We had two full days to explore the ancient city of Bagan. The first day we took it really easy as we were still tired of travelling and it was time to finally relax. Before we left our hotel, I heard a loud and chaotic noise of several music instruments. I went outside and observed a procession of dressed dancing people and trucks with speakers and musicians. Later I learned that Myanmar was celebrating the 100th birthday of general Aung San. The technical equipment was rather more fascinating that the entire show. The truck that was filled with speakers and keyboard player, followed a motorcycle which carried the generator and provided power for the following truck. Both were struggling with finding the perfect speed so that the wires in between would stay in place and the generator won't fall from the motorcycle, or speakers from the truck. I imagined various possible mishaps while watching this very typical “Myanmar” construction.
Eventually we took a bike trip to the sights. The first building we came across was the 'Schwezigon Paya' which was in the area of Nyaung U, the village we stayed. This is a well visited place, noticeable in parked tour busses, persistent souvenirs sellers and beggars. Other 'Payas' weren't any different, some were maybe less crowed, but every single of them hat at least one vendor inside. I expected some solitude as we drove deeper into the Bagan area, but there were no escape from the vendors. There were definitely more locals, trying to earn some money, than travelers. To be honest, I liked the souvenirs I saw here, everything is handmade or old. But I didn't like the approach of the vendors – we were the possible big spenders everywhere we went. I understood that tourism is a lucrative business for the Bagan residents. Selling arts and crafts or even begging has more sense than having an actual job or investing time in some education. This is an easy and fast way of earning money, at least for now. When I could think away those locals with their umpteenth postcards or sand paintings, I realized that Bagan hasn't reached that kind of popularity status which the big brother Angkor Wat has now. But then again, I remember being left in peace at Angkor Wat more often and I even think that Cambodian ancient city impressed me more than Bagan did.
Just before the sunset we found a perfect temple which we could climb to overview the area from above. And then for the first time that day I was mesmerized by Bagan. The view was incredible, I was seriously touched by the scenery. That was Bagan I was hoping to see. This emotional status though was only short-lived. As the sun was setting, our perfect view spot was filled with more and more neighbors with cameras, tripods, selfiesticks and whatever else. Yes, the sunset was pretty, but we wanted to leave the place and return to our bikes.
Our village was already bustling with other starved travelers. We picked a nearly full restaurant close to our hotel – Shwe Moe. We were very pleased with that place and came back couple of times. I suppose the restaurant was run by a family. The staff was friendly and funny. The food was good and cheap and I still can't get over their papaya lassie.
The following day, before the second Bagan sightseeing, we went to check the local market first. It was interesting, worth a brief visit, though we decided to not waste our time any longer and drive back to the temples.
We reached the area, we haven't seen on first day and ended up at “Shwesandaw Paya”. That was actually the only place where we had to show our tickets, we bough two days earlier on arrival. The mentioned paya is popular during the end of the day and again when the sunset time was approaching, the terrace became more and more crowded. We didn't stay until sunset. We just enjoyed the view before the crowds, left the paya on time and headed back to the village.