Exploring the Temples in Bagan by Electric Bicycle
“Will you be renting a bicycle or e-bike tomorrow for the sunrise tour?” May Zin, one of the receptionists, asked me. After I got worn-out from biking from the hotel to Shwesandaw Pagoda and back, I told her that I’ll be getting an e-bike instead for my next tour, even without any knowledge how to drive it.
Electric bicycle or e-bike for short is one of the newest modes of transport available in Bagan. I must say it’s a pleasing way to get from one place to another and see the temples.
When I had arrived in Bagan, I didn’t know that e-bike already exists in the area. What I was only aware of is the bicycle, but bicycle is too tiring to use that I can’t really endure driving a regular one in longer distances. It was good that e-bike is being offered now as an alternative for tourists to use to get around the ancient city of Bagan.
Electric bicycle is a bicycle with an incorporated electric motor that can be used for propulsion. The vehicle uses rechargeable batteries. Electric bike is just like riding a regular bike with a few advantages. This type of vehicle gives a little lift desired to make it up a hill and travel longer distances. In Bagan, renting an e-bike normally costs MMK 10,000 per day. If it is fully charged, it can last for about 8 hours as long as the engine isn’t being forced to do anything too taxing.
It was during my sunrise tour when I had able to try one for the first time. It was 4:00 AM. I wasn’t in my full mindfulness yet, but when one of the hotel staff handed me the key to my e-bike, I got thrilled all of a sudden. The e-bike looks like a moped, more than a bicycle – but smaller. But then it has a pedal, which I suppose in spare in case the battery runs out.
I asked the hotel staff if he could show me how to use it or at least how to start it before I use it by myself, and so he did. The tutorial happened for just less than a minute. “That was it?” I’ve thought. I put on my helmet then rode the bike and turned on the power switch. When I had able to get my balance, I then started engaging the battery power by using the control on the handlebars. I maneuver the vehicle as if I was just like riding a normal bicycle. That was easy!
I had reached Shwesadaw Pagoda after driving the misty road for about 10 minutes, quicker and easier compared to the first visit that I had on the same pagoda, wherein I used a normal bicycle.
I had rented the e-bike for few hours only since I had a horse cart tour afterwards. But before I had it back to the hotel, I had visited first some of the pagodas on my way so to lessen some of the temples that I have to visit on the next days.
Myin Pya Gu
Myin Pya Gu is a temple situated north of the road junction, south of Old Bagan. The temple is located few meters away from the famous Shwesandaw Pagoda. It was said that Myin Pya Gu have been attributed either to the end of Anawrahta’s reign or the beginning of his son Sawlu’s reign.
I didn’t bother to get inside the pagoda, as what I had only wanted was to take some photos of myself (to post as online status) with the pagoda as my background. I left the area soon after.
Mingalazedi Pagoda is a Buddhist stupa located close to the riverbank. It was built in 1284 during the reign of King Narathihapate. The temple is renowned for its fine proportions and for the many stunning glazed jataka tiles around its three square terraces.
Its uppermost terrace is one of the utmost points accessible to visitors, which is particularly a good spot for a panoramic view of all the monuments lying to the east. Unfortunately, the gate to access the higher terraces was closed when I made a visit.
Soe Min Gyi Monastery
Soemingyi is a brick monastery in Myinkaba region of Bagan. Its construction was completed in 1204 and was sponsored by Senior Queen or Lady Soe Min Gyi, where the name of this pagoda came from.
This structure is a large, decorative type of monastery that is square in plan, with a double-storied shrine on the western side and an atrium on the east. This one can be reached easily from the main road by climbing a small-elevated ground to the west. It was said that these monasteries were built “to give a pleasant shade agreeable in all three seasons” as recorded in a Bagan inscription.
I had visited this structure again the next day since I wasn’t able to get inside the first time I went to this place.
