How to get there:
Bus from Mandalay: Don’t be fooled, from the Bus station south of the Mandalay City the bus only costs around 7500 – 8500 Kyat. Guesthouses in the city sell overpriced tickets, although it includes a pickup transport to such bus station, starting at 11.000 Kyat.
Boat rides from Mandalay to Bagan are also possible but the landscape is said to be rather dull. 15 $ with the slow boat (leaves 4.30 and arrives in the late evening) or around 40 $ with the fast boats (6h)
For a rough and compact overview check out the Wikitravel Bagan page!
Best Place to stay for backpacker is Nyaung U. Expect to pay at least 20 $ for a simple room, most Guest Houses charge 25 to 30 $.
We stayed in the newly build (2013) side tract of Pyinsa Rupa Guesthouse, new, clean, small rooms with AC and bathroom for 25 $ – a decent deal. But stay far away from the old rooms they offer. The May Kha Lar Guesthouse is said to be the best deal in town
Its always useful to read the recommendations for accommodation on Tripadvisor: Tripadvisor Bagan
Check out the Weather Spoon Restaurant close to the Black Bamboo Restaurant. By far the best food we tried in Bagan with Thai, Burmese and Western dishes. Special Tip: Masman Curry (better than in most places in Thailand)
Hire a bike for 1000 Kyat and just get lost on the wide fields of countless temples and Pagodas. Enjoying the sunset is much better at the Pyathada Temple than from the overcrowded (and major travel bus destination) Shwesandaw Pagoda. Electrobikes can also be rented for 6000 Kyat a day and are a fun way of cruising over the dusty roads in between the temples. But take care, the sand sometimes is deep and you may need to push the bike a bit.
The market in Nyaung U offers all the souvenirs a traveller could wish for, but for much better prices than directly in front of the main pagodas or even the laquerware exhibition shops. Don’t be fooled by the warnings of fake laquerware products that the big shops tend to cry out. We found many of the exact same designs with the same quality at this market as ware offered in the special shops, but very cheap instead. E.g. instead of 20$ you could get them for 5$ – just keep looking and bargain with a smile.
If you are interested to read from our adventures there, check out the blogentry Towards New Horizons | Bagan