Most people arrive in Bagan, Myanmar, with the intention of exploring the incredible archaeological site that rivals Cambodia’s Angkor Wat… and I have to admit, the sheer volume of temples on this site is nothing short of mind-blowing.
If I’m honest, though, I know first hand that when you’re travelling and visiting many places like this all in a short time span (like backpackers often do), temples/pagodas/monasteries/stupas can get an itsy bit same samey after a while… So, for this reason, I’ve decided to list 5 unusual things to do in Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)… other than looking at temples!!
Take a Cooking Class
I, personally, took my cooking class in Nyaung Shwe – so I can’t actually personally vouch for this cooking school… however, I did meet some travellers along the way who raved about it…
The Pennywort Cooking Class is located in New Bagan and is a great way to interact with some locals, whilst learning about their traditional meals, customs and way of life. The classes also help to fund an adjoined library which teaches local children how to read (in Burmese, and English too!!)… so you can feel great about giving your money to a good cause, whilst learning something new!! 🙂
Ok, so if you’re British, you’re probably going to realise that this branch doesn’t actually belong/relate to the huge British restaurant chain that is Wetherspoons!! It does, however, cook MUCH better burgers!! If you’re travelling, and you’re craving something Western after all the Asian curries etc. you’ve been eating, this is the place to come!!
The story behind this quaint little restaurant begins with a local man from Bagan, who went to study/work in Bristol, England, and ended up loving Wetherspoons so much that, when he returned home to Burma, he decided to open his own restaurant locally!!
Located in Nyaung-U, this place was probably our best Western meal in Myanmar… I can definitely recommend the burgers!
Potentially our most immersive experience with the locals in Bagan came from a personal mission to get to “the beach” (the riverside).
We parked our e-bikes up as close as we could get to the riverside and wondered through a small township looking for a route to the river… the locals were extremely friendly in helping us find our way through the houses, and when we finally reached the river we were greeted by; intrigued local ladies, washing their clothes/pots in the river, young children splashing about, and fishermen, in boats, looking to feed their families.
When we decided to wonder back up towards our bikes, a group of 4 giggling children ran up to us to hold the foreigners’ hands!!
Sit back and relax as you cruise down the Irrawaddy River, watching the sun set and the temples drift by.
Hot-Air Balloon Ride
I didn’t personally do this due to monetary restraints – however, if it’s something you’ve dreamt of doing, and you have the money to do it, I genuinely feel that Bagan would be an incredible place!
There are currently 3 ballooning companies that run hot-air balloon tours in Bagan… ensure you book in advance though, as they do get fully booked fairly quickly. The balloon season in Bagan runs from late October to mid-March.
Day Trip to Mount Popa
Although this is about a 90 minute drive from Bagan, it is a popular day trip to an extinct volcano… dependent upon your tour provider/driver, you will potentially get the options of; a jungle trek to the summit – with views over Popa Taung Kalat (a spectacular looking monastery built upon “pedestal hill”), lunch at Popa Mountain Resort (where you will get more fantastic photo opportunities of “pedestal hill”), and/or, a walk, up 777 steps, to the monastery previously mentioned.
If you go with a tour provider, the trek is often guided by a local villager who will take you through small local villages where you can potentially meet/chat to various other villagers/families (dependent upon their level of English) – it is, overall, a pleasant, calm retreat to the countryside. The climb up to the monastery itself, however, has mixed reviews from those who have done it… if you feel that coping with; monkeys, souvenir sellers and walking barefoot whilst dodging the odd monkey “dropping” (which, let’s face it, if you’ve already spent a while in Asia, is nothing new) is for you, go for it… and you’ll be rewarded with a fantastic view, right the way to the mountains surrounding Bagan – but some people are more than happy to just view from afar.
Have you been to Bagan and done any of these recommendations? Did I miss anything out? I’d love to hear about your experiences – feel free to comment below!
Love, Magic and Fairy Dust 😉