If you love your Prius or other hybrid car, you’ll adore your e-bike!
Quiet like a hybrid car running on battery, the lightweight e-bikes are all the rage in Bagan. If you need a motorcycle license to ride them, nobody who rents them seems to know, care or mention it. The taxicab drivers may not be pleased, because it seems that the easy-to-handle e-bikes of Bagan are now the most common tourist mode of transport.
They do let you see and soak up more of what Bagan has to offer. Better yet, their silence is such that two riders can have a comfortable conversation even when going at relative top speed. Unlike the tour bus or taxi ride that requires you to first dial in a specific location, the e-bike is the meanderer’s best friend.
Warning: In the space of three days we saw and heard of three e-bike spills. The sand patches on the dirt roads leading to many temples- large and small, popular and unknowns—are not quite forgiving and it’s easy to picture mishaps happen there in great frequency. Unlike a motorbike though, these are lightweight and not the potential body crushers. Unlike a bicycle, they do have pick up to help you get out of ruts. That said, this writer had to fight an urge to do a citizen’s arrest when I saw a woman sitting side saddle on an e-bike, sans helmet, and holding what appeared to be a young infant still in diaper swaddling.
Setting out on your e-bike Bagan adventure, you too may feel tugged in two opposite directions. One is the map seeming to shout to you to see as much as you can of the thousands of Bagan temples in the little time you have. The other impulse, just as strong, is to totally go off map and let fate direct your wanderings and day. We landed somewhere in between these two extremes, happy to look for what the guidebook says are the main temples cherrypicked by archeologists and Bagan experts for highlights, but also open to following the detour roads we stumbled upon along the way.
How fun to be lost when looking for a famous Irrawaddy shore temple to find one not on the map, and also an expanse of the river where locals were looking for seafood.
Yes, you are in a world heritage site, but so often you are also near villagers’ homes and paths. Smiles abound—whether you are making a u-turn in a shack’s yard that is between two ancient stupas, or meeting another herdsman crisscrossing the temple remains with his cows or goats.
When you dwell upon how many thousands of tourists these locals have met and greeted ,their universal good cheer becomes somewhat astounding.
Best yet, if other modes of transport or your hotel surrounds are giving you a touch of claustrophobia that comes when you are in a constricting tourist ghetto, there is always alternate space to expand and take a breather all along the temple strewn roads.
One learns to spot the temples that are too small for tour buses and/or to linger across the road at lesser stupas and temples until the tour bus at a must-see site departs.
The most essential thing to pack for a Bagan trip is wanderlust. You can’t pack enough…