A day on a boat, the wooden Malikha 3 to Bagan. Down the Ayeyarwady we went on an 11 hour journey with a few short stops to buy bananas and other fruits from vendors on the river. It wasn’t exactly luxury sailing, but it wasn’t too uncomfortable either, with comfy wicker chairs on the wide deck under shade, which the pensioners on the trip made what must surely have been an uncharacteristic high-speed dash to claim. The plastic chairs on deck weren’t as instantly popular, being at the mercy of the elements, but it didn’t matter too much – rows of benches downstairs with little tables in front of them were good enough. As it was free seating people were mingling around quite a lot sharing their experiences, which were exactly the same as everyone elses as pretty much everyone seems to follow a similar itinerary, and I spoke to various people on the boat as well as with the Spanish couple I was traveling with, Jose and Maria.
The day passed by pleasantly enough. There wasn’t too much to see. The land was very flat., unspectacular. We passed a few small villages. Cattle. People in canoes. Isolated wooden shacks. A few golden pagodas nestled into small hills. We had our 2 meals which were included, and the simple rice and vegetable dishes were well-received by all. Some people were drinking bottles of Myanmar beer, but I wanted to arrive to Bagan fresh and alert, as I didn’t have anyone meeting me there nor a place to stay. Jose and Maria were likely to latch on to me when we arrived too, so I would have to negotiate prices for taxis / hotels etc on their behalf, as their level of English wasn’t great.
The merciless sun finally began its transformation from white yellow to sunset orange and then a pink-red, and the tranquliity of the moment remained until we reached the port and the taxi scramble began. In Bagan, there are 3 main areas to stay. The dusty, chaotic town of Nyaung-U, popular with backpackers, Old Bagan, popular with older affluent tourists, and New Began, a largely characterless mid-range place, but still fairly convenient to the sights. I opted to stay in New Bagan, so the Spanish couple joined me in a small van which took us there through Nyaung-U. We reached New Bagan to find it very dark and fairly quiet. Time to traipse around looking for hotels. At first, I checked some places out with the Spanish couple. Most places were full. Nothing left was of an acceptable standard for the price. Eventually we came across a nice place, but they only had one room, so naturally it was for the Spanish couple. I wandered for 10 minutes down a pitch black, dusty road, following a sign that promised a hotel. I came across a large, soulless place, judging by the groups of Chinese at reception. Kumudara Hotel (http://www.kumudara-bagan.com/) was clean though, and they had one room left – the one next to reception. Fine by me. I paid $70 for 2 nights, handing a crisp $50 note and a $20 over, which were carefully inspected for signs of dirt or a small crease perhaps, and checked in, had a shower, and headed out again using my phone as a torch.
I got to the main street. There were a few nice little restaurants here. The atmosphere was tranquil. I went to the Green Elephant, (http://greenelephant-restaurants.com/restaurant-bagan.htm) which had a lovely ambience, and had a delicious ice cold Myanmar Beer and a Thai Green curry and spring rolls. It was fantastic, the service superb. Satisfied, I headed back to the hotel. I wanted to be up early tomorrow to get the most out of the day and explore Bagan.