Secret bars in New York

The so-called speak-easy bars date back to the time when it was illegal to sell alcohol, so they had to be creative finding more hidden and secret locations for the bars.

The bars were not only hidden for the authorities. One of the more extreme activists, Carrie Nation, believed that drunkenness was the cause of many problems in society, and apparently went around smashing bars with a hatchet! The ironic thing is that there is a speak-easy bar named after her in Boston…

The bars may not be that secret anymore, but you should absolutely know what to look for. Here is a guide to find a few of them;

Please don’t tell (PDT) – 113 St Marks Pl 
Walk down the stairs and inside Crif Dogs. About half way in, on the left-hand wall, you find a phone booth. Pick up, follow the instructions, and hope they will let you in.

Angel’s Share – 8 Stuyvesant St
Walk up the stairs and enter an Asian restaurant. On the left-hand wall you will see a very anonymous wooden door, that is where you want to enter. Once inside, there are a few tables along the windows, and stools at the bar.
PS: They do not accept groups larger than four people. And nope, don’t even bother asking if it is OK if you split up…

Little Branch – 22 7th Ave S
By the crossing of Leroy St and 7th Ave S, you find a small white brick-stone building. If you did not know what you were looking for, you would definitely walk straight past the anonymous dark door. It is only when you get closer you can see the discrete writing on the bar sign. The next obstacle is to get down the steep stairs safe and sound. If you make it, you can sit down in one of the small booths and be rewarded with amazing cocktails in a cool retro environment.

To be continued….

Have you been to any secret bars in New York? Or somewhere else?


24 hours in Bergen with the Bergen Card

Being a local in Bergen I wanted to be tourist in my own town, experiencing what the city has to offer. With all the Bergen Card advantages, it was an easy choice. You get free or discounted admittance to most museums and attractions as well as many cultural events, various sightseeing tours, restaurants and parking. It also include free travel on Light Rail and buses in the city and the region. Depending on how much sightseeing you want to do (and how much time you have), the Bergen Card is available for either 24, 48 or 72 hours.

Beautiful view of Bergen from Mt. Fløyen. Norway

Beautiful view of Bergen from Mt. Fløyen.

Overview first! Taking the Fløibanen Funicular to the top of Mt. Fløyen gives a great view of the city. Being up on the mountain, you are also away from the city life, and can walk straight into the nature. Fløibanen Funicular has made some tour suggestions for the many hiking options in the area. You can download them for free on their website.

Downtown again, I went for the 10 o’ clock departure for the Fjord Cruise to Mostraumen. I was obviously not the only one that had figured this was the perfect day for a fjord cruise from Bergen. Gliding past Bryggen – the old Hanseatic Wharf, bathing in sun, made me love my hometown just a little bit more. Once outside the harbor, the boat picked up some speed. As it is autumn (even though the sun and temperature could easily fool anyone), I was prepared with warm clothes to be able to stay outside. Even though it is perfectly fine to sit inside as well, there is something special about getting the real full experience, feeling the sun in my eyes and the wind in my hair.

Bryggen in Bergen a beautiful autumn day! Norway

The water was completely flat, reflecting the trees dressed in magnificent autumn colors. Arriving at Mostraumen, the crew picked two persons to get water from the waterfall. I was one of them, together with a Spanish by the name Enrique. Why not stand under a waterfall when the sun is shining..? With that said, we got dressed in proper rain gear, and did not get wet at all. The bucket was filled quickly, and everyone that wanted to taste got a glass. Fresh and cold!

Reflecting water. Fjordcruise to Mostraumen outside Bergen. Norway Nice surroundings on the Fjordcruise to Mostraumen outside Bergen. Norway Beautiful waterfalls on the Fjordcruise to Mostraumen outside Bergen. Norway Water from a waterfall. Fjordcruise to Mostraumen outside Bergen. Norway Getting water from the waterfall. Fjordcruise to Mostraumen outside Bergen. Norway

On the way back I enjoyed a typical Norwegian “lefse” and a “Kvikk Lunsj” chocolate. Not the healthiest, but since I was being a tourist in my own town I pretend to be on holiday. Then everything is allowed, isn’t it?…

