Thursday, 15 January 2015


It was the same again in the morning, but this time we ventured much further afield –read: ‘middle of fucking nowhere’, and ended up on some gnarly tracks, far too rough for the poor E-Bike and we ended up with a punctured tyre…

I just rode the poor girl as far as I could before the tyre started coming off the rim, then had to push the bloody thing another couple of kilometers to town looking for a bike shop, which was no easy feat. Some local guy was a huge help and led us in the right direction after scouting out somewhere with suitable equipment and know-how. 

$1 to quickly put a patch on it and we were off again, really on a tight dead line as we had a tour booked and paid for at 1pm, it was only 10km back home, but when your bike only does 20 an hour – it’s a long way! I gave the guy $2 for his prompt service and ‘raced’ off on the E-Bike, the wind howling in our ears as we tore through the traffic, hell bent on making our tour in time! 

We arrived a couple of minutes late but caught up with the group walking down to the river’s edge, an afternoon boat cruise was in order and it turned out to be a really great trip. There were about 10 farang’s in the group and we made our way up the river to a secluded temple with a secret tunnel that was used to hide valuables during the war. It was ok, nothing spectacular.

Back to the boat and continuing up river we came to a massive sand bank in the middle, where we stopped to enjoy ‘the beach’! We unpacked plastic chairs, football, frisbee and most importantly - the esky, then just chilled out with a swim and a beer and got to know each other.

There were still other stops to be made on this voyage though and we were off again, this time to a local village, the only tourists that ever visit. An American guy got the river trip up and running and now has a bunch of the locals doing it as often as there are numbers to go, creating a business opportunity for a group of young guy’s, one as young as 15. If they run with it and do it properly they should have a good and secure future.

To make the village trip a little more interesting and interactive, they have a sort of fun ‘game’, where we all got given a photo of one of the locals plus a bag of oranges and our job was to find the person in the picture and give it to them as a gift, which they seemed to really love, as many of them have no pictures of themselves.

The oranges were just to dish out along the way and proved popular with everybody, not just the kids! Ideally you would save quite a few for the person in the picture as often you will be invited to join them for snacks, tea etc. I have visited many remote villages and this was really a novel and great way to do it, rather than simply wandering around gawking at everybody and feeling a little imposing.

It made you wander all the way around, and to really interact with the villagers and turned out be great fun. We found the person in Noi’s picture, but the kid in mine was at school which was quite a distance away, plus we got sidetracked. An older man motioned for us to come into his home and we had corn, biscuits and tea with him, not really making any conversation, but trying to!

It was a great experience and we took some photos along the way, which you can upload for the tour organizer at the cyber café on the way home or email as I did, and next trip somebody will be looking for the people in our pictures!

One last stop was another huge sandbank island in the river, where we all kicked back in our chairs, enjoyed a cold beer and watched the sun sink to the horizon with the Ayeyarwady River at our feet, before making the last run for home. A really, really enjoyable afternoon out and definitely not to be missed when in Bagan, plus it’s a great way to break up all that ‘templing’. 

Look for the flyers at Pyinsa Rupa if you want to try it out, or ask around - you won’t be disappointed. Guess it was just another one of those times I got lucky by simply checking into the right guesthouse, I would do it again anytime. The American guy simply goes everyday for free for getting the whole project started, plus is still training the locals in the business and tour guide side of things until they are ready to take the reigns. He has never made a dollar out of it.

Most of the group then kicked on up the street for drinks, then some more drinks and burgers at Weatherspoons Restaurant, all sharing stories from our travel adventures. The couple from USA had taken a sunrise balloon ride over the area which I’m certain was just spectacular, but at $160 a person, just not in my budget. Though I think if I return, I will definitely splurge for that experience. 

Bagan has been a highlight of all my travels, and to me was just such a better experience than Angkor Wat. It was such an amazing place and I can only imagine how good the riding around the area would have been, as with most of Myanmar. If you only have time for one thing in Myanmar, then consider Bagan as your destination.

Middle of nowhere



Our 'beach'

My new mate from the village