creep over the hills in the distance, a couple in their wedding attire appeared with a photography crew, a full on pre-wedding photo shoot was about to occur, I couldn’t think of a more fantastic location!

We all sat together, watching the sun rise up as we chatted excitedly about the day ahead. The cool wind started to fade, the glowing morning light cast out over the land, but we still couldn’t see those balloons….???

We got up to explore and then there they were! to the left of where we had been looking this whole time, silently in the distance, floating up one by one, some of them carrying our friends. It really was unlike anything I had ever seen before.



The lovely Jonathon Phang had actually told me that the balloon ride over Bagan was the one thing I shouldn’t miss. As someone who is petrified of heights I couldn’t begin to imagine being in a basket in the sky. I did pledge to face my fears and as much as it scared me, I did try and book onto a balloon, however many of us found that bookings need to be made well in advance as it’s extremely popular. So, if you are wanting to experience the view from above – Book a balloon flight as soon as you can.

Nevertheless, the view from the top of our temple was just as spectacular (although I have nothing to compare it to haha!) and it was so nice to hear nothing but the occasional burner from a balloon floating past us.



Top Tip: Torches are essential if you’re heading out to watch the sunrise. There is no light whatsoever when you climb the steps in the temple, you’ll need something to help you see! 


After a relaxing morning and an indulgent breakfast at the hotel. It was time to join the group exploring old Bagan… on bikes. When I read ‘bike tour’ on the itinerary I was excited. When I saw the bike in front of me, excitement?? Errr, not so much. Grabbing the handlebars I remembered the last time I was on one of these things was at the Manchester Sky Ride in the city, where within just ten minutes of being on the road, my family and I had been part of a bike pile up which resulted in me falling flat on my back and weeks of agony and my sister suffering a serious knee injury and ending up on crutches.

Fear of breaking my back again aside, I sucked it up and tried my best to deal with it, without being the big baby of the group. Really hard when you’ve never cycled on a road with trucks flying past you every five minutes and the occasional sandy spot which I always happened to be the one to get stuck in.

My childish issues aside…. cycling in Old Bagan is the perfect way to explore the many, many temples. Min had arranged for a kind of guide to show us round, Coco was handy with bike repairs and knew the area. So he was going to lead the way, guiding us to the best temples and saving us the hassle of navigating and worrying about direction.

We stopped off first at the local market, and from there we went to a number of beautiful pagodas. I’m not going to talk you through each and every one, instead I’m going to share some of my snaps, of which there are many.



Top tip: Pumps make the perfect Bagan cycling shoe – sturdy enough to cycle with, but still a slip on – which comes in handy when you’re visiting so many temples! Also be sure to pack enough water. Cycling in the heat can be extremely dehydrating. 


After a spot of lunch, the group then split – half went on to continue exploration, and the other half of us decided to head off to enjoy a Burmese cooking class, where we spent the rest of the evening.. but that I shall save, as the cookery class warrants its own blog post for sure.

I will share a couple of sneaky pics though…



There you have it. Day 2 done and dusted. Long shower, comfy bed and a good nights rest ready for another early start to day 3…




After a love-hate relationship with the overnight train, we finally reached Bagan. Our guide, Min, had arranged for a coach to take us to our hotel and after a quick check in and freshen up, we were ready to embrace the rest of the day, exploring Bagan temples and local village life in this new part of Myanmar.

Min had organised a visit to a local palm plantation, where Toddy wine is produced, a drink popular amongst the local community, a drink he was most proud of sharing – obviously didn’t appeal much to me, but I was happy to learn and see what they do.

We watched as one of the locals scaled the tall bamboo ladder (which he didn’t seem to use much on the way up) right to the top of the Palm, where he went about collecting the sap. Obviously in these parts of the world health and safety is the last thing on peoples minds, the men scaling these heights with nothing more than the tools they need to get the job done, a knife to ‘tap’ the sap out of the young coconut flowers and a ‘Toddy pot’ to catch it in.



