BUSES to BIKES: EXPLORING the BAGAN ARCHEOLOGICAL ZONE

BAGAN ARCHEOLOGICAL ZONE

The Bagan Archeological Zone consists of one city, two towns, several villages and greater than 3,000 temples.

Bagan Archeological Zone

The Blue Bird Hotel, where I’m staying, sits outside the town of New Bagan. The town of Old Bagan lies between New Bagan and the city of Nyaung U, two-to-three miles from each.

Lonely Planet’s description of the Bagan Archeological Zone:

New Bagan: Not as bustling as Nyaung U, although it’s closer to the juicy temples. It’s laid-back and definitely the site of Bagan’s best midrange accommodation and riverside restaurants.

Old Bagan: The core of the Bagan Archeological Zone contains several of the main temple sites, city walls, a museum, a reconstructed palace, restaurants, a few shops, and a cluster of mid-range to top-end hotels.

Nyaung U: A bustling river town with more happening than you’ll find elsewhere in Bagan, Nyaung U is where most independent travelers hang their hat (or backpack).

BAGAN ARCHEOLOGICAL ZONE TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS

Choices of means of transportation around the Bagan Archeological Zone include hotel balloon, tourist coach, hired car, horse-drawn cart, e-bike, and traditional bicycle. Had I not recently ridden in a hot air balloon over Cappadocia, Turkey (which I highly recommend), I would have splurged on a Balloons Over Bagan ride.

Balloon over Bagan

Now about those fucking tourist coaches. They’re not everywhere yet, but enough of them exist to detract from the Bagan experience, taking up too much of the roads, coating everything — me included — in dirt as they pass, and just altering the back-in-time, other-worldly sense of place that makes Bagan Bagan.

A hired car is out of the question. Again, it defeats the entire point of visiting the Bagan Archeological Zone and wandering aimlessly down dirt road from stupa to stupa, drifting from pagoda to pagoda. Riding in a horse-drawn cart is also a non-option for impatient, independent me: they’re too slow and would mess with my control issues.

Prior to my arrival at Blue Bird Hotel I had envisioned traversing Bagan by bicycle, which can be rented from any hotel. The idea would make sense if I were staying in Old Bagan but biking from New Bagan would be laborious. As “authentic” as biking may be, the fine dirt that accumulates on the paths to the temples sucks in the wheels and takes the fun out of it.

Burmese on a Bike

My process of elimination leaves me with no choice but an e-bike, the thought of which unnerves me as I’m extremely clumsy.

“Don’t worry about it,” said the English woman in the back of the restaurant shuttle with me. “They’re brilliant.”

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