Back on shore, I walked passed the colorful, charming houses at Bryggen, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. The houses were originally built in the 11th century, but burned down many times. The oldest part of Bryggen was rebuilt after the great fire in 1702. In 1955 a new fire burned down a part of these remaining houses. Following this, the archaeological excavations at Bryggen started. I decided to go to Bryggens Museum to have a look at the findings. Luckily for the coming generations, the burned out ruins were not completely cleared out. The water was filled in by the remains of the burned houses and other trash, and the new houses were just built on top of them, causing the waterfront to move several meters throughout the time. The excavations therefore revealed houses from many different periods, the oldest burned in 1170. They also found ceramics, runic inscriptions and other artifacts witnessing the commerce with Europe and daily life in the Middle Ages.

Bryggen in Bergen a beautiful autumn day! Norway

Traces of many of the fires in Bergen can be seen at Bryggen  Museum. Bergen, Norway

Traces of many of the fires in Bergen can be seen at Bryggen Museum.

Being in the medieval mood, I went on to Bergenhus Fortress, dating back to the 13th century, when Bergen was the political center of Norway. The Håkon’s Hall was built between 1247 and 1261 by king Håkon Håkonsen as a royal residence and banquet hall. It was finished for the wedding between his son and a Danish princess. About 2000 guests were present for the wedding. However, only the men were allowed in the hall. The women, including the bride, were in another hall that is now destroyed.

The Håkon’s Hall. Bergen, Norway

The Rosenkrantz Tower right next to the Håkon’s Hall is a former royal residence. Climbing the steps all the way from Hell (aka the dungeon) to the rooftop may be steep, but the view was a reward in itself!
Rosenkrantz Tower in Bergen, Norway

On my way to the dungeon in the Rosenkrantz Tower in Bergen, Norway

On my way to the dungeon in the Rosenkrantz Tower.

A friend of mine had come to town with her son, so we decided to go to Bergen Science Center – VilVite. As it is located in the complete opposite side of the city, we took the bus and light rail to save time. Entering the exhibition, I felt like a child again. I went straight to the police motorbike to feel the wind in my hair for the second time today. Googles on. Bring on the speed! At least the wind, so you can pretend to drive fast and furious. Better keep it safe! Speaking of safe; next up was to bike in a 360 degree loop, with the result of hanging upside down a few meters above ground. It may sound a bit scary, but it is quite fun. And you learn about the G-Force at the same time. That is also the aim of Bergen Science Center – VilVite, to combine teaching with fun, making it amusing to learn about different aspects of science.

Science and fun at VilVite. Bergen, Norway.

Science and fun at VilVite!

It was time to calm down a bit, drilling for oil, “solve” the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle, make a weather forecast and wrap ourselves in a giant soap bubble! Finishing off by reaching new heights, standing still and jumping straight up as high as you can. Or not so high in my case, as my bouncing skills are highly absent… As a bonus, it is filmed, so you can see it in slow motion afterwards. Great fun for children of all ages!

Playing around sure works up an appetite, so we got on the light rail back to the city center, and strolled over to Pingvinen for dinner. With the retro interior and traditional home cooking, it feels like visiting your grandmother. The perfect way to relax and digest all the impressions after an amazing day!

Thirteen things you must do in Madrid

After spending a few days in Madrid, I wrote down this list in random order. And, 13 is absolutely not a number of misfortune in this case.

  1. Snacking in Mercado San Miguel or one of the other markets; Idelfonso or Anton.
    Walk among the food stalls, and get tempted by the different delicious treats. I personally have cravings for pimientos.

    Pimientos at Mercado San Miguel. Madrid, Spain.

    Pimientos at Mercado San Miguel.

  2. Watch the view of the city. Either combined with a drink at Círculo de Bellas Artes, culture and history from the dome of La Almudena Cathedral or simply dangle over the city with the Teleférico cable car.
    View from the dome of La Almudena Cathedral. Madrid, Spain

    View from the dome of La Almudena Cathedral.

    The view of Madrid seen from the Teleférico cable car.

    The view of Madrid seen from the Teleférico cable car.

  3. Enjoy the nightlife in Malasaña, with inviting bars and restaurants all over. You will have trouble deciding which one to choose, so why not make it bar to bar, to experience several.
  4. Witness famous painted masterpieces by Goya, El Greco, Rubens and many more at Prado National Museum. It is considered one of the world’s best art galleries.

