Where to find the Temples of Bagan & The little Town of Nyaung U
Surprisingly Burmese & better than I was lead to believe
At the planning stage of our journey to the Temples of Bagan. We had to research hard to find out exactly where would be best to base ourselves to effectively explore the surrounding areas. We eventually decided on the town of Nyuang U which seemed conveniently located for our plans. There were 3 choices; New Bagan, Old Bagan and Nyaung U. The guide books gave the impression that Old Bagan was the prime choice and Nyaung U last on the list. The reality for us was quite the opposite.
Nyaung U was a lot smaller and more ‘genuine Burma’ than I had expected. Writings of the town painted it as a trendy area with streets lined with restaurants which by Burmese standards, I guess it was. However what pleasantly surprised us is the laid back local feel, dusty streets and close proximity to cheap and pricey establishments alike. There was a restaurant for every price level and all the important areas were within walking distance.
We stayed about 15 minutes walk from the main bus station at Shwe Nadi Guest House. Our accommodation was centrally located and reasonably priced at £30 per night for a double room with AC. The staff were friendly and most of them spoke fluent English, although that didn’t matter so much as my mother speaks Burmese. One of the first things we noticed about travelling in Myanmar was the cost in comparison to Thailand and other SE Asian Countries. Hotels, Excursions, some taxi services and domestic air travel are much dearer, yet the standards in most of the country are on par with some of the poorer parts of India. The locals believe this will change over the next 5 years.
When we checked into Shwe Nadi Guest House, the receptionist asked if we’d yet paid the Government fee for being in the Bagan Archaeological zone. He told us the fee was $10 USD each and we had to pay before we could visit any of the ‘free’ temples. We were initially confused by this but further research reassured us that it was an official government tax that had to be paid when visiting certain tourist areas in Myanmar. We paid the fee at the hotel but was told that the tickets wouldn’t be issued until after we’d planned to leave for our exploration early the next morning. That meant we would spend the most part of our first day exploring Bagan without proof of having paid the fee required to enter the temples and attractions. During the day we spotted one government official checking tickets, but by that point we were already leaving the temple.
Because my father and mother are in their 60’s and 70’s we chose to hire a private taxi with a driver to take us around for 2 days. He collected us from the Nyaung U bus station and drove us wherever we asked to be escorted to. If Sacha and I had been travelling alone we would’ve been able to cover the distances between temples by bicycle quite easily. Most tourists were getting around that way which seemed quite a pleasant option on the quiet roads. Our driver was a friendly local arranged by the family we had stayed with in Yangon. He drove a large comfortable car with AC that seemed well maintained by Burmese standards. We visited every main temple of interest to us and covered the 3 towns of Bagan, found a private boat charter for the Ayeyarwaddy River, watched the sunset at Pyat Hada Temple with the plains overlooking the whole archaeological site and headed to Mt Popa to conclude our drivers duties. The total cost for his services came to $100 USD with fuel and tolls included for the whole 2 days.
Nyaung U had a great selection of restaurants and we ate some amazing meals on the famous restaurant road. Of particular note were the Black Bamboo, where we saw undoubtedly the most beautiful cat on earth while enjoying Burmese Curry and grilled fish.
Aroma 2, which served an unlimited supply of rice with some delicious, powerfully flavoured Indian curries and finally ‘A little bit of Bagan’, a restaurant adorned with hundreds of glowing lanterns wrapped around large trees that served delicious grilled meats and sweet deserts.
I would highly recommend Nyaung U as the destination of choice should you wish to explore the Bagan Archaeological sites and Temples. It is in the most convenient location for most travelers needs and budgets. Close to the airport and bus station alike and within cycling distance of all main attractions minus Mt Popa which would require an excursion. All in all, Bagan was my favorite place in Myanmar and I would definitely head to Nyaung U again.
View The Temples of Bagan Nyuang U in a larger map
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