During the first two weeks of our time here in Bagan, Myanmar, we needed to find a house to live in, furnish it, get Internet (we hoped for higher speed Internet than what was available at the hotel) locate food to cook with, and figure out how to get around the city easily in the heat. We were staying in the Crown Prince Hotel in New Bagan, which had adequate Internet services in the lobby, but we had only our 4G service in the room. Lydian and Naing Naing had gotten permission to rent a house long-term in the TheinGa quarter and though it was basic, they already had a comfy couch and sofa set, a real bed, and basic kitchen supplies (a rice cooker and a sink). John and I weren’t sure what we’d find.
As a general rule, tourists are not allowed to rent long-term housing in Bagan. There are AirBnB properties available in Yangon and Mandalay, but in the Bagan area (including Old Bagan, New Bagan, and Nyaung U), tourists have to stay in one of the many hotels. The hotels are very nice. Most of them are quite clean and comfortable, but only a few of them are set up with amenities like a kitchenette and a sitting area for longer-term stays. And in Bagan, at the time of this writing, all of the hotels charge a nightly rate. Discounts for longer-term stays are definitely available if you contact the owner or manager of a hotel directly and tell them you’d like to stay for a longer-period of time, but for the most part, these discounts don’t appear to be available online through sites like Booking.com.
There are, however, an over-abundance of hotels in this area with more being built each day. Our understanding is that, as a result, supply is high and demand is, as a result, getting lower. Tourism is the primary industry in this area, at this time, so the hotel industry certainly looks like a good best for investors who hope to cash in on package deals for tourists that include things like tours and ebike rentals. Meanwhile, many of the hotels have failed to realize the potential value of high-speed Internet in attracting long-term travelers like Digital Nomads and Worldschoolers. It won’t be long though. High speed Internet (80 Mbsp+) has made it to Bagan. I’m sitting in my house on a high-speed connection in Bagan right now (it’s October, 2019), in fact. But most of the hotels haven’t asked for the service yet (we were the first high-speed customers in this area). Certainly, hotels want to save a bit on their monthly Internet costs, but this is where you, as the consumer, can help them understand the value of high-speed Internet…
Digital Nomas in Myanmar and Worldschoolers who need to make a living online while they’re visiting this amazing little city can ask hotel owners about high-speed Internet and ask if they could pay personally for a higher-speed connection if they plan to be at the hotel for a month or longer. It’s important that you talk with a manager or an owner who speaks English because the receptionists are not decision makers and they aren’t likely to understand what you’re asking for even if they seem to be fluent in English. If hotel owners and managers in Bagan start to notice that they’re getting a lot of requests for high-speed Internet, chances are, they’ll up their service. And, in some cases, for people who are willing to foot the bill for a better connection, you might be able to talk to a manager and simply get them to up their Internet speed for the duration of your stay.
Though there is rental housing available in Bagan, you probably won’t be able to do an AirBnB with a full kitchen and bedrooms unless you have a social visit visa. We got our social visit visa because Lydian is married to Naing Naing, a local (which we had to prove) and we are therefore family to her and Naing Naing as well. At any time, they could revoke the visa or refuse to re-instate it on our ten week visa runs that we’ll have to do, like it or not. But at the moment, there are new countries being offered visa-free access to Myanmar and 28-day tourists visas available for everyone else.
Hotels may start to catch on to the idea of creating more apartment-style housing if demand for this type of lodging becomes apparent in Bagan. So ask around. It wouldn’t be difficult to convert some of the bigger hotel rooms into a studio-like apartment, but hotel owners and managers have to have the idea to make these conversions. Demand is the key in this situation.
But there’s no reason for Digital Nomads and Worldschoolers to be afraid of Bagan anymore. High-speed Internet is available in the city. It is possible to access high-speed Internet in Bagan which should help the city build its tourism industry even further. That would benefit everyone because Bagan is an incredible destination. In my opinion, it’s the most enchanting place to visit in all of Southeast Asia with its rich culture, clean air, incredible food, and friendly locals.