    Prado National Museum. Madrid, Spain.

    Prado National Museum.

  5. Soak in the atmosphere in the multicultural Lavapies. Try tapas the international way.
  6. Travel back in time at Chamberi, an old metro station operating 1919-1968, where time has stood still ever since.
    Chamberi, an old metro station operating 1919-1968. Madrid, Spain.
  7. Enjoy the extremely tasty tostas from El Extremeño. If you are here on a Sunday, that is.
  8. Find all the things you need (or don’t need…) at Rastro market in La Latina. Open on Sundays only.

    Sunday at Rastro market in La Latina. Madrid, Spain.

    Sunday at Rastro market in La Latina.

  9. Enjoy the busy Sunday nights (and day, actually!), walking from bar to bar around the medieval streets in La Latina. Fall in love with the fantastic mojitos and fruit caipiroska.

    Drinks in La Latina. Madrid, Spain.

    Drinks in La Latina.

  10. Do a day trip to one of the nearby cities. My suggestion is Segovia or Toledo.
    Segovia nearby Madrid, Spain.


    Toledo, nearby Madrid, Spain.


  11. Take a walk in the park. There are several to choose from, like Retiro park or Templo Debod, just to name a few.

    Templo Debod. Madrid, Spain.

    Templo Debod.

  12. See the nuns in a monastery to buy cookies. Or, actually don’t see them, as they are covered behind a turning wall.

    Turning wall in a monastery where you can buy delicious cookies. Madrid, Spain.

    Turning wall in a monastery where you can buy delicious cookies from hidden nuns.

And last but not the least:
13. Get lost. Walk the side streets instead of the straightforward road, and you will be sure to have a different experience.

Captivating experiences in Ljubljana

Ljubljana first captured me with its beauty. Then I was literally captivated when I checked in at Hostel Celica. The building was originally built as a prison in the late 1800s, and held ground as that for more than 100 years.

Before Hostel Celica opened its doors in 2003, a group of local and international artists moved in. Each group was assigned a cell, and with limited budget, they had to think creatively. Many cells have freedom as an underlying tone in different sense. The symbolism is diverse. Some have art painted directly on the walls, while others are artistic in design and furnishing. All 20 prison cells are completely different, except for an important detail; the barred doors.

Cell 107 at Hostel Celica in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Cell 107.

Artistic details in cell 107 at Hostel Celica in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Artistic details in cell 107.

Cell 117 at Hostel Celica in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Cell 117.

Cell 118 at Hostel Celica in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Cell 118.

At check-in I got assigned to my cell for the night, 101. A part of the concept is that you cannot choose which room you will be staying. Like the former inhabitants, you should not know what to expect.

I turned the key, went through the barred door, and found a small prison cell with a narrow bed along one of the walls. At the foot end, it was a small chest in dark wood. At the opposite wall, a wooden table and a chair. The bookshelf over the table had a few books wrapped in old travel maps. The space at the floor was minimal, and did not allow much luggage. The top of the chest saved me (and the luggage), along with the fact that I finally have learned how to travel light. The showers and toilets are naturally situated in the hallway.

Cell 101 at Hostel Celica in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Cell 101.

A narrow ladder lead the way to the second bed, located over the door. If you want to have the room to yourself, you have to pay for both beds. If not, you will get an inmate for the night.

Hostel Celica is situated in the Metelkova area, with the alternative artistic community as closest neighbor. Many of them live as squatters in the former military barracks, but they are mostly left in peace. The area is quite colorful, to put it mildly, both literally and with the different personalities. But that is exactly what makes it so interesting. During daytime you can stroll around for hours and explore the countless details, while in the evenings different bars open, with totally different styles, both in appearance and music.

Colourful houses in the Metelkova area by Hostel Celica in Ljubljana, Slovenia Colorful houses in the Metelkova area by Hostel Celica in Ljubljana, Slovenia Details on the houses in the Metelkova area by Hostel Celica in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Look for the small details in the Metelkova area by Hostel Celica in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Look for the small details.

To stay at Hostel Celica and spend the day in the Metelkova area is definitely a fascinating experience I will remember for a long time.

Have you spent the night in an unusual place? I would love to know what kind of place and where.


