My alarm went off at 4am, we packed up all of our stuff and headed to the lobby of our hotel. We had arranged for a tuk tuk to take us to the Jetty where our River Cruise would leave, as 5:30am. The cruise itself would leave at 6:30am. Our hotel had packed us a breakfast to had on board the boat, which was really nice of them. The packed breakfast had a hard boiled egg, banana, cheese sandwich and a danish. The ride to the Jetty took about 15 minutes and we arrived at our boat a bit before 6am.
We boarded the boat by walking down the steep incline in the complete darkness. Everyone else had their bags carried down the slope for them, after which a man demanded more and more money from them. Our bags were so tiny that no one even tried to carry our bags (which I was grateful for).
The boat left at about 6:30am on the dot. Even though the website we had booked through had told us that there were only 3 seats left available on the boat, there were many empty seats. We booked the tickets online a month ahead of time from MGRG, and they cost about $45 USD each (which included 2 meals). It was definitely the most expensive part of our trip to Myanmar, but it was well worth the price.
Once we set off, people went to the top deck to immediately eat breakfast, which was served by the staff from 6:30-8am. We went up at about 7am, but there wasn’t a single seat available, so we retreated back downstairs to try again just before 8am. We found two seats together on the deck, and we were served breakfast: scrambled eggs, toast, 2 bananas and a hot coffee (or tea).
We then sat upstairs on the deck until we stopped in a village at around 10:30am. The village grew and harvested straw for making hats and different handy crafts. There were many straw hats laying in the sun to be bleached by the rays.
A tour guide showed us that the locals were busy harvesting peanuts, but the way he pronounced it always sounded like he was saying it was “penis season”. It was difficult not to laugh, but we managed to keep straight faces.
After about an hours tour around the little village we got back on board the boat. They served us lunch from 12:30 – 2:30 which was your choice of pork, beef , fish or veggie curry. We both had the veggie curry which was so delicious! For desert we had a sesame cookie and a sour handmade looking sweet .
We sat at our table on the top deck for the remainder of the 12 hour journey to Bagan. They had a demonstration of how to wear a lonygi (traditional long skirt) and how to apply the traditional Burmese sunscreen thanakha.
We arrived in Nyaung-U, the port town near Bagan, at about 5:30pm. I was afraid about getting a cab from Nyaung-U to Old Bagan because I had heard stories about tourists being held hostage in a cab until they had paid 60,000 kyat. We walked away from the boat, and all the aggressive cab drivers and tried to find the booth to pay our 25,000 kyat Archeological zone fee (everyone needs to pay that before entering Bagan), but we couldn’t find it. We choose to take an offer of 15,000 kyat to get to our hotel by cab (we were told 15,000-20,000 is good)
We got in the cab and drove a short distance to the booth were you pay the Archeological zone fee, but the line was long so our driver got annoyed and sped off without us paying the fee (it would be two days before we were actually able to pay the fee). The cab ride was no problem at all, and we watched a beautiful sunset over Bagan as we drove into the old town.
Once we arrived at our hotel, the staff informed us that we had already paid for the accommodation (which I was convinced we hadn’t). They had just charged my credit card it turned out. Our room was ok, $50 a night was pretty steep for us, as we are very budget travellers usually. We wanted to stay in Old Bagan , so $50/ night is about as cheap as it gets. Our room was definitely old and a bit smelly, but so are we.
We then walked out to try and catch the last bit of the beautiful sunset, and see a few temples before having an early night.