A Rainy Day in Bagan
It was my last full day in Bagan. I’ve originally planned to catch the sunrise one more time from one of the temples but have decided to ditch it soon after I’ve ended the horse cart tour the previous day. I’ve got exhausted from it that I’ve realized I wouldn’t be able to wake up early for the sunrise. My itinerary was then left with another sightseeing of temples but through an electric bicycle.
It was already late morning when I went out of my bed. I glanced through my window, and it was raining outside. Suddenly, I’ve got bothered how I am going to proceed with my itinerary for that day. I’d like to go biking again and that day would be the last chance for me to do it.
Two hours had passed but the rain hadn’t calmed down. I can’t just let the day pass by doing nothing and have my plan be thrown away again. So even with the rainy weather, I’ve decided to push through with my itinerary. I grabbed my bag then went to the reception area and asked for an electric bicycle that I can rent to get around the ancient city.
After few minutes, my electric bicycle had arrived. It was still raining. Good thing though that the guy who brought the bicycle gladly lend his raincoat to me.
I started biking. There was no sign that the rain will stop sooner. It was such a hassle to bike under the rain that I have to stop for sometimes because I have to fix my seat, my bag that is getting wet and my raincoat that seems so big enough for me (hahaha… not complaining since I just borrowed it).
The night before, I made a list of the temples that I’d like to visit by myself so it’ll be easier for me to move around, but when the day had arrived to visit them I wasn’t sure where to start or which temple should I visit first. I wasn’t worried about getting lost, what I was only disturbed with was the heavy downpour.
I’ve decided to stop by Mahabodhi Temple first before exploring the rest of the important sites in Bagan to see Phyu Phyu. I gave her something, which I had promised when she applied thanaka on my face the other day. She was in joy, that she gave me few bars of thanaka in return.
Before I left, I asked her directions of some places included in my list of pagodas that I’ll be visiting that day. I then marked my map with a route from one temple to another.
After having my lunch at Sarabha Restaurant, I drove through the road of Bagan-Nyaung U Road to reach Htilominlo Temple.
I parked my e-bike then entered the temple. There weren’t much of tourists, obviously because of the rain. I didn’t bother to enter inside the temple anymore since I was wearing a raincoat and I was too lazy to take it off. I just roamed around outside of it and took a peek through the windows and large openings. One lady suddenly approached me and told me that there’s a small structure nearby the temple that I can go, which has a view of the huge temple perfect for picture taking. I was hesitant because I knew she’d just ask me to take a look on her souvenir items that she was selling. But still, I let her bring me to that structure that she was talking about.
Htilominlo Temple was built in 1211 during the reign of King Htilominlo, who is also known as Nandaungmya. The temple is three storey tall, with a height of 46 meters. It was built with red brick. It is also known for its elaborate plaster moldings. On the first floor of the temple, it was said that there are four Buddhas that face each direction.
If it wasn’t raining, I could have gotten a good shot of the temple. We went out of the small building after few minutes. As we walked back to the main temple, the woman asked me if I was interested on seeing her stuff that she was selling. I respectfully declined and told her that I wasn’t interested and I was already out of my budget. Then I left.
One of the most famous pagodas in Bagan is the Shwezigon Pagoda. The pagoda is standing between the village of Wetkyi-in and Nyaung U. The construction of this temple began during the reign of King Anawrahta and was finished in 1102 during the reign of King Kyansittha of the Pagan Dynasty.
This pagoda was built as the most important reliquary shrine in Bagan. It was also known that this pagoda was built to enshrine one of the four replicas of the Buddha tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka, and it was to mark the northern edge of the city. The other three tooth replicas were preserved in other three more pagodas.
There is a legend saying that if one visit those all four tooth replicas in a day, it can bring one fortune and luck. I had only able to visit one yet it gave me luck by answering my only prayer that day, which is for the rain to stop. Yes, the rain had finally stopped when I had visited this legendary structure.