Tip: Don’t stand directly underneath your Toddy palm climber as usually locals who don the traditional Longhyi attire, don’t tend to wear underwear, so give them a little distance 😉


The sap is simply left out in the sun to ferment and the wine is produced. If it’s left out too long, or overheated, it actually becomes highly acidic, turning it into a vinegar rather than wine. Alongside the basking sap, they also had their own mini distillery all set up, where the more potent drinks were created. Ever the host, as well as pointing out what meats were halal, Min also made sure to let me know when things were non-alcoholic so that I, and other non-drinkers, weren’t left out. We all had a taste of the pure sap pre-fermentation, with others then enjoying a tipple of the harder stuff (it smelt pretty toxic!).



My favourite take-away from this experience was learning about the resourcefulness of this community. Like most developing countries, when it comes to using natural elements – waste is never an option. And the Toddy palm is no exception. Every part of the tree is used in some form or another, ensuring that each tree sacrificed has been utilised to it’s full potential.

Turns out Toddy wine wasn’t the only sight to be seen here, we watched how an ox was used to grind batches of peanut down to create oil – an oil that is used heavily in Myanmar cuisine. We also enjoyed some afternoon tea. No we’re not talking triangle sandwiches and earl grey. We were enjoying our afternoon tea Myanmar style, sat on palm trunk stools, with lakka cups of green tea and a beautifully laid out sharing plate of tea leaf salad.



Tea leaf salad, Laphet Thoke, is something you will find on nearly every Myanmar menu. You’ll find the look and ingredients of this iconic dish may vary, depending on where you are but the basic principal carries through. The tea leaves are pickled and served alongside a mix of peanuts and dried beans. Each part is served separately, combining it all is down to you, so you can proportion it how you wish. I’ll go through some of the other variations in a separate food post.

After a chat and a snack we headed off to walk through a local village, where hospitality was in abundance, we received countless offers of tea and snacks whilst the inhabitants showed off their local trades and skills. After my favela experience in Rio, I’m always a little apprehensive when it comes to village visits, it always feels like such an imposition. A group of tourists walking around watching you go about your daily life. I suppose the difference here, is the locals actually want us to visit them. The exposure, tip money and the fact that they’re proud of what they do, even if it’s something I may not have chosen to do had I been organising the trip on my own, just to see them going out of their way to interact with us, well its always worth it.



Our day ended with the piece de resistance…

Off we went to the North Guni temple. There was a decent crowd already gathered as we climbed the stairs to the roof of the temple – this was our first opportunity to witness the view that graces nearly every Myanmar travel guide book going, the view looking out over more than 2000 Bagan temples.

It really was something. There may have been some large group of tourists, but it didn’t distract from how stunning the vista in front of us had turned out to be. During the 11th and 13th centuries, it is said that there were nearly 10,000 pagodas in the Kingdom of Bagan, but the numbers diminished as time went on as the area suffered hundreds of earthquakes.



Ever the lover of a good sunset, me and a few of the others scoped out the different nooks and levels and settled in the corner to relax and watch the sun disappear for the night.

I never really get bored of a sunset, and luckily for me there was an opportunity to catch many of them on this trip. When I looked back at my photos, well let’s be honest, most sunsets look the same. So why do I keep falling for them?

I think it’s more because when you are sat in that moment, and you are literally waiting for that sun to fall. I love that it’s such a natural scene, something that happens every day in every single corner of the world. I love the colours, I love the descent of darkness and that deep red warning that pops just before it occurs. It doesn’t matter how many of them I see, each one gives me the same peace and heart flutters, enough to make me crave the next.

Tip: Take a torch with you, once the sun has set there are no lights in the temple, so you won’t be able to navigate some of the stairs in the darkness (this actually goes for some of the Bagan temples in the daytime too, as some stairwells have no light coming in at all).

We watched, we chatted, we took snaps… it was a lovely way to end our afternoon and it was enough to ignite our excitement for what was in store the following day, where we would be heading off to explore up close the rest of Old Bagan.


Bagan temples


Have you been to see the Bagan temples? What are your opinions on sunsets, love, hate or not fussed?