Getting around Bagan has it’s challenges. There’s 26 square miles of temples. That’s a lot of ground to cover.
We could have joined a tour and taken a bus, an air conditioned bus. But that’s not our style. We could have hired a horse and cart, but no — too much clambouring in and out for me. There was a possibility of hiring a car and a driver—even less us than a bus.
Some people rode push bikes. Some had electric bikes, which might have been a happy compromise, but on the dusty, sandy trails across the plain I suspected, even with the help of a motor, peddling would be hot and sweaty work.
Two young travellers we met were walking from temple to temple! I’m not sure how long they lasted. My best guess is: not as long as us. You see, John and I found the perfect solution. Well, almost. An electric scooter. Not exactly built for two, but, hey if three can fit on this motorbike then two could go anywhere. Right?
Our scooter was Chinese made. It was reliable. It started every time. The battery lasted a full day, every day.
This is like old times I said to John as we set off down the road; those golden olden days almost lost to the mists of time, pre-children and grand-children times, pre car-owning and house-owning times, back when all we had was a motorbike.
This is romantic, I said, as we whizzed along from temple to temple (okay, not really whizzing, this little bike didn’t get much past 30 kph) John in front, me at the back whispering sweet nothings —um, actually, that bit didn’t last. Before long I was shouting: Look at that! Stop here! Go there!
He’d say nothing’s changed, once a back seat driver always a back seat driver.
This bike’s perfect, I said.
It was … but … John has long legs, a runner’s legs.
And big knees. Knees which in one heart thumping moment got jammed beneath the handlebars.
We didn’t exactly fall off. Quick reactions with the brake and old motorbike skills saved the day — we each escaped with a scratch or two and a couple of bruises. The bike was undamaged.
After that, all was good—as long as knees were pointing outwards. And as long as I didn’t think too much about the discomfort that comes from sitting on a rack for a day, make that three days! Yes, John might have had a knee problem but he got the padded seat! I got the rack. Fair, eh?
But what’s a few scrapes and a little discomfort when the reward is this?
Watching the sunset from high on a temple is a tradition in Bagan.
At the risk of too many knee photos, I have to show you this:
That arch immediately behind John’s knees is the entrance to the chimney like structure we clambered through. There was a lot of squeezing and breathing involved getting up there.
Aside from worries about footing and slipping and falling, and finding our way down again in the dark with the added extra of bats heading out to feed, I wasn’t overly comfortable. The temples are ancient and sacred. Some people recognised that, others didn’t.
Since our visit the Myanmar government has implemented restrictions on climbing the temples. I think that’s a good thing.
Electric scooters are still available for hire. Long knees or not, I reckon they’re the ultimate easy way around the plain of Bagan.