From Mandalay I travelled by boat to Bagan. This boat was not the usual ferry but a tour boat slightly more expensive and comfortable with breakfast, lunch and a village tour included. I bought the ticket online at http://www.alliancemyanmarrivercruise.com/. Depart at 0635 and arrive in Bagan at 1740, journey time 11:05 hours, speed 20kph, we lost about an hour in the morning when we twice had to moor near the riverbank due to heavy fog. After you get off the boat there is a check point where you pay the Bagan zone fee of US$20 or 25,000 kyat.
Bagan – the city of Temples, more than 2000 of them and that’s what’s left over from the original 10,000. They are spread out over a vast area, you need some form of transport to get around, I had a car, driver and a guide. The guide was a bonus he was practising his English and learning the job. Shoes and socks off and on at each Pagoda, wear sandals.
Today we drove to Popa hills, stopped on the way at a place that makes products from the Palm tree and peanuts. First grinding peanuts for the oil using a bull to pull a grinder while walking around in circles. Next collection of the sap from the Palm trees using a ladder and pots, next tasted the 3 kinds of toddy extracted from the sap, sweet and fresh (no alcohol), 5% alcohol (like beer), next distilled spirit (firewater), all tasted good. Next to where an old woman was stirring the sap in several large woks over a fire waiting for it to thicken after which it is divided into small chunks to dry into palm jaggery. From the jaggery they make various sweets mixed with Ginger, Sesame & Coconut and dark jaggery. From the palm leaves they make toys, roofs and walls, from the trunks they make furniture.
There is a temple on top of one of the Popa Hills with hundreds of monkeys running around, stealing and fighting. I walked halfway to the top and stopped at the point where I had to take my shoes and socks off, balancing without them on is difficult on uneven surfaces. On the way back we stopped at another temple on a hill and then a visit to a village where they also sold handicrafts, then we visited a few more Pagodas.
Finally back to the hotel to wait for pickup to the bus station at 2100. On the bus at 2130 departed at 2140, new modern Scania with large comfortable seats, 3 seats across in a 1-2 arrangement, I had a single, total 9 rows of seats 27 passengers max. Snack box and juice handed out at the start, EU 2 pin outlet for each seat. Stopped at 0120 for half an hour at Napyidaw toll gate rest stop which had a few restaurants busy with passengers eating. Arrived in Yangon at 0540, the bus station is quite a distance from the centre of the city past the airport unlike the train station which is right in the centre of town.