Eat and meet
BaganOverall the eating scene in Bagan is pretty disappointing. Nyaung U has the largest number of eateries across all fares, New Bagan has a mishmash of local and tourist fare and Old Bagan is dominated by the open-air eating scene not far from Ananda Pahto.
In Nyaung U, the tourist eating scene is centred on Restaurant Road, which is lined with restaurants, cafes, travel agents, souvenir stalls and so on. Despite trying multiple places along here, nothing was particularly good -- the Indian food in particular is poor and overpriced. There's also a bunch of places advertising Thai food, but for a country that neighbours Thailand, the Thai fare here was especially poor -- and often totally unrecognisable as Thai. Towards the northern end there are a couple of BBQ places -- and given BBQ is fairly difficult to screw up, they're not too bad. Overall, Restaurant Road is totally forgettable. We have heard good things about Black Bamboo, on a sideroad leading to Restaurant Road, but it was closed when we were in Bagan.
That's not to say Nyaung U isn't a write off for food -- you just need to get closer to town. The highlight for us was Weatherspoon's, opposite Pann Cherry Guesthouse, which does excellent foreigner-orientated fare and has in the form of Win Tun, an exceptionally friendly, English speaking owner. Highly recommended.
For breakfast in Nyaung U, your best bet is a couple of local eateries almost opposite Shwe Na Di Guesthouse where you'll get very good mohinga at local rates. Come the evening there are a couple of very popular BBQ places along here as well.
If you're looking for a sundowner, The Beach (just follow the large signs from the roundabout) has arguably the best river-frontage in town, but it was totally deserted for our sunset visit so we bailed after a single beer. Still, with a crowd, this could be a fun splurge -- prices are moderate. We've also been told about a no-name joint operating out of a local's house behind Shwezigon Paya -- the traveller that told us about it couldn't remember the name, but said the beers were iced, cheap and the views were great. We'll be chasing that one up!
In Old Bagan, the bulk of the places to eat are set in a rambling semi-open air area near Ananda Pahto The standout around here is Star Beam which does, we kid you not, fantabulous fresh baguetes with brie -- or was in camerbert -- we should know as over eight days in Bagan we had three. This cluster of eateries is also well known for their vegetarian restaurants, which we found overpriced, even considering the massive serving size, but the fresh juices and shakes were refreshing.
As with its accommodation, New Bagan's eating scene is a very mixed bag. There are a clutch of places on the north side of the Eight Faces Paya in the middle of the main road that can cover you for both breakfast and dinner. While Nooch Bagan looks a bit cheesy with its fairy lights in the evening, the food is solid, the portions oversized and the service friendly. There's sort of an attached karaoke/open air dancing room thing next to the entrance here (its difficult to describe, you'll recognise it when you see it) that had a bunch of wasted travellers in it when we visited it. Was a peculiar yet fun scene.
Further west down the main road you'll reach the tourist-orientated Silver House restaurant which we didn't try because the windows were wrapped in chicken wire and, on the opposite side of the road there is another small restaurant, which does standard dishes for reasonable rates.
For river views down this part of Bagan, your best option is either Green Elephant or the second riverfront place just to the south of it -- both of which offer tourist orientated fare and cold drinks with a river view thrown in. You will pay a slight premium for eating here, but the views are very pleasant.
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