JJ Express Nightbus from Bagan to Yangon

My stay in Bagan came to an end and it was time to move on to my next destination in Myanmar which is Yangon.
The best way to get there is by bus and wow was that a surprise , in a good way. I took the bus from the company JJ Express and it was the most luxury autocar I have ever been in. I’m not exaggerating as I took many times autocar or coach to Poland from Belgium and never did these busses had tv screens in the seats with the possibility not only to watch movies, but als to listen to music, playing games like Angry Birds or even internet access. The Internet didn’t work, but maybe if I would have asked the crew on the bus they would have had explained me. I didn’t bother cause I was feeling very tired and all I wanted was to sleep.
They gave me a blanket and a pillow cause it can get a bit chill during the night. I also got 2 bottles of water and box with some cookies and cakes.

nightbus to Yangon

tv screens in the seats

the very comfortable seats with free water

complimentary cakes and cookies

cookie box by JJ Express

The bus had a crew just like in an airplane, who checked if everybody was ok. I really didn’t expect all this and that’s why I can recommend to take this as an alternative transport to flying. It’s a big distance between Bagan and Yangon so you have to be prepared for a journey of 8 hours, but since its at night it goes faster when you sleep. I woke up one hour before arrival in Yangon, where a pickup was arranged for me to bring me to my hotel to fresh up a bit before visiting the sightseeings of the former capital of the country. Just like Mandalay, Yangon was also a former capital.
When Myanmar was named Birma under British Colonial rule the Capital city was Yangon and so the city still has architecture sites downtown that reminds of that era.
In Yangon there is more traffic then in Mandalay, more cars and public transportation and no motorbikes or scooters like in the rest of Myanmar, it’s banned from the city, local autorities want the people to use more the public transportation. Also traffic looks more organized compared to Mandalay.

Yangon

Sightseeing in Yangon

First I made a stop at one of the biggest Reclining Buddha’s in the country the Chaukhtatkyi 65 meters long and 16 meters high. the feet of the Buddha are also very big and the soles are carved with traditional symbols and often many locals gather in front of the statue to pay homage and pray.
After this visit I did a walk in the Bogyoke park with a nice view over the Kandawgyi Lake and had my picture taken with the Karaweik Hall Royal floating barge. Other stops that I made in the city were Independence monument at Mahabandoola Garden Park and the Sule Pagoda just across the street of the park. I had some time to walk around in downtown Yangon and visit a big market place where jewellery, clothes, paintings were being sold. The highlight of Yangon was saved for last. The glittering gold stupa of the Shwedagon Pagoda. At the Pagoda I saw local pilgrims and monks offering their devotion to this holy place. I walked around the complex  bare foot like in any other holy temple I visited on this trip, but this time in the water as it was starting to rain and it got very slippery, there were these mats on the ground to walk on instead of going on the slippery stones.  Did some people watching for the time being and enjoyed my last moments in Myanmar. The last day was the only day I had rain, maybe it was the Myanmar skies that were sad to see me go, hehe.

Chaukthatkyi Buddha

Chaukhtatgyi

Karaweik Hall floating barge on Kandawgyi Lake

Independence Monument

Mahabandoola Garden Park

Sule Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Walking around with umbrella

pagoda’s

the Temple Complex of Shwedagon

The life of the Buddha on this Pagoda in paintings

The life of the Buddha on this Pagoda in paintings

Monk praying

locals performing common rituals

prayin to the Buddha

praying inside one of the many smaller pagoda’s

 

 

Bagan & Mount Popa

The most popular destination in Myanmar for Tourist to come visit is without a doubt Bagan with its thousands of temples.
This place couldn’t be left out of the itinerary to my first ever visit to Myanmar. I surely lived up to my expectations of the place that I only had seen before on pictures on some short videos on youtube by other travellers.
I will just tell what I have done in Bagan for the short period of time I’ve been there. As I’m not a traveller who has the time to spend weeks in 1 place and take it all in at a slow speed. I had to make the most of it in my short time and thanks to the local Myanmar Touragency ShalomTours all that was possible without a hassle.
I saw all the most important Pagodas and Temples of Bagan including those which are being restored at the moment as some are still under renovation after the last earthquake that hit Bagan in 2016. Temples are all over the place and because of the many earthquakes in the past, Bagan has now over 2000 temples which is still alot but there were 10000 of these Temples in the past.

Bagan

The old City walls

What a view

 

What did I do in Bagan?

First off All I started my day with visiting a local village by the name Minnathu Village. Local houses where people live they daily live, occupying with the animals, cows and sheep. The traditional cooking they do and the manual labor and crafts they still practice. People were very friendly and welcoming just like everybody I met in Myanmar.

Minnathu Village

Village lady taking the animals out for walk

gardening

the village houses

kitchen, making corn cookies

a young bull watching me

corn cookies

mother with child

After that the Temple and Pagoda tour of Bagan would start, I will just name those that I liked the most and post a picture here instead of naming all of them.
These were my favorites on the tour :
Nana Pyin Nya Temple, Thatbyinyu Temple, Ananda Temple, Shwezigon Pagoda.
Then it was time for me to explore Bagan from a different perspective by horse cart as the advantage of  it is that it takes you to areas that cars are unable to enter.

