Cycling in Bagan

You know when you decide to go to a holiday destination, and you spend ages excitedly looking at pictures, only to arrive at the place and be disappointed because the pictures in the guides are of the only good sight in the place photographed from five different angles? Bagan is not like that. It's surreal. It's other-worldly. It is amazing.

Firstly, contrary to what some sources may tell you, it is relatively easy to get around Myanmar. The long haul buses are extremely comfortable and modern, and the wide highways are in impeccable condition. I got an overnight bus from Yangon up to Bagan, unexpectedly arriving early at 3:30AM. After initially facing the challenging prospect of finding accommodation at such an hour, the issue was quickly solved with the aid of some locals and I grabbed a couple of hours' kip before waking up to face Tuesday morning.

What better location to spend a Temple Tuesday than on the plains of Bagan, home to the ruins of over 2000 temples? Some date from almost a thousand years back. Regulation of how you explore these temples is lax, to say the least. You are supposed to purchase a $10 pass from the local authorities who 'might' bump into you at a ruin and ask to check it, but I never encountered any officials, which was fortunate as I wasn't particularly sure of where to buy the pass either.

An affable Argentinian lad I'd met on the bus and I hired some bicycles from our hotel, took a quick look at a map of the plain and headed out toward roughly where we supposed we'd begin seeing some ruins.

It wasn't long before we were in the midst of what seemed like dozens of temples, and slipping into full 'Tomb Raider' mode. As I mentioned above, regulation of how you see these sites is lax, so you can wander inside a deserted ruin, find a relatively stable looking staircase, and climb all over the roof to your little heart's content. 

Everywhere you look seems like another photo opportunity, and I ran my camera battery flat by the end of the day trying to capture everything. During the course of the day we lunched at a little village and were shown about by one of the locals, which is something I would highly, highly recommend, if not to see how an authentic Burmese village works then just to meet some of the beautiful hospitable people who inhabit this arid area.

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