We booked tickets for the 7am bus to Bagan, we arranged to be picked up from our guesthouse at 6:30am so got up early, ate our breakfast and waited, and waited - we were really worried because we were under the impression that we had to get back to the road junction at Shwenyaung (where we were dropped off) which would take at least 15 minutes to get to. We asked our guest house if they could find out if we were actually going to be collected - they made a few phone calls and at 7.10am a pick up arrived -we asked if we would still be able to make the bus and they just grinned. We then literally drove around the corner and up the road for a few minutes and they dropped us off - the bus was leaving from there - we could have walked it if we had known!! The bus was due to depart at 7:30 too not 7, anyway it was a nice bus and we had a free bottle of water each and it seemed to have air con......
So we set off on the 8 hour journey to Bagan, we snaked down hills and the scenery was pretty spectacular, we went over bridges that are shared with the railway tracks and made a wee stop in Kalaw. We drove through Meiktila where they had recent muslim/buddhist clashes. As the journey went on it became more and more uncomfortably hot - the air con just didn't work and the windows weren't really designed to open! Our onboard 'entertainment' was some Burmese comedy cabaret DVD, it involved a lot of shouting and a very irritating cymbal that was being crashed all the way through, it went on for hours and I think we would have been able to tolerate it if we weren't so hot - it was a bit like torture! We arrived in Bagan in the late afternoon and as we drove through a checkpoint an official got on and ordered all the foreigners to get off to pay the 10 dollar entry fee. On our bus there was a german guy called Anton and Pete from NZ - when we arrived in Nyuang U we all decided to go room hunting together (well I actually just looked after their bags and let them go off!) Bagan was so much hotter than Yangon and Inle -it was 43c and the heat was oppressive. The room hunt was unsuccesful and we ended calling a place called Winners which was on the road out to Old Bagan, they had cheaper rooms available and we all got a yummy veg curry and chapatis before going there. Winners was a lovely family run place and the owner was called SoSo, our room had aircon which was heavenly!
The next day we got up early to try and get out before it got too hot, with Anton and Pete we hired some bikes and went on a little tour of some nearby temples, the first had a keeper called KoKo who showed us up some very dark steps to an amazing view over the plains which were just dotted by all these temples - it was an awesome sight! KoKo showed us some paintings then we then went to a larger temple, this time with 4 large buddhas in. A girl showed us to a neighbouring temple where we could get another rooftop view - she had really good english and talked very openly about some of Myanmars issues - she also said she would love to become a tour guide but it costs about 1000 US dollars to get a permit from the government! She really loved the fact that we were married as she hadn't met many foreign couples who were!! She was really funny and said how most of the locals think German people are really miserable (Anton showed them they weren't). We noticed that most of the females we had seen in Myanmar so far had this yellowy white paste on their cheeks and after asking what it was we were given some - its made by rubbing a special wood on a stone into the paste and its to cool you down - it really did work!
By about 11am it was just to hot to carry on with the bikes so we went back to Winners and thought we would do as Lonely Planet recommends - go for a swim at a nearby hotel for 3 dollars. We all packed our swim stuff excitedly and went to one hotel who refused us entry and then to another one who wanted 10 dollars each for 3 hours in their pool - we looked and the pool was just full of green stuff! No swimming then, there were power cuts all day so you couldn't sit in your room for a bit of relief. We decided to just play cards with Anton and Pete for the rest of the afternoon and got through bottles and bottles of water, it was so uncomforably hot by now, I was even sweating inside my ears!! During the afternoon we also met 2 more german guys and a dutch guy called Erik, when it was time for sunset we all cycled back to KoKos temple to watch it - it wasn't the best as it was a bit cloudy.
The following day we decided to share a taxi tour with Anton and Pete, we wanted to see the temples that were to far away to cycle but our driver didn't really understand! We ended up going to one of the temples that we had been to the day before, we saw all sorts of temples and it sounds very uncultured but we got a bit templed out in the end - combined with the heat we were all tired! We did have a really nice lunch of chickpea curry and chapatis though. As it was approaching sunset we asked the driver to take us somewhere where not many other tourists go - he nodded and looked like he understood, soon we pulled up at a huge white temple with steep steps leading up to different platforms - it was surrounded by tour buses, horse and carts, bikes and taxis and the most tourists we had seen so far!! As the sun was setting already it was too late to ask to go somewhere else. We climbed up the really steep steps to the top platform and the views again were awesome but we soon got fed up with being pushed by other people trying to squeeze by. We went down to a lower platform and to the West the sun was doing its thing and to the East some big grey clouds were forming and the wind was picking up. There was lightening in the distance and suddenly there was lots of sand blowing towards us. We decided to climb down the temple as we knew when it started to rain that there would be a mad stampede down the steep stairs! It wasn't long before it chucked it down and we watched the stampede descend! Then it started thundering and the rain got heavier and heavier - we ran back to the taxi soaked but at least it was refreshing. In the evening we had another curry and rice and played some more cards and slept under the wonderful air con!
Next stop Mandalay ......................