My Time Capsule: February 2019


Myanmar: Chasing Sunrise In Bagan

Bagan, November 2018

I think the word 'magical' is understatement to describe how stunning sunrises and sunsets in Bagan are. Like most visitors who plan to explore Bagan, I too did a little homework - searching where's the best places to watch sunrises and sunsets in Bagan. A lot of information I found are not so accurate anymore since now the officials prohibited the climbing of all pagodas in Bagan, the following month after some accidents including an American tourist fell to her death. It's understandable because these pagodas are nearly 1000 years old and have suffered a lot of natural disaster. Specially after nearly 400 pagodas were severely damaged in the massive earthquake in August 2016.

the beginning of twilight before sunrise

It was 5.30 in the morning when Zaw, my tuk tuk driver picked me up at the resort I stayed in Old Bagan. We met at the lobby and I was stunned when I saw him wrapped tightly in a thick heavy poncho with a beanie, shawl, wool socks, and stuffs. In the other hand, he was stunned when he saw me wearing a sleeveless top layered with a paper thin cardigan, a capri pants, and a pair of sandals. Well I knew it was in the middle of winter months in Myanmar but it can't be that cold, right? Or so I thought. As my tuk tuk rocking on dusty bumpy street of Old Bagan, I instantly regretted my choice of clothes. Turned out the temperature was merely 14℃ and it surely felt waaay colder. My sister and I were shivering as our toes turned blue. We should have checked the weather and brought a blanket from hotel room!

Irrawaddy River in Bagan

There are plenty of great sunrise spot scattered around Bagan and some of the most popular ones are very crowded. So on my previous emails, I've specially requested Zaw to take me to a less crowded spot. He steered his tuk tuk to a narrow street behind Aye Yar River View Resort towards the river. He took us to a viewing mound near U-Sauk-Pan-Hpaya Temple (scroll down for the exact position on google map). It was still pretty dark when I climbed up the mound with only few people around. I set up my tripod and camera then I sat down, enjoying the tranquillity (still shivering) while waiting for the sun to wake up.

U-Sauk-Pan-Hpaya Temple

sunrise in Bagan

It wasn't long until the sky started changing colours as the dawn had broke. A shimmering, gold disk began to shine through next to Dhammayangyi temple afar. My heart skipped a beat when I saw the first hot air balloon floating just barely above the thousand years old temples - towards the sun. About a dozen other balloon started to float behind, catching up with the first one. I was stunned and my mouth kept repeating "WOW" like a broken radio. I've seen tons of amazing pictures of hot air balloon and sunrise in Bagan on Internet but experiencing it myself is another story. I just couldn't find the right words to describe how stunning it was! It's just mind-blowing, really.

hot air balloons, an aeroplane and birds

hot air balloons in Bagan

I was busy with my camera trying my best to capture the view when I got chills all over my body and my vision became blurry. At first I thought I was about to faint because of hunger or hypothermia. Then I got choked up and tears began to run down my cheeks. The view and peaceful ambiance were overwhelmingly extraordinary that I got a rush of dopamine in my brain. Yes, I clearly have a soft spot for beautiful things or experiences. Sometimes I even cry when I listen to music. Perhaps it has something to do with being a HSP (Highly Sensitive Person)?

a serene morning in Bagan

It could have been my perfect sunrise moment in Bagan. I've visualised to write 'as the sun began to rise, I watched a bunch of hot air balloons drifting serenely over the plains of Bagan. All I could hear was the birds chirping. Such a peaceful and magical morning.' - on my blog post. In fact, all I could hear was a middle aged guy chirping talking loudly non-stop as he was trying to flirt with a lady who sat next to me. None of us at the sunrise point had a peaceful morning obviously. Including the oor lady, judging from her grumpy face. But I wouldn't let this tiny hiccups ruined my day. It was almost a perfect sunrise moment but stunning and unforgettable nevertheless.

my yellow Mercedes Benz

Temple View Hotel Bagan

I stayed 3 days at Aye Yar River View Resort in Old Bagan before I moved to Temple View Hotel in the edge of New Bagan. Besides I wanted to get a glimpse of another side of Bagan, it's also closer to Nyaung U Airport. It was more convenient to catch my morning flight. Temple View Hotel is a brand new hotel with room rate starts from USD 20 per night including breakfast. I opted for a bigger room with a balcony facing to temples at USD 40 per night. While breakfast menu was pretty basic, the sunrise view from the rooftop terrace made up for it.

breakfast view at Temple View Hotel Bagan

I set my alarm earlier because I wanted to enjoy my last sunrise in Bagan before flying to Inle Lake. Around 6am I went up to the rooftop terrace, fixed myself a cup of hot coffee and toast, and sat down at the table, facing the temples. I smiled as a chilly morning breeze swept my face. I was grateful to be able to enjoy a peaceful morning with rosé tainted skies with birds chirping sound (finally!). My smile got bigger when I saw some hot air balloon floating behind the temples towards my direction.
It was a nice surprise to find out I could actually watch the hot air balloons closer from this rooftop terrace. At some point the balloons floated pretty close that I saw some passengers were waving hands at me. I couldn't ask a better way to end my stay in this magnificent land of Bagan!

Tips: There's only few pagodas and temples that can be climbed up for sunrise and sunset. You'll need to venture off the main streets and find smaller temples. The best bet is asking the locals like tuk tuk drivers or hotel staffs who definitely know the area better. Myanmar people are one the most kind hearted and helpful people I've ever met. I was even taken to some hidden temples which can't be found on Google map.

breakfast with a view in Bagan

If I were asked whether sunrises in Bagan worth waking up in the wee hours and a pair of panda eyes later? I would wholeheartedly answer, YES! Absofu*k*nglutely! For me, I will not forget those precious mornings I experienced in Bagan. At least not for a very long time.


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