Myanmar: Exploring Bagan with kids

It’s all about the temples (and hot air balloons – but we got our timing wrong in that one!). Oh… and the electric scooters! I’m glad we booked 4 days in Bagan, because the first day was written off as poor Ethan was very sick! It didn’t last long but I’m glad we were in a nice place and didn’t have to travel.

Exploring Bagan temples

“Ah, come on! Another temple” says Jasper!

Having taken advice from a number of people we (or should I say I!) also booked a hotel with a pool. Similar to Siem reap, after exploring dusty temples in the heat, it’s great to just jump in the pool to cool off!

Hiring a scooter

Just pick one, ask for a helmet (you won’t get handed one), turn and go!

It’s easy to hire a scooter from anywhere. But we found a cheap place right outside our hotel. This worked well as we they exchanged it when the battery was running low and they could put them on charge at the end of each day.  

We didn’t find any charging points, so you have to return to where you hired it from.

No need for driving licences. You just pay and go.

The cost varied, but we paid 4,000 kyat per bike (around £2) for the day. We were in low season so it was very cheap. I think I saw a place slightly cheaper in price.

We also asked for helmets, although most people don’t wear them! No extra fee.

 

How easy is it to ride a scooter?

It’s very easy to ride an e-bike or automatic scooter if you have ridden a bicycle before. Just find out where the indicators are, lights and ask to be shown how to work it. It’s amazing how different they can be.

Generally when you hire one they some you’ve done it before and hand it over without any instruction.

Most scooters are twist and go. So make sure you have your feet on the ground. Then lift one foot off as you slowly twist the throttle. It doesn’t need much!

Now to start I can guarantee you will wobble. It’s heavier than a bicycle, but it’s not heavy to ride.  You just need to have a foot down until you get your balance. I promise it won’t take long and you’ll be bouncing across fields in no time!

 

Visiting temples

It costs 25,000 kyats per tourist to enter Bagan. I’ve read that this is valid for 5 days. But we only ever had our tickets checked in the large, touristy temples – Just in case you plan to stay for longer.

Also, you are no longer permitted to climb Bagan’s temples. I can understand this, as they have already been damaged by earthquakes & thousands of people trampling all over them is just destroying the structures further.  

There are a few key temples which are over ridden with tourists and we did visit, but we didn’t stop long. Instead, we enjoyed jumping on the bike and heading to any temple we felt like.

These are a few of the best known temples to visit. There are lots of websites which describe them in more detail and about their history:

  • Mahazedi Pagoda
  • Shwegu Gyi Phaya
  • Ananda Pagoda
  • Let Put Kan
  • Dhamma Yan Gyi
  • Shwesandaw Pagoda
  • Thatbyinnyu Temple
  • Dhammayazaka
  • Secret View Temple (supposedly you can still climb this temple from the outside)

 

So, instead of a set itinerary and ensuring we got to ‘the best’, we left it so that the boys would see a temple in the distance and we’d follow dirt tracks, sand tracks and across fields to reach it! This was the highlight of our days!

 

Each temple housed a Buddha; some golden, some colourful, some plain – but all looked like they had a different face.  We wandered freely around the temples, enjoying the refreshing break from the heat outside!

It’s mighty hot in Bagan in June, so jumping on the bikes gave us much needed breeze!

For more information about Bagan’s temples, I found this great website which was very detailed! http://bagan.travelmyanmar.net/bagan-monuments.htm

Sunset spots

In addition to the hideous and costly viewing tower, they have now created a couple of mounds.  They are free, all you need is to show your Bagan pass. But expect it to be inundated with tourists looking for an epic landscape shot.

And where there’s tourists… There’s also hawkers. They aren’t overly pushy (no-one is in Myanmar!) But they are selling trinkets, traveller pants, fans and postcards. We did end up buying a pack of 10 postcards for 50p.

But as we haven’t met many travellers in Myanmar, as it’s low season, it was nice to get chatting. In fact, we meet a lovely lady, Nicola and her daughter, who were here in holiday. We didn’t get an epic sunrise that night, but we did get a beer after!

What to wear

You will have to cover your knees and shoulders and take your shoes off when entering the temples.

Old Bagan

This area was smaller than I expected. There was a square in the middle with a few stalls and restaurants around the area.

We stopped at the recommended, and very lovely, the moon vegetarian restaurant. But there wasn’t much else and no real town to speak of.

New Bagan

This is where our hotel was based, on the outskirts of the town. There were several shots and plenty of restaurants and many hotels in the area.  

Nyaung-U

This area is more spread out. It’s described as the backpacking area, but most of the hotels are situated in one area and most of the restaurants are further towards the Irrawaddy River.

The distance between these two areas is 8 minutes to drive. I’m still confused, but I didn’t spend a huge amount of time in this area so you’ll need to double check the set up! 

Within Nyaung-U (near the river) there are a number of restaurants which are a little more expensive, but recommended. Such as Weatherspoons restaurant (I know right! He supposedly used to work for Weatherspoons in the UK) and black bamboo (which we visited).

Where to stay

We opted for Arathawka B&B in new Bagan, arranged through booking.com. Mainly because it had a nice pool and the price was good, considering we were in low season.  And everyone recommended you need a pool in Bagan!

We were booked to stay in the annex (B&B), but instead we were upgraded to the main hotel! This proved great as we got 2 separate rooms in the process and were closer to their amazing pool.

The hotel was definitely a step up from budget. There was water in the room, a fridge, good space and good WiFi. The only downside was the air conditioning was a little lacking – but it was manageable.  The staff were all really lovely though, couldn’t do enough for you. 

Conclusion

A lovely, relaxing place with lots of temples to visit & explore. For best access I’d recommend a scooter – it’s so much fun and cheap too! This makes it easier for you to access the 3 separate areas of Old Bagan, New Bagan and Nyaung-U.

If you’re desperate to see the iconic hot air balloons rising over the temples at sunrise, then be aware they only run from October to April!

We found there to be lots of restaurants/cafes around, but not so many shops or mini-marts.  And plenty of hotels – these seem to be shooting up all over the place. Despite this the town hasn’t lost it’s relaxed vibe!

 

 

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