A 15-Hour Bus Ride to Bagan

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journey by bus

Burma—a land where the concept of high-speed travel is redefined by its own unique set of rules: unpredictability, leisurely pacing, and a touch of adventurous spirit. The journey to Bagan, while less than 400 miles from Yangon, transforms into a marathon of the soul with a 15-hour bus ride.

By hour five, I find solace in the small victory of having booked two seats for myself, an act that now seems worthy of poetry. Aboard this bus, personal space is a luxury; every nook is coveted real estate. The only other American, who shares my nationality but not my luck in seating, is trapped in a human sandwich – flanked by a man of considerable size and a boy who found his place in the aisle.

Riding in Style

Throughout our snail-paced adventure, we are treated to countless “dinner breaks” at quaint roadside food stands and the ritual scrutiny of military checkpoints, an intrusive yet mandatory dance where passports become more interesting to the authorities than the passengers themselves.

Notable Tip: When in Burma, expect to break bread with military bureaucracy, and bunch up in buses where capacity means just a suggestion.

Eventually, we reach our destination at the ungodly hour of 5:30 a.m., only to be greeted by the unexpected luxury of a private bungalow—a sanctuary among tropical blooms. It is here, in Bagan, where each minute wrestles with my fatigue, compelling me to trade the comfort of rest for the riches of ancient temples.

Zaw, my diligent driver-turned-guide, charts our course through history—his enthusiasm a stark contrast to my sleep-deprived stupor. Lunchtime’s plea for rest is both a surrender and a necessary recharge, though the pull of Bagan’s allure refuses to let go, teasing me with the fantasy of a leisurely exploration spanning weeks, not days.

230 Temples Later…

Awakening from a brief slumber at 4:00 p.m., I concede to the weariness of travel yet push forward, yearning for a deeper connection with the land I’ve merely skimmed the surface of.

Travelers, take heed: The road to Bagan is long, the buses are cramped, but the destination is a trove of treasures that promises to captivate the wide-eyed wanderer in each of us.

RememberBagan is not a sprint; it’s a marathon of discovery.

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