I’ve never been a morning person. There aren’t many occasions when I would willingly get up when it’s still dark outside. Something about that just feels terribly wrong to me. However, I gladly made an exception to watch the sunrise in Bagan, Myanmar. Sitting atop the Shwesandaw Pagoda, I had one of those moments. I got all tingly inside as I watched the heavenly scene of hot air balloons parading across the sky as the sun began to rise. I thought I was still dreaming. You could have the same experience, if you follow these five easy steps. I’ll include some pics to help keep you motivated.
How to Watch the Sunrise in Bagan, Myanmar
1. Buy a Plane Ticket to Myanmar
This can be a difficult step for many, but it’s actually quite simple. Open up a new browser window, go to kayak.com and book a ticket. Hey, easy peasy! Once you’re in Myanmar, you can either fly or take a bus to Bagan. Flights within Myanmar are quick and cheap, I paid around $75 to fly from Yangon to Bagan. If you’d rather save $50 by taking a 9-hour overnight bus, then knock yourself out… with valium.
2. Get a Visa
Don’t forget to get a visa! Most people will need one to enter Myanmar. Luckily this is a very easy process, as you can apply for an eVisa online. The entire turnaround time for me was less than 24 hours. You also need to make sure your passport will be valid for at least 6 months from your date of entry.
3. Book a Hotel
If you thought booking a flight was easy, you’re going to love booking a hotel. You can usually cancel without penalty up to 24 hours in advance, so there’s less pressure. I stayed at The Zfreeti Hotel for about $50 a night, and it worked out really well. The location was great – close to the “downtown” strip of Bagan and not too far from the pagodas. The room itself was a little bare, but they made up for it with a nice pool and a rooftop breakfast buffet. The pool was great after a long, hot, dusty day of touring pagodas.
4. Rent a Scooter
Scooters (or e-bikes as they’re called in Bagan) are the preferred method of transportation to watch the sunrise in Bagan, and for touring the pagodas in general. Don’t use a human-powered bike. Conserve your energy for climbing pagodas. They rent for about $6-8 per day, and are easy to find. It’s sorta like riding a bike, but make sure you take some time to practice. You don’t want to be fumbling around in the dark, trying to figure out how to get it started at 4am. Consider bringing a jacket too. It can get cold riding around before sunrise. It would also give you some protection if you wipe out, but let’s think positive!
5. Climb on Top of a Pagoda
The Shwesandaw Pagoda is the biggest and most popular pagoda to watch the sunrise. That’s a nice way of saying it can be crowded. If two’s company and three’s a crowd, what’s an entire busload of German tourists?? That’s always the catch when traveling, the best places often come with a crowd. For a more private setting, you could always chose one of the many other surrounding temples. I mean, if you’re going to propose to your girlfriend, you don’t want a bunch of bozos around taking selfies. You could also shell out $400 to ride in one of the hot air balloons, but then you’d have some random dude watching you propose. Awkward.
Braving the crowd turned out to be a great decision for me. I made new friends that morning, and ended up traveling with them for the rest of my time in Myanmar. (shout-out to Sui, Azliza, Alina, Hniang and Kevin) Once the sunrise is over, it’s time to head back to the hotel and take a nap. Rest up, there are many more temples to explore!
See, it’s easy to watch the sunrise in Bagan, Myanmar. You just book a flight and hotel, get a visa, rent a scooter and climb a pagoda. The hardest part is getting up while it’s still dark outside.