Stay: Aurem Palace - Yes this is the same chain we stayed at in Ngapali so it had the same slow food service. However, if the Orringers thought it was one of the most spectacular hotels they have ever stayed at, it must mean something.
Do: Balloons over Bagan is a highlight for many when they go to Bagan. Along with that, I would recommend renting bikes for a half a day and exploring the ancient city. There are plenty of paths all around Bagan that give you the ability to explore endless temples all by yourself. One tip: try to get a mountain bike if you can because most paths are dirt.
See: With about 1,000 temples and 2,000 Pagodas, it will be a little difficult to see them all (and it would also be a lot of Buddhist relics to take in). You will of course be brought to the most popular ones, but one off the beaten path is Gu Byauk Gyi Temple. It was voted the #1 temple by UNESCO due to the marvelous paintings inside. The only reason we went here is because our tour guide worked for UNESCO, restoring the wall paintings for 4 years.
Tour Guide to Use: Our tour guide in Bagan is the best there is and works directly with the Minister of Tourism in Bagan. If traveling here, you will not be disappointed. His name is Than Htay and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shop: Since Bagan is known for its lacquer, there are tons of factories to go to and buy anything, from coasters to jewelry boxes. The only thing about the factories is that the higher quality work means higher prices. Therefore, if you are looking to get some cheaper lacquerware (less dips of lacquer = lower quality), just stop at any of the famous P&T to haggle with local souvenir shops who set up on the property. (Bargain hard: don’t settle for anything less than 30 – 40% of the original price.)
|The view when walking into the Aurem Palace hotel.|