Daytrip from Dublin to Bray and Greystone

Dublin is for many synonymous with bar, Guinness and whiskey. But both the city and the surrounding area has more to offer. We took a break from beer and did the cliff walk along the Irish Sea on the coastal path between Bray and Greystone.

The bus meanders through the streets, with traditional brick house on both sides. Every minute there is a new bus stop, and although it’s exciting to experience a bit of daily life and the great scenery, we concluded that it would probably be a better plan to take the train…

When we finally get off the bus in Bray, we strolled towards the seaside. The streets were mostly deserted, but when we got down to the beach, we understood that this is where it all happens. The restaurants are situated slightly in the rear, people and dogs wandering around, and brave child tests the water temperatures at the beach. (Un)fortunately we are not here to swim, and head towards the coastal path along the cliffs between Bray and Greystone.
Bray beach, the start of the cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, Ireland

Despite my enthusiasm for views, we refrained from going up to the huge cross that looms on the mound at the start of the walk. The view of the beach and ocean is great from the trail as well. Besides, we were looking for something completely different; Europe’s first geocache. It was also my very first. Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunt using GPS. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.

Found Europes first cache along the cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, Ireland

We found Europe’s first cache!

The excitement escalated when the GPS was signalizing we were approaching the goal. The number of meters to the target sank asynchronously with our crawl up the hill. We moved rocks, looked around a little more, and finally realized where it was. Under a small pile of rocks, we found the camouflaged box. The feeling of triumph by finding the “treasure” rushed through me, but what I liked the most about the idea is that you can learn so much about the history and the place you visit if those who place the cache has submitted this information. This is naturally highly variable from person to person. We logged in the book and at the app, and buried the cache again.

Back to the more obvious treasure; the nature surrounding us. Spring was coming on strong, the bushes and the grass was bright green and the yellow and pink flowers competed to be the brightest colored. Who wins is hard to determine. From time to time we heard the train that passed below us. Otherwise it was mostly quiet, except for the small talk between people who passed us. Even the wind held its breath.
Flowers and an old stone house along the cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, Ireland The cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, Ireland Bright colors along the path of the cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, IrelandEnjoying the cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, Ireland Nice view of the beach in Greystone from the cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, Ireland

The trail has a comfortable steady ascent until the equally pleasant downhill at the point the long sandy beach at Greystone appears. The last stretch was frankly a bit boring and we dream of a glass of ice-cold white wine. The search for a suitable place in the sun started. We hit jackpot with “Summerville’s of Greystone”, a cozy cafe in a yellow house along the road, with white and flowered wallpaper and old-fashioned wooden table and chairs. A very cozy place, with lunch, cake and ice cream on the menu. There is also a colorful backyard with wrought iron tables and flowers hanging along the wall. But everything else than sitting out in the sun was out of the question, so we sat in the front and fried.
Summerville in Greystone. Perfect for lunch and white wine after the cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, Ireland

The small coastal village, however, has more to offer. Just a stone’s throw away, on the little bridge over the railway line, big wine barrels function as tables outside of small wine bar. Heat rises in the sun, and cooled wine is certainly appropriate.

The heat was rising in front of the ticket machine at the station as well, as the seconds were ticking and the train approaching. There is a saying there is always a train. But not necessarily when you need it. The moral is to be early for ticket purchase. When the hunger also arise again, it is best to be on the safe side.

Since we were on a day trip, we thought we could exploit it to the fullest. The best seafood is found along the coast, so we went to the small coastal town of Howth for dinner. The train went directly from Greystone to Howth via Dublin. The village itself seemed relatively calm and quiet, but I envision the bustling life outside the bars and restaurants along the harbor when the heat sets in. Now however, it was only us as stubborn Norwegians, and a few locals, who insisted on having a cold beer outside, while the rays of the sun decreased in strength.

Our wine day continued during the seafood dinner at King Sitric. We ordered a little of everything and shared it all. Absolutely perfect!
King Sitric restaurant in Howth outside Dublin, Ireland

A little taste of the seafood in Howth outside Dublin, Ireland

A little taste of the seafood in Howth.