Nanda Pyin Nya Temple

Ananda Temple

Thatbyinnyu Temple

Shwezigone Temple

Me with my horse cart in the old Bagan

horse cart ride in Bagan

relaxing at one of the smaller temples

After the horse came the boat.

I took a wooden river boat over the Irrawaddy River to the Shwezigon Pagoda.
After my visit there I took the boat back and enjoyed the sunset from the upper deck, before stepping in to the car that brought me to my hotel.

Hotel Where I stayed in

The Hotel I stayed in was Temple View Hotel. On the rooftop there was a buffet restaurant with a big terrace with a Temple view, what’s in a name. Here I had my everyday breakfast. Next to the hotel there is a shop and a restaurant with local Myanmar dishes aswell as some Western dishes. Good place to stay with shops and other eating spots nearby.

View from the rooftop of my Hotel

MY 2ND DAY IN BAGAN

I could explore some more of the other Temples in Bagan, but I have seen so many and wanted to do something else on my 2nd day and decided to go to Mount Popa with another local company that I booked at the hotel reception.
A opendeck bus picked me up and to my surprise I was the only one on the tour. I had again a driver and a guide, but this time from another local Bagan company. The trip from Bagan to Mount Popa is only 1 hour drive.
First I stopped at a local market and a roadrestaurant that had a big garden, and there were people making alcohol in the back of the garden, like some kind of Myanmar moonshine, pure alcohol.

The Big garden at the roadrestaurant, the 2 houses in the back is where they were making alcohol

making of alcohol

The short stop was over and we continued the road to Mount Popa. Little further I saw locals begging at the sides of the road with outstretched arms for some money or maybe food in the heat of the burning sun.
There is much poverty, and that’s the only time on my Myanmar trip that I was confronted with real poverty in the country, that untill that moment was like a bit hidden from me. As I said earlier I was in an opendeck bus, so a lot of wind while the bus is speeding on these bumpy roads, hard for me to throw any paper money, cause no coins in Myanmar only paper money. The wind would blow it away and God knows where it would land. So instead I threw my botte of water out of the bus and I saw a lady who catched it, I hope the cold water in this heat did her good.
Wish I had some cookies or something with me in my backpack, I would have thrown out the whole box.

Mount Popa with the Taung Kalut Monastery on top

Me with one of the monkeys

Golden Pagoda on top of Mount Popa

Finally when I arrived in the town of Popa I saw the Mount Popa and its Taung Kalat Monastery on top of it. First I made a stop at the entrance of the town and was greeted by the Monkeys, who just like at the Pho win Daung temple complex in Mandalay where all over the place.
Exactly 777 steps I had to take to go up the top of the hill with its monastery.
All of that bare foot cause when entering the holy places in Myanmar you have put your shoes and socks off.
Half way up the climb, more and more monkeys began to appear and climbing up the same stairs as the humans, or just sitting in the middle of it so you had to get around them in the hope none of them would suddenly get aggressive cause you never know they are wild animals after all.
I was exhausted and just like the other tourists my tongue was hanging out.
It was all worth for the view over the forest area where I could see little pagoda’s popping out of the green from all the small villages around the town of Popa, and the golden Pagoda on top. Really glad I decided to do this day trip to Mount Popa or as locals sometimes call it Monkey mountain.

view over the Green hills and the town of Popa

 

Mandalay to Mingun Day trip

Image

After breakfast it was time to board the local private boat that was waiting for me to take me up the Irrawaddy river to Mingun. It’s a 45 minute boat trip each way.

The first place for me to visit was the unfinished Mingun Paya Pagoda, it was the intention to build the biggest Pagoda in the world, but it never got finished due to earthquakes, the part that is left has big cracks because of that.
Another highlight is the 87 ton bronze bell, the world’s largest intact bronze bell, really this is the biggest one I’ve ever seen.
The place to visit is the Hisnbyume Pagoda, a white-washed temple built to resemble Mount Meru. This place is a real instagram spot, have seen many pictures of this passing by on the gram and just like everybody else I wanted to shoot some great photos before I went my way to the top to have a view over Mingun and the other Pagoda in the distance.
Mingun is a must visit just like Monywa (which I described in my other post) when you are staying in Mandalay.

Boat is waiting for me

Taking the boat to Mingun

Mingun Paya, you can see the cracks in the wall very well

Mingun Paya

Here I am making publicity for MyanmarShalom Travel Agency that I booked this trip with

The Mingun Bell

Hisnbyume Pagoda

Posingfor my Instagram picture on the Hisnbyume Pagoda

Chillin at Hisnbyume Pagoda

Great view on the Mingun Paya from the top level of the Hisnbyume Pagoda

Kids playing jumping game just outside Mingun Paya