Reason: "I've seen many photos of people taking a hot air balloon over the old Bagan area during sunset. Wonder what it'll be like in person."
After seeing a bunch of beautiful sunset photos showing a sea of pagodas laying on a plain, sunlight casted a shadow creating a beautiful spike shape, I had to know what this place was. I found out it was Bagan, Myanmar and I had always wanted to see what it's like biking around the maze of temples, discovering hidden gems, climbing atop, and looking down at thousands of stupas and pagodas.
After I came back from India, I decided to finally pursue this dream of mine, and bought an AirAsia ticket from Bangkok to Mandalay, Myanmar. I stayed in Mandalay for one night. I visited the Shwe Nan Daw monastery, and met a fellow solo traveller (soon to be doctor) from France. It's amazing how I was able to meet like minded people through travel and had such an engaging conversation about life, culture differences and how our experience matched. It's definitely one of the best talk I had in years. After an hour and a half, I decided to let her see the place, unfortunately, I forgot to ask her for a contact.. in case she comes to Bangkok, so I can recommend her places. :(
I took a motorbike to the Mandalay Hill, saw a beautiful sunset and decided to walk down and back to the hotel (as per my fellow traveller friend suggested). It was a hell of a walk. I walked for 1 hour and a half, engaging with the locals, see how they live their lives. I won't be able to experience this if I took a motorbike back. I slept right away after returning from an extremely long walk, getting ready for a motorbike tour the next day.
The next day, I hired a motorbike driver to drive me around. We went to U Bein Bridge for a sunrise but was disappointed because of clouds and rain. We then went to see pagodas around Mandalay and Sagaing. Personally, these golden pagodas like the Mahamuni Buddha Temple, Sagaing hill, Kaungmudaw. Pagoda, and Shwe Kyet Kya pagoda, weren't that unique. It is similar to what we have here in Thailand so I was not that excited to see. Temple made out of teak woods on the other hand are quite stunning to see. Places like Bagaya in Inwa, were more interesting to me. After a whole day of motorbike tour, I went back to the airport and took a flight to Nyaung Oo near Bagan and stayed for 2 nights.
In Bagan, I decided to rent a bike the cycle through the area alone which I don't regret at all. If you want to experience Bagan in full stream, you should bike. You will be able to see more temples at your own pace and stop where ever you find interesting temples to explore. Bagan is not touristy and not dangerous at all. I had many temples to myself most of the time allowing me to spent time with myself, overlooking the plain. It was definitely better than Mandalay and I recommend anyone to explore Bagan with a bike.
After a day in Bagan, I left the next morning and went back home. I hope you will find these info useful and if you have any questions, please let me know anytime. I'll be writing a full blog post next week so stay tune. :)