The gorgeous day was about to end as we strolled relaxed along the water back toward the train station. The sun was setting in the sea and colored the sky pink behind the many boats in the harbor. For many of them this was soon beginning of a new day of fishing, while for us was yet another great memory of a beautiful day.
Sun is setting in Howth outside Dublin, Ireland Sunset in Howth outside Dublin, Ireland Sunset in the harbor in Howth outside Dublin, Ireland

Three shades of the Pulpit Rock; sunset, sunrise and noon!

The iconic Pulpit Rock is growing in popularity, and more and more people are finding their way up the stone stairs. Positively, highly welcome wooden planks along the way occasionally replace them, as you will definitely feel the sensation of the rocks in your legs. But it’s definitely worth it!

The increasing popularity has its price, but also creates new thoughts. Sunrise Tours are also possible, either with a guide or on your own. I had not thought of that possibility until I heard about the trip to Outdoor Life Norway a while ago. Strangely enough, considering my fascination for sunrise and sunsets. Since I had walked to the Pulpit Rock earlier, I decided we could easily do it on our own this time as well. Since the weather was so lovely we brought sleeping bags and slept under the stars (or not really, as it never got properly dark). The idyll was impeccable with magical views over Pulpit Rock and the Lysefjord, with sunset colors lighting the sky. National Romanticism bubbled in my heart, to put it mildly.

Beautiful view and sunset on the way up to the Pulpit Rock, Preikestolen, Norway

Beautiful view and sunset on the way up to the Pulpit Rock.

I had prepared myself for almost everything. Dry change of clothes to the top as well as warmer clothes. Sleeping bag, sleeping mat, toilet paper and a bag to bring the trash down again, wet wipes, and a little bit of wine to celebrate when we reached the top. But the mosquitoes took me off guard. Unfortunately, mosquitoes love me, while I hate them! Luckily, my extra warm clothes included both a hat and a cloth to cover my neck, so I managed to slightly reduce the damage. Yet they succeeded sneaking in between, leaving approximately 30 mosquito bites only in my face, leaving me to look like a pimply teenager. Makes my appearance younger then, at least! Every cloud has a silver lining. Or something like that … I can only hope that development stops and do not bring me back to the year 1349…

Let’s get back to the beautiful. Our camp site for the night was slightly higher than the Pulpit Rock, a little away from the other peers who stayed outdoors. Since we are approaching midsummer, it was not ever really dark, it went gradually from sunset to sunrise. The latter colored the mountainside and trees golden, and the rays of the sun warmed both the morning dew and the early birds.

Sunrise over the Pulpit Rock, Preikestolen, Norway

Sunrise over the Pulpit Rock.

Down at the Pulpit Rock plateau, I felt the fearing sensation when I peeked over the edge. 604 meters down, the azure Lysefjord looked dead calm. I sat down and enjoyed the view. And the silence. Even the hum of mosquitoes around my ears had subsided. A magical moment!
The Pulpit Rock is glowing! Preikestolen, Norway

Fearful joy! Great view from the Pulpit Rock, Preikestolen, Norway

Fearful joy!

Sensation of freedom at the Pulpit Rock, Preikestolen, Norway

The walk down was easier. Since we chose to go to the little hill to the right of the Pulpit Rock to get the view, we went a different way than the fine trail, but I think it’s a nice combination.

The sun was shining and the birds twittering. A wave of happiness washes through my body, and outshines the feeling of soreness in my legs.

Down at Preikestolshytten, you can buy the breakfast buffet, but since time began to run out, we went for the packed lunch offer instead, and packed a real Norwegian lunch including liver pate. Nice to enjoy in the sun before our next adventure started.

Rødne offers fjord cruise on the Lysefjord, so of course we had to try that as well. Since we were already at the “Pulpit Rock side” we chose to be picked up at Lysefjordsenteret by Oanes.

The boat ride through the narrow fjord has a nice balance of informative guiding and silence to enjoy nature. And performances of music by the Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King” and “Nocturne” by Secret Garden. It was a bit strange to see Pulpit Rock loom high above us, and think that I myself had sat up there, swinging my legs over the edge just hours earlier. Although the water was relatively flat, the national romantic waves came continuously.

The only thing missing was a Kvikk Lunch chocolate, but fortunately, they had a kiosk on board…

Hengjanefossen waterfall in Lysefjorden

Hengjanefossen waterfall .

