Follow Me @thebookwormtraveler


Thursday, May 16, 2013

That Magical Bagan Sunrise

Myanmar Day 3

I arrived in Bagan at 3:00 AM, too early to do anything. I was approached by a horse cart driver and asked where am I heading. I told him the name of the guesthouse and asked for the price. He quoted me 5000 kyats, I said no and told him I'll just pay 2000 kyats (because I know that's the standard rate from the bus station). I even joked around and told him "I'm from the Philippines. I don't have that much money." He laughed and said "Okay, let's go." :)

I was not able to check-in right away because the guesthouse we found was full (just click on the link for the full story). Some guests will be checking out by 8:00, so I had to wait. He offered me to go straight to a Sunrise Tour. After some negotiations, we agreed. He took me back to the bus station to pass time in the tea house there, because it was only 3:45. My cart driver Mihn, insisted to pay for my tea. It was so nice of him. By the way, it was one of the best milk tea I've ever tasted.

I was getting so bored that at around 4:30, I asked Mihn if we can already go.  I just changed my clothes and then we went. I only saw 2 other carts on the road while we were on our way to the sunrise temple. I guess I was really too prompt.

Bagan at 5:09 AM

We reached the sunrise temple by 5:00 AM. There's already one cart parked when we arrived. I was the second earliest there. I was a little hesitant at first, because the temple isn't that high. I was wondering if it is the best vantage point to see the sunrise. I made a deal with my driver that if I don't like it up there, I'll go back down and we'll proceed to another temple.

When I made it to the top, I was surprised that there's just one person there. Hmmm, a fellow solo traveler. I can hardly see him because it was still very dark (see the photo above). Only the moonshine lit up the stairs as I climbed up.

Bagan twilight

I haven't been talking to anyone since I boarded the night bus, not until I met my cart driver. I really felt like I wanted to talk to someone. Yeah, solo traveler problems. :) I greeted the lone stranger with my friendliest smile and started a conversation.

He was a little condescending at first, very formal and he hardly smiles. He was like gauging me. Well, like what I said, I really wanted to chat with someone so I never stopped bothering him haha. I mean, c'mon there's just the two of us on top of that temple. Until finally, I made him laugh and he then started to open up. :)

breaking dawn

Our conversation went on and on as the sun started to rise. Other people were starting to arrive too. By 6:30 AM, we got some company. I already forgot about what I told my cart driver. Needless to say, I never descended the temple anymore. We hit it off. It feels great meeting someone who thinks and likes the same things as you do. It never felt like talking to a stranger despite the cultural difference. I never felt intimidated.

It took a while for the sun to come out. It was already 7:00 AM and it was just barely peeking out from the clouds. I think we enjoyed talking so much that we didn't go to the east point of the temple when it was still early. By the time the sun was out, the good spots were already taken. Bummer. I know.

that elusive sunrise

Finally, the sun came out. Our gabfest was interrupted. Time to take some photos.

sun shower

The sunrise that day was actually not as lovely as those I've seen in the photos on the net. But I was still in awe. Just seeing those pagodas in different shapes and sizes in as far as your eyes can see, while the sun was slowly shedding light gave me goosebumps. It was just, wow.

good morning Bagan

Solo travelers took turns taking photos of each other, that includes me haha.

Thanks for this not so good shot, Alex! ;)

It was already 8:00 AM when the sun totally came out. Imagine, we waited for 3 hours! Well, there was nothing much I can do because I don't have a place to stay yet. And it's not everyday that I can spend time at the top of a pagoda under the moon till daybreak. I also enjoyed the company of a kindred spirit, so it was all good.

thousands of Bagan temples 

We decided to leave at around 8:40 AM. I was surprised when he asked me how can we see each other again. Of course I answered, I don't know. Simply because I really don't and I don't even know if there's a need to. He then asked where I was staying. Again, I said I don't know because I can't remember its name. My driver just took me there. I can see that he was really serious about it so, I just described the location. Then he pulled out his room key and showed it to me. We have the same guesthouse! Then he went ahead smiling, saying "I'll see you around then".

our horse carts under the tree :)

We both hired our carts that morning so, we went around Bagan on our own. I decided to continue with a Half-Day Tour and see as much temple as I could, since I'm already out there. It will also be better to temple run in the morning while the sun is not yet on its hottest.

This post (and the following ones) might seem to be a bit more personal than my usual. But I think I have to write about every travel experiences I had. For me, traveling is not just about arriving at a certain place or the seeing of beautiful sights. I also look forward to distinct and enriching experiences, something that changes me and my perspective on things. :)

Serendipity (n) - finding something good without looking for it.

“...sometimes one feels freer speaking to a stranger than to people one knows. Why is that?” “Probably because a stranger sees us the way we are, not as he wishes to think we are.” ~Carlos Ruiz Zaf√≥n, The Shadow of the Wind

This is Part 5 of my Myanmar travel series.


  1. where are the balloons over bagan? :)

  2. Hi! Hot air balloons in Bagan do not operate during summer as the weather is not good for flying one. Too bad I was there on their summer season. :(

  3. so did you meet up with Alex? where was he from?

    1. I've written about it throughout the series. :)

  4. Hi there :)
    So how much did you pay for this Sunrise Tour? is this from the guesthouse or you are offered by your cart driver who took you from bus station to your guesthouse?
    Thanks :D

    1. Hello from Manila! I paid 20,000 kyats not only for the Sunrise Tour but for the entire tour (all significant temples) and for his service from bus station til we found a guesthouse which can accommodate me. I negotiated with him right on when I arrived in Bagan bus station. :)

    2. Hi Lizzie, is it 20k or 2k? I read kasi sa taas na you paid 2k? Thanks! :D

    3. Hi again. It was 20k Kyats for everything. Sunrise, Temple tour and service from bus station to guesthouses (we tried several because I don't have a booking hehe). 2k is if you'll just hire them from bus station to your guesthouse. Just let me know if it's still confusing. :)