How can it be the second and final week of our Myanmar adventures already? Our Yangon and Inle Lake days flew by in a flash and before we knew it we were on our way to join the monkeys on Mount Popa, to explore the temples and dusty paths of Bagan and to take the road, or boat in our case, to Mandalay! Here’s a round up of our Week 2 fun in Myanmar!
A rather modest 8 hour cross country bus trip took us between Inle and Bagan. The roads were so bumpy we couldn’t even hold our phones to read and, VIP bus or not, we couldn’t wait to escape the Myanmar buses and roads! After spotting an incredible resort with an infinity pool overlooking Mount Popa we decided to make an overnight stop at the Popa Mountain Resort en route to Bagan and hopped off the bus at Kyaukpadaung. We spent a night in the jungle (we were so tropical there was even a stick in our room for fending off the wildlife!) and the morning chilling out in the incredible infinity pool before braving the climb at Mount Popa.
Mount Popa is a sacred mountain with glistening gold temples perched precariously atop of a dormant volcano. 777 steps lead the way to the top and it was an excursion I was most apprehensive of. Not only are the steps climbed in 40 degree temperatures they are also lined with many monkeys who are in search of food! There’s no escaping the monkeys: the babies were cute, the adult males not so much. It’s safe to say I’ve never climbed 777 steps as quickly in my entire life but it was worth every second and was an absolute assault on the senses! Check out our Popa adventures here!
The incredible Bagan, filled with endless sunrises (our fave sunrise spots are here), sunsets (our fave sunset spots are here), temples and dusty roads, was next on our list and our first stop was to rent e-bikes to travel around the old city. It’s a stunning landscape in a city which has the highest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruin compared to anywhere in the world. Our first sunset saw us fall head over heels in love, so much so that we ended up spending an extra night to squeeze in some more Bagan adventures.
4am starts are the standard in Bagan and the exquisite sunrises were clear and colourful with temple after temple visible across the skyline. As the sun rose the early morning hot air balloons filled the sky and the scene was postcard perfect. A little piece of our hearts have been left firmly in Bagan.
As for the e-bikes, I’m seriously relieved there’s no video footage of me parking mine up at the hotel and ending up inches away from the swimming pool after I forgot to let go off the accelerator. Twice. I’m convinced I was allocated a pink bike so everyone could see me coming!
Our best Bagan hotels for visiting the temples
Bagan hotels tend to book up fast so book your hotel as far in advance of your travels as you can. Hotels in Bagan are located across three areas: Old and New Bagan and Nyaung-U. Nyaung-U, a mix of boutique hotels and local residents about 3km from the temples, is our favourite. Old Bagan, in the heart of the temples, houses many of Bagan’s luxury hotels while New Bagan is home to larger hotels and new builds. We use Agoda for all our South East Asia bookings as it has the widest inventory and cheapest prices across the region.
- ZFreeti Hotel: we stayed in the Zfreeti, a small hotel with lots of great restaurant options in the surrounding streets and an inviting swimming pool! We rented electric bikes from the store across the street to get around – Check for lowest prices here
- Other good options in Nguang-U include the Sky View Hotel and Motel Zein.
- Aureum Palace Hotel and Resort: located within the actual Bagan Archaeological Preservation Zone amongst the ancient temples themselves, this hotel give you the very best views of the Bagan plains. It’s definitely one of the most unique hotels we’ve ever seen – Check for lowest prices here
- Other good luxury options in Old Bagan include The Hotel @ Tharabar Gate and the Bagan Thande Hotel
- Bagan Lodge (New Bagan): If you prefer New Bagan this might be your best option – Check for lowest prices here
- Another good option is the Blue Bird Hotel.
The Road to Mandalay!
We took the early morning (also known as the 530am, middle of the night) boat to Mandalay (here’s how we got on!). As we cruised up the Iranwaddy river in the morning sun we had a real ‘life is beautiful’ moment and the 12 hour boat journey passed in a flash. It was incredible to witness local life along the river and we were fortunate to catch an exquisite sunrise as well as many friendly locals on the water who waved us along on our journey!
Crazy, motorbike filled Mandalay was a total shock to the system after Bagan and we yearned for the simple days we’d spent zooming from temple to temple in the Bagan sunshine. We soon adjusted back to city life and were excited to explore our final stop.
We started our Mandalay morning with a trip to the Zegyo market and immersed ourselves in local life among the vegetable, flower and meat stalls lining the streets. Our visit to the Shwenandaw Kyaung Teak Temple was a surprise treat and we were amazed by the detail in the wooden temple. We made quick stops at Mandalay Hill and the Jade Market before making our way to the Mahamuni Buddha Temple, the second holiest site in Myanmar after the Shwedagon Pagoda. Our Mandalay highlight was sipping pineapple juice while watching the sun set at the U-Bein bridge. The bridge is famous for the gorgeous silhouettes of the monks making their way home across the river after a day of work and it was the perfect finish to our Myanmar trip.
Oh Myanmar, why did you have to pass so quickly?
It was hard to believe our Myanmar trip, the one we’d spent months planning for and dreaming about, was all over. Every moment was an adventure and our time there was a mix of awe, amazement and adventure. It’s safe to say that the places we saw and the experiences we had will stay with us forever.
Where we stayed
The Popa Mountain Resort was the highlight of our Myanmar accommodation. It was a luxurious step back to nature and we basked in the Mount Popa views from both our balcony and the infinity pool. Bliss!
The Zfreeti hotel was a perfect base for Bagan and we loved being on the cusp of the Old town and its many temples as well as the convenience of the e-bike shop directly across the road. It was so good we opted to stay an extra day!
Despite a rocky start at the Smart Hotel in Mandalay (the rooms look nothing like the pictures on the website) the hotel were quick to help us out and we enjoyed our stay there for its location, reasonable price and rooftop restaurant.