The Pulpit Rock is looming high up there. Preikestolen, Norway

The Pulpit Rock is looming high up there.

Take the ferry over from Fiskepiren in Stavanger to Tau. From here, both Tide Reiser and Boreal offer bus up to Preikestolshytten, which is the starting point for the hike. Buy either single or return ticket. We stayed overnight outdoor up by the Pulpit Rock, but it is also accommodation at Preikestolshytten, in various price ranges.

The hike takes about 2 hours each way, and naturally depends on physical fitness.

If you wish to do the sunrise hike to the Pulpit Rock followed by a fjord cruise on the Lysefjord, Pelles reiser drive a minibus from Preikestolshytten to Oanes ferry quay. From there it is only a few minutes walk to Lysefjordsenteret, where it is possible to be picked up. Fjord cruise on the Lysefjord concludes in Stavanger.

Magical Bagan

Morning haze is starting to ease. As a passenger on an electric scooter, I enjoy the view as we move silently among the countless pagodas and stupas scattered on Bagan’s plains.

A few hours earlier: the night bus from Yangon (which I just barely got to in time…) turns into the bus station a bit outside Bagan. I rub the sleep out of my eyes and continue out into the complete darkness before night becomes day. The search for a taxi driver who is not looking to trick me, starts. I try to pretend that I’m not “beginner” in Myanmar, I did after all ask the hostel what the cost of the trip should be. I find another traveler going to the same place, and we negotiate a common price. Ending up paying more than what I originally had managed to negotiate down to, though. The attempt to understand the logic fails, and we are both too tired to object. Both the luggage and we are pushed into the car. A drive through the unknown darkness await.

The other traveler is Carlos from Colombia, who is now driving the scooter. Despite the fact that we barely had exchanged a few sleepy words, we quickly decided to hire a scooter together, and then also be friends for a day. It’s often that way when traveling alone; you find someone to hang out with pretty quickly. With cameras around our necks and a map in my pocket, we were on the road. Tourists? Us? Not at all… And we were far from alone. Bagan is a very popular destination in Myanmar, and hundreds of thousands find their way here each year. Fortunately, the area is large, so it is still possible to find yourself alone at one of the smaller pagodas.

Old Bagan seemed like a good starting point. Just inside the city walls, or more the ruins of it, we stopped at Gaw Daw Palin Phaya, dating back to the year 1203. The building bears the ravages of time, but personally I think it’s just the way it should be. A structure built 800 years ago, shall not appear new, although large parts were restored after the earthquake of 1975. Inside, however, the modernization apparently started long ago, with small electric candles in front of the Buddha for prayers.

Gaw Daw Palin Phaya, Bagan, Myanmar

Gaw Daw Palin Phaya.

Gaw Daw Palin Phaya, Bagan, Myanmar

Majestic Ananda Phaya Bagan is a sacred and important temple, with four huge statues in gold plated teak inside. Also this temple was severely damaged in the last earthquake, but restoration work here has been done historically accurate. The exterior is elaborately decorated with lions and dragon heads, but also flowers.

Ananda Phaya, Bagan, Myanmar

Ananda Phaya.

Roof of Ananda Phaya, Bagan, Myanmar

Statue in gold plated teak inside Ananda Phaya, Bagan, Myanmar

Statue in gold plated teak inside Ananda Phaya,

From Ananda we found a dusty back road, which leads us to some more deserted temples. After the crowds at Ananda it was lovely to wander by ourselves, only with the sporadic company of locals strolling past on their way to their daily routines.
View of temples in Bagan, Myanmar Locals strolling past on their way to their daily routines. Bagan, Myanmar

The map in my back pocket was mostly intended as guidelines to ensure that we did not miss the obligatory highlights. The fun of exploring a new place is getting a little lost. We took turns on determining the direction each time we came to an intersection, and suddenly we ended up down by the river, where the local were doing the laundry.

Locals doing laundry by the river. Bagan, Myanmar

Locals doing laundry by the river.

We drove on, passing the everyday life. Shops of all kinds along the streets, small food stalls filled with guests hungry for lunch. Craftsmen, fruit sellers and improvised gas stations, which in fact were old soda bottles filled with fuel. We pass silently on our electric scooter, heading to explore more pagodas.

A gas station in Bagan, Myanmar

A typical gas station in Bagan.

