The lights in the bus suddenly illuminated the faces of weary travellers around me, forced from their uncomfortable snatches of sleep. An announcement followed: we have arrived in Bagan, Myanmar. It was 5am and surprisingly cold as we gathered our things and trooped off the bus towards the throng of taxi drivers awaiting our arrival. Yet, despite the lack of sleep and the early hour, we were all really excited to spend the next three days exploring Bagan and all it has to offer.
Bagan is an ancient city in central Myanmar. It is known for the Bagan Archaeological Area, where more than 4,000 Buddhist monuments tower over green plains and red dust roads. I was travelling with five other CNETs (Chatteris Native English Teachers) who had all seen the photos of the stunning pagodas and the burning Burmese sun. We couldn’t wait to see it for ourselves. This early morning excitement / delirium led to the interesting decision to forego the hostel and go straight out to watch the sunrise above a nearby pagoda. After all, we were already awake.
The taxi driver dropped us off at the end of a dirt track, in the pitch black and pointed vaguely to something we couldn’t make out in the darkness and said ‘climb’. The instruction was clear. So off we went, with our cameras and iPhone torches. We left our shoes at the bottom of the pagoda and began to scramble up the side, not really able to see where we were going and finding the whole thing hilarious, if a little terrifying for those scared of heights. We made it to the top, and there we sat on the ledge of a 12th century pagoda, and waited for the sun to rise.
That morning was a definite highlight of the whole trip, and an amazing way to start our time in Bagan. The next few days were busy, full of sight-seeing, general wandering and eating. Renting E-scooters we navigated our way to some beautiful and deserted pagodas. It was a lot of fun driving through the Burmese countryside, stopping if we saw something interesting, and feeling like we were uncovering all these temples for ourselves. A day trip to Mount Popa, a volcano 1518 metres above sea level with a temple on the top, marked our last adventure in Bagan before we took a day cruise up to Mandalay, which was to be our next stop. Despite everything we saw and did throughout the ten days we were in Myanmar, this first sunrise vividly stands out: it was truly breathtaking.