This pagoda is few minutes bike away from Htilominlo Temple. As I get into the parking lot, a woman approached me and escorted me towards the entryway. She gave me a present and pinned it to my shirt as a sign of luck before I finally entered the main temple area. Well, I know where all of these acts will go later on once I exit the temple area. And I was right, when I went out and about to get my slippers; the woman approached me and asked me if I was interested to see her items that she was selling. I refused in a gentle manner because I wasn’t really keen on buying anything. To my surprised she answered, “But I gave you a present!” I’ve thought that was an act of kindness and thoughtfulness that she gave me something. To avoid any further commotion, I just gave the item back then I walked away.
Bulethi (Buledi) Pagoda
I was driving through Anawratha Road when I saw a large temple with few tourists on it. I’ve thought it’s the Bulethi Pagoda so I made a turn and followed the path that goes to the said temple.
Immediately after reaching the temple, I approached a man that seems to be a local and asked him what temple is it. “Bulethi”, he replied. I smiled.
Bulethi was among the few pagodas left in Bagan that still permitted to be climbed up. There was nothing special about the pagoda itself however; it has this spectacular view of the plains of Bagan. This temple was said to be a great vantage point to see the sunrise and sunset. Because of it, this place has become an alternative spot from the nearby Shwesandaw Pagoda.
Amongst the numerous temples in Bagan that have upper terraces that I had climbed, this temple I must say has the most impressive view and beautiful scenery that I’ve seen. Bulethi Pagoda is my most favorite spot in Bagan to see a remarkable setting and landscape.
Pyathada Paya and Few Off Road Temples
I took my biking skills to the next level by going off the road. I traveled to small pathways and unpaved road and made a chance that I can discover something notable and all. When I had realised there was nothing remarkable to see anymore on the path that I was going to, I had decided to go back to my original route and look for Pyathada Paya.
Pyathada Paya,also called as Pyathadar Temple, is double-cave type monument located West of Minnanthu Village. King Kyaswa built it in 12th Century.
The pagoda is not situated along the main road. Based on my map, the nearest temple is the Sulamani Temple, thus I followed the road that gets to this pagoda, which I had visited before during the horse cart tour. Confident that I’ll be able to locate it, I’ve biked off road. It wasn’t raining but it was the muddy road that made my journey hard and challenging. Imagine it, my e-bike got stuck in the mud twice. No one was around to help me that made it tougher for me to take my vehicle out of the mud. My clothes got filthy and all. I’ve got injures, too. But that was okay. Those things were for my love of travel!
After all the obstacles that I’ve been through (yes! I called it obstacles!); I had finally reached Sulamani Temple. Now, where’s Pyathada Pagoda? Luckily, a vendor helped me to get to my destination. He told me to follow him while he drive his motorbike to Pyathada Pagoda. After few minutes, we had finally reached our destination. I was so thankful that I had reached it just in time to catch the sunset.
The pagoda is famous spot to see the sunset. When I climbed up to the upper terrace of the pagoda, I was surprised to see the two foreigners who I was with while I wait for the sunset in one of the temples the day before.
Here, I waited for the sunset. It wasn’t that noble because of some clouds covering the sky but it was better compared to the day before.
We were the last persons to leave the place. Because it was already dark and I was afraid to get lost in the dark, I had asked them if I can join them to get to the main road, and they were okay with it. It was a sigh of relief for me. Thank you Margarita from Chile and Max from Holland for the company even in a short while.
Once have said that it’s the journey that matters and not the destination, and that was true when I had toured Bagan. More than the pagodas that I’ve visited, it’s my experience on electric bicycle that I had really enjoyed. Despite of some hardships and road misadventures, I had really enjoyed biking around the ancient city. If I can only have more days to spend, then I’ll go biking again and visit some other temples that I haven’t able to see. Nonetheless, I was contented and pleased that I had able to see so much in my three days journey in the ancient city.
My experience on driving an electric bicycle had shown me how inexpensive and more fun it’ll be to travel if I know how to drive. I think I have to learn next how to drive a car so I can go on a road trip whenever I want.