Horse and carrage is common transport in Bagan, Myanmar

Shwe san daw pagoda was next. The tall building definitely stands out in the landscape. The sun is burning, and I’ll admit that the idea of climbing the high steps to the top, was not very tempting. But the view was. Pagodas and stupas close together as far as the eye can see, with lush green trees around them. That this is the most popular place to watch the sunset, I’ve absolutely no difficulty understanding. We, however, had a better plan. At least that was what we thought then… Anyway, we still had many hours to go before the sun would color the sky red.

Shwe san daw pagoda. Bagan, Myanmar

Shwe san daw pagoda.

View from Shwe san daw pagoda. Bagan, Myanmar

Our lojal electric scooter was still in good spirits with great energy, and took us further through the plains on the sandy roads.

Towards Dhammayangyi tempele. Bagan, Myanmar

Heading towards Dhammayangyi tempele.

Shwezigon Pagoda is considered the prototype for many Myanmar stupas. Strangely enough, this was here we met the smallest number of tourists. Or, let me rephrase – less foreign tourists. The area swarmed with people, but most of them were local students on a school trip.

Shwezigon Pagoda. Bagan, Myanmar

Shwezigon Pagoda.

Sunset over Bagan is often described as a magical experience. With my fascination for sunsets, this was obviously something I had to experience. Fortunately, Carlos shared this opinion. Unfortunately, so did almost all the other visitors… Despite the fact that we had done research on where we should go, nothing could prepare us for what we experienced.

Sunset means rush-hour in Bagan, and traffic is at a complete standstill. Major tourist buses, private cars, tractors, horse and carriage, scooters, bicycles, mostly things on wheels really, compete to get through on the narrow sandy roads. All others than those with scooters and bikes have to realize that they are out of luck. The latter mean of transport is most likely to sneak past the queue, but is probably too far away from the goal and must recognize that it is too late. In other words, get there in VERY good time if you plan to watch the sunset from one of the most famous places. It applies for anyone anyway, since you often need to go via the major roads to get even to the remote places.
Along the road. Bagan, Myanmar Early morning goats in Bagan, Myanmar

Nightmare at sunset by Pyathada pagoda. Bagan, Myanmar

Avoid this nightmare! According to what we found of recommendations online, Pyathada pagoda should be less crowded. Completely wrong…

Sunset by  Pyathada pagoda. Bagan, Myanmar Sunset by  Pyathada pagoda. Bagan, Myanmar Sunset by  Pyathada pagoda. Bagan, Myanmar

But do not despair. Sunrise in Bagan is also beautiful. In fact, even more beautiful. Learning from the sunset experience, I chose to spend the dawning morning hours at a smaller pagoda along with a small group from the hostel. A totally different experience!

In almost total silence we sat patiently and looked ahead of us in the twilight. At dawn we could see the hot air balloons being inflated in the distance, before they cast off at sunrise and drifted slowly along the horizon as peaceful shadows.
Magic sunrise in  Bagan. Myanmar Magic sunrise in  Bagan. Myanmar

Many earthquakes throughout the centuries have placed much of the area in ruins. Extensive restoration work is implemented, but unfortunately a lot of work has been done without taking into account historical fidelity and accuracy.

A cool breeze mixed with historic atmosphere as the morning mist again disappeared and Bagan’s countless pagodas come out of the veil. It is indisputably a beautiful sight to see the peaks of the pagodas glowing in the colors of the sunrise.
Morning haze after sunrise in Bagan, Myanmar
Morning glow in Bagan, Myanmar

Where to stay:
If you visit Bagan in high season, it might be vise to book your accommodation in advance, as the city is  completely fully booked some days.
I stayed at Ostello Bello Bagan, simply because I had great experience staying at their hostel in Milan a few years back. The rooms are super nice, and they even have a resting area with a few beds on the roof terrace if you arrive early. The locals across the street offer all kinds of service, such as e-scooter rental, laundry, bus/boat tickets, etc. Very convenient.

Getting to Bagan:
I took the night bus from Yangon to Bagan, run by Joyous Journey Express (JJ-Express), but there are many other companies running the same route. I booked the ticket very conveniently by chat on their Facebook site. The ticket is paid directly at the bus station when you arrive.

See more information about Bagan.