Every blog has to have a first post. I’m sure I’m not the first blogger who has almost fallen at this first hurdle “what shall I write about?” I’m sure there are many more logical ways to start but I will start with a post about the place which inspired my page: Bagan.
With so many amazing places to visit in the world (let alone Asia) you may ask, “why Myanmar?” Well the answer to that is simple, it’s the perfect time and it may not be for long. Why do I say that? Well compared to it’s neighbours: Thailand, Laos and China it just hasn’t seen many tourists. Of course there are many political reasons for this – but I have no desire to write about those here. The point is, Myanmar is now open for business which means it’s open for tourists as well!
So what’s the rush? Well we all know that tourism has paid dividends to the economies of South East Asia but we also know it comes at a price. When mass-tourism hits a country it loses a little bit of its culture with every souvenir taken home. Myanmar is the fresh-faced undergraduate of Asia and it’s keen and ready to welcome you but trust me, give it a few more years and they’ll know as many scams as your ping-pong salesman on Khaosan Road!
I started my journey in Myanmar in the old capital of Yangon. The government of Myanmar moved the capital from Yangon in 2006 and looking at the city I’d say they exited in a hurry. Many of the buildings are derelict and are being left to decay in an undignified manner. There are however, a few architecture wonders left, particularly if you like old colonial buildings. The Old City Hall is a fine example. The main city can be easily covered on foot in a morning, the afternoon you may want to dedicate to the Shwedagon Pagoda which is one of the most impressive religious sites I have ever visited.
Having seen the best that Yangon has to offer in a day, you can move on to the reason you are there: the airport. The only way to get to beautiful Bagan is on a domestic flight and these are fairly frequent from Yangon.
Bagan is situated in the North-West of the country on the Irrawaddy river. The airport is on the edge of the Archaeological Zone and is connected by road. Once in the Zone, the main modes of transport are house and cart or pushbike. The Archaeological Zone comprises of over 2000 Pagodas and Temples in varying condition. Taking a horse and cart through the area is like being whisked back in time more than 1500 years. Each Pagoda has its own charm and attraction which adds to the beauty of the land. The people here are friendly and approachable. They have seen enough tourism to know there is money in local arts and handicrafts but are still fascinated by each new individual who passes through.
At the end of our tour we asked our coachman to take us to his favourite Pagoda. We pulled up alongside a large Pagoda a good few meters higher than its neighbours. The coachman explained that it was one of few Pagodas where you could still reach the roof. Of course he failed to mention that this was via an external staggered wall. The final part of the climb was through an internal tunnel and a short flight of stairs. Upon emerging I lost my breath. This is the only time a view has been truly – breathtaking.
Myanmar controls its currency meaning you will not be able to obtain any local currency if you are not within Myanmar borders. The main currency used by tourist is USD which is accepted almost everywhere. Please however note that if most places will not accept notes which are torn, too creased or marked in anyway. Credit cards are not widely accepted.
An application was made in 2006 to obtain UNESCO World Heritage Site status to the Bagan Archaeological Area and Monuments this is still tentative. You will be asked to make a donation to the restoration of the area before leaving the airport.
We stayed at: