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…