I arrived in Bagan thinking that there won’t be many tourists around and I will be able to enjoy the culture and surroundings without worries. I was very surprised when I saw hordes of tourists flooding the area. I wasn’t so original after all.
Myanmar is more and more popular with tourists around the world. Bagan is especially crowded, but it is still Myanmar so there is always a way of being completely alone.
Watching a sunset or a sunrise over the temples is one of the things you must do when you are in Bagan. The most popular is the sunset pagoda – Shesandaw Pagoda. I stopped there for a little while during the day to check the panorama. And it was stunning. I’m telling you! The view was absolutely amazing and I thought it would be great to watch the sunset exactly from there.
But after a few minutes more and more people showed up and the lovely view was disturbed by other people’s cameras, the tiny balcony was full and it started to be a bit of a squeeze.
I came back to my hostel and asked around. I was told that the Sunset Pagoda is extremely busy during the sunsets and sunrises and it’s hard to enjoy the beautiful moments you came here for.
I took my bike again and started looking. I went to the furthest temples I could get to, climbed some of them, cycled further….
It took me two days.
I finally entered a small temple and walked around. A small child came out from behind the building and shouted something in Burmese. After a few minutes a girl joined us and asked in perfect English what I was doing. I explained I was looking for a temple where I could watch the sunset from. Her eyes brighten up. She led me through a dry field and bushes to a newly restored temple.
Her name was Thiri and she was 17. She lived behind the temple in the smallest hut I’d ever seen with 7 of her siblings, her mum and dad.
She sat with me for 3 hours, waiting for the sun to set. She didn’t want any money, she just wanted to practise her English, which she had learned from tourists. Unfortunately, she didn’t want her photo to be taken.
Once the sun started setting it was magical. I had a view of all the temples around and it wasn’t worse than the one I saw from the Sunset Pagoda. I saw the buses arriving at the main temples, full of foreigners. I thought that all the sweat and effort of cycling in the heat was worth it.
And Thiri? I came back there the next day and met her family. I showed her some pictures of my husband and parents, and gave her a couple of cards from London. I promised I will send her some books, so she can learn English like she wants to and I will keep my promise.
If you also would like to visit Thiri, she lives behind the Mhyaw Pagoda No 1774. She will be more than happy to show you around.