I woke up to the sound of commotion, as the very comfortable JJ Express overnight bus service from Yangon slowly makes its way to Bagan bus terminal at five in the morning. The people running towards the bus are the taxi drivers waiting for passengers to take to either New Bagan, Old Bagan or Nyaung-U, three most popular township where most accommodations are located.
I waited for the commotion to die down and was one of the few who stayed behind at the bus terminal, rejecting an offer after another for a taxi fare that is seriously over-priced. Eventually, my weariness gets the best of me and eventually found an American solo traveler whom I can split the 70,000 Myanmar Kyat (MMK) taxi fee with.
If you are planning a trip to Bagan, it is common to see great photos of sunrise in Bagan or much forum devoted to where is the best temple to climb for an amazing view.
Unfortunately, that magical sunrise that everyone dreamed of never came, it was cloudy and hazy, an expected type of weather for the month of March in the region, where the burning of fields is still a widely farming practice.
Nonetheless, the distant layered view of the Paya (Stupa) after another set against the Bagan desert landscape is a thing of beauty, an overall impressive sight.
In the afternoon, I went to the Shwesandaw Temple, the so called “Sunset temple”, as the name suggests the most popular temple for the view. I was early and planning to wait to rest at the top levels and wait.
The height of Shwesandaw temple provides a great vantage point for viewing the impressive numerous ancient temples scattered across the vastness of Bagan plains. I overhear one tourist saying that the view reminded him of Star Wars.
For sure the view is even more impressive with the setting sun in the backdrop, but the amount of people arriving every minute is staggering and no one wants to give up their chosen spots, the top level spaces are small and yet people still find a way to squeeze in.
Eventually, it was so over-crowded and all you can see is another individual and his tripod, so I decided to leave and forget about the sunset view, I don’t think I will be able to enjoy what supposed to be a memorable experience in such an uncomfortable situation.
As I cycled back to my hostel, I realize how the government role in preserving the temples is crucial. With the massive number of tourists climbing these ancient temples every day, it will be a matter of time before parts of the structures will begin to deteriorate.
Truth be told, despite having at least two more days to spend in Bagan, I gave up chasing the sunset and sunrise view of Bagan after that day. It started to lose its meaning for me, after seeing everyone frantically racing from one temple to another, as if it is the only reason or meaning why one should enjoy a visit Bagan.