Once again we had to catch a morning domestic flight and a long taxi ride to get to the airport. Tonight we will sleep in Bagan, an ancient city located on the Irrawaddy River (Myanmar’s largest river), renowned for its thousands of temples and pagodas. But for now the priority was to get to Heho airport on time.
We had a quick breakfast which was prepared by the girls from the guesthouse owners family. I had omelette as well as a fresh avocado. Mimi on the other hand just ate two toasts of white bread. She was feeling much better after eating white rice and bananas the night before but wanted to allow more time for her stomach to fully recover. After what she has been through yesterday we both agreed to be more cautious from now on. We can’t let some risky food choices ruin days of our trip anymore!
We traversed Nyaung Shwe for the last time and after about an hour of scenic driving, our taxi arrived at Heho airport. On the terminal road leading to the airport, there was a religious procession with kids wearing traditional costumes riding horses being followed by groups of men and women throwing things at them. We could not figure out the meaning of this rite (and our driver did not speak enough English for us to quiz him) but we still appreciated the costumes, music and general atmosphere.
After checking in our Air KBZ flight, we had to go through the immigration desk again. We waited at our “gate” until our flight was announced to be ready for departure and then walked on the tarmac like we did after landing here just two days ago. It made me think about how fast our traveling pace has been so far. Our stop in Inle Lake appeared to be even shorter since we ended up spending more time than expected at our hotel. But anyway, we had our tickets to NYU in hand (that’s the airport code for Nyaung-U airport).
This time, the airplane was mostly empty. Mimi counted just a dozen heads sticking out of their seats, for an aircraft with a total capacity of 70 passengers.
And here is the obligatory take off video.
Just 40 minutes later, we landed at Nyaung U Airport, on time.
This is another really tiny airport, very similar to the one in Heho.
Just like to enter the Inle Lake area, foreign tourists have to pay a fee when landing here. It is called the Bagan Archaeological Zone Fee and is two times more expensive than the one we paid on our way to Nyaung Shwe (25,000 Kyats per person).
We jumped into a taxi and were on our way to our hotel in Old Bagan, the Bagan Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort. The driver was very chatty and visibly quite eager to drive us around for the next days. He asked how long we were staying in Bagan and also what we were planning to do every day. As we told him we were probably going to book a balloon tour, he suggested we could arrange for it before getting to the hotel since the office for Balloons Over Bagan (the leading company for such tours) was on our way. We agreed and 10 minutes plus $640 later we had two tickets in hand for tomorrow’s sunrise tour! This is one of the activities that we were most excited about when planning our trip back in New York so let’s hope it’ll be as good as we anticipated.
After that, our chatty and interested driver asked if we were planning to also visit Mount Popa during our stay in Bagan. We were and he convinced us to use him as our taxi driver to get there and back. We agreed to have him pick us up at 9am the day after tomorrow. We later learned that the price he quoted us was above market price by a fair amount. He was so talkative and overloading us with questions that when we arrived to the hotel and got out of the taxi to check in, we forgot to pay him for the ride. As I was thanking him and started walking away he awkwardly asked if I was going to pay for the ride. We felt super embarrassed and Mimi and I both apologized.
The hotel staff welcomed us with scented cold towels and fresh fruit juices, a well-thought-out gesture considering the 98F temperature. The resort has both individual villas and standard rooms and this time we opted for the latter one. In general, we found hotels in Myanmar to be significantly more expensive than in Thailand even for a lower quality accommodation. This may be because unlike Thailand tourism isn’t operating at scale yet. The resort is fairly large so we were taken from the lobby to room L124 in a golf cart. It was my time to give the tour.
With that checked off the list, it was time to start exploring the ancient city and its impressive temples. We started by walking around the resort since there are a handful of small temples on the resort grounds proper. Those were renovated during the last century.
We then walked to the lobby to take more pictures of the resort before leaving the area. It’s perfectly maintained and the view over the Irrawaddy River was a nice change from the views on coconut trees and turquoise water we got while island hopping in Thailand.
Also check out the beautiful swimming pool.
We left the resort with plenty of water and started exploring nearby temples. We probably saw a dozen that afternoon but only the bigger ones could be visited from the inside. The ones worth calling out here are Ananda and Thatbyinnyu. At this point it’s better to let the pictures tell the story.
By 5:40pm we were getting tired and hungry. Other than breakfast and the very small meal we got during our morning flight, we had not eaten much today. We decided to stop by Be Kind to Animals The Moon, an excellent vegetarian restaurant in the area.
At first we thought it was a good idea to sit outside, under the trees. But after Mimi received a “gift” from a sparrow right on her wrist and just inches from her bowl of soup, we changed our mind and moved to the covered area of the restaurant! The food was delicious especially for Mimi who was delighted to eat something other than white rice or bananas. Her stomach had recovered, finally.
We walked back to our hotel as the sun was setting over Bagan. The sunset shot below includes the Bagan Archaeological Museum which we did not end up visiting.
Back to our room, we changed to our bathing suits and went for a swim in the pool. It felt so relaxing to finally cool down after the afternoon heat. Bagan gets extremely hot when the sun is at its peak and walking around all afternoon was a bigger tax on our bodies than we had realized. Tomorrow, we’ll try to rent e-bikes to visit more temples. We did not stay up late to be able to wake up before 5am and catch our shuttle bus for Balloons over Bagan.