Bagan and it`s 4000 temples

From Mandalay we planned to go to Bagan. Thanks to Indian lady from hotel we and two other travelers took a local city pick-up to go to bus station, Instead pay $ 5-7 for taxi we paid 300 kiat per person. On bus stand we found only one bus going to Bagan.

In Bagan we chose in New Park guest house where we rent a room for 10 dollars with breakfast. Actually it was not a room, but a bungalow with nice porches.

Bagan is a ancient capital of Burmese empire, and famous around the world for it`s 4000 temples 3-13 centuries A.D.

The area with temples and nobody can tell you how Bagan is big. Temples and pagodas are everywhere. We spent there about 6 days cycling around the temples and we could not see all of them.

Exploring the temples by bicycle was very fun and interesting. The temples of Angkor Wat still the most monumental temples, but Bagan archaeological site has something special too. Ancient painting inside the temples are still possible to view, some of them has been restored, but some not.

The other good thing about Bagan temples, that they are too crowded, so it give you a chance to enjoy this relics with pleasure.

Mandalay and jade market

Mandalay was not attractive to us as a city with temples or palaces. We came there for shopping.

It is not a big secret, that Myanmar is a kind of citadel for black gems market. In every tourist place somebody will try to sell you a “real ruby” for a “very good price” and every souvenir shop have special stand with sparkling small things there. But prices usually are not very good and quality of stones is very poor on this tourist shops. We went to shopping to local jade market.

The Jade Market located far away from center of Mandalay. First what we saw, when we came to place where market should be, was rows of locals working on a big machines.

That is how Burmese polish the gems.

Near the entrance to the market there is a big sign saying that foreigner should pay 1 dollar for entrance ticket. Seems that market is not very popular with tourists. Nobody was interested of us and we came through this sign with no payment.

Inside the market there are lines with seller and buyers. Some of them trading jewelery small gems, but some selling huge stones.

Locals was so busy with trade, that even did not pay any attention for two foreigners walking around. But for us the main point was a purchase.

We stopped near one stand, owned by Mongolian family. The owner showed us some gems and asked a nice price. In Moscow I worked as a jewelery photographer and watched a lot of brilliants and rubies. So I`m knowledgeable a bit how to check the stones and have some ideas about prices.

We chose zircons, sapphires and spinel. Jade we bought from Burmese lady, with hard bargain we got half price, what she asked from the beginning.

We was so happy about the treasure we got, and about the money we paid.

The long way to Kalaw

Last evening in Kinpun we met a Russian traveler who told us, that he came to Kinpun from Bago by local pick-up (like songteuw in Thailand). He paid 2000 kiat for all trip.

In next morning we easily found local pick-up on the bus stand. The driver asked 4000 at the beginning, but finally he agreed for 2500 kiat from Kinpun to Bago.

Bago is very disty and noisy city. Just arrived we decided to leave as soon as possible to Kalaw. On the main road we bought two tickets in local travel agency for 12500 kiat for AC bus. The bus departure from bus station, where we went by motorbike.

After 20 minutes waiting on bus station we start packing our lagguage to the bus. The driver was ready to departure, and I got a brilliant idea to ask him where this bus is going to. He said that bus is going to Bagan, and he have no idea that we are going to Kalaw. We abandoned the bus and quickly went to the travel agency.

– Why you do not want to go to Bagan? – the Burmese guy looked very surprised — every tourist have to visit this place, it is beautiful and interesting, common! Otherwise you can go by this bus to Meiktila, where you can easily find a pick-up to Kalaw!

He gave us some more ideas and possibilities how to go to Kalaw, but none of them was about go to Kalaw directly.

We was so disappointed and angry, so we will never aver use any of tourist services in Myanmar again.

We have been lucky at that time, after 30 minutes came the bus from Yangon going to Taungiev with stop in Kalaw, with two available sits for us.

From Bago we was driving a few hours, and landscape was similar all the time — dusty, dry dessert. In a one moment we saw beautiful and bright (at was already evening time). Welcome to the new capital of Myanmar – Naypyidaw. Gorgeous buildings, best quality roads with electric lights(!), five-star hotels, and construction everywhere. This is the city of the Future of Myanmar.

We arrived to Kalaw in 3 a.m. Deadly frozen, the aircon in the bus worked full power and all night. In Kalaw was even colder. Ilocated in North of Myanmar in elevation 1320 meter above sea level, Kalaw have cool temperature in february, especially at nights. We had no ides about that and carried with us only tinny t-shirts. Knocked to Golden Lilly Guest House and asked only one question «Do you have blankets in your room», we finally went to bed.