The transportation options in Bagan and in Myanmar are important. In Guanajuato, Mexico, where we’ve lived for the past 3 years, taxis and buses are available, but most of the time we walk everywhere. In Bagan, Myanmar though, the hot weather makes walking unpleasant. Climbing on an ebike and having the breeze blow through my hair is a lot nicer than walking when it’s 100 degrees outside. So we’ve all gotten proficient at using the various forms of transportation in Myanmar and especially in Bagan: ebikes, scooters, tuk tuks, trains, and taxis.
John bought a new eBike yesterday with the help of Nayt, who had recently purchased 10 eBikes to rent out directly from the hotel that he manages in New Bagan. We got a deal on the bike and we’re glad to have it because the heat makes it challenging to walk long-distances in the city. Meanwhile, Lydi and Naing Naing have continued to argue (playfully) about whether they should buy an eBike or a scooter.
eBikes vs. Scooters
So, the question of whether to buy an ebike or a scooter is not as straightforward as it seems to our American sensibilities. Here in Bagan, the locals buzz around mostly on scooters while tourists make use of the ebikes. And, as Americans, we prefer the eBikes because they seem to be more environmentally sound…and, we aren’t allowed to drive scooters in Myanmar. But for Naing Naing, a local, a scooter is a status symbol. And which scooter he and Lydi buys is apparently important. They’ve been negotiating about it endlessly for the past two weeks. Which scooter is best?
But Lydian doesn’t want a scooter because, as a foreigner, she won’t be able to use it. Foreigners can only use ebikes. She could rent an ebike in Bagan. It’s true. But, she’d like to be able to walk outside and just use the ebike without having to walk to an ebike rental in Bagan to negotiate a price. So the argument is ongoing, but I’m sure they’ll sort it out eventually.
Tuk tuks are widely available throughout the city. Lydian has taken tuk tuks to get from Nyaung U to New Bagan and back again. The other day, an English-speaking tuk tuk driver stopped to ask Lydian and I if we needed a ride back to our house. He’s a friend of Naing Naing’s so he gave us a ride for free, which was not expected, but very much appreciated.
Trains transport people between cities in Myanmar. They’re pretty primitive and slow but safer than taking intercity taxis. We have yet to make use of the train system here in Myanmar, but we have seen the trains pass by while we were on our way from here to there via taxi. While taxis are less safe, they’re faster overall, and they have air conditioning, so I guess you have to pick your poison.
Within Bagan, Myanmar, there’s usually no need to hire a taxi to take you from place to place. An ebike or tuk tuk will usually suffice unless you’re transporting a large quantity of luggage from one place to another. A lot of the taxi drivers chew betel nut, which is off-putting, so be prepared for that. As I understand it, the effects of betel nut are similar to those of coffee…it’s an “upper” which could, theoretically enhance the driver’s reaction time if you’re traveling between cities.