Published: July 18th 2011March 3rd 2011
Bagan, an ancient capital of several kingdoms within Burma, home to some 2,217 pagodas. One of the big four destinations in Burma, if not THE destination. The plan of attack was to spend a few days here exploring the temples and its surrounds mostly via bicycle. And that’s pretty much what happened. But for starters for a mere I believe $16 a night I perhaps stayed in one of the nicest hotels that I’ve stayed in over the past few years travelling. A wicker orientated roundhouse with futons, air con, en suite shower, shitter and minibar, oh and lights! Not to mention breakfast and a SWIMMING POOL! Which was going to become a sublime treat when the mid-afternoon heat kicked in.
Arriving around 4pm’ish we opted to head straight to the pool as opposed to temple gazing, we would save that for the following morning. Not for the first time on our exploits of Burma we stumbled across a gathering of French people making French noises. And as per usual they didn’t speak to us and we didn’t speak to them, an often mutual agreement. One thing I don’t understand apart from French...and...The French is the towel thing, I
was under the impression that it was strictly a 1980’s German thing whereby one leaves their towel on the sun lounger and then fucks off for 8 hours, but it appears that the French now have adopted this insolence. I’ll leave it at that.
After breakfast the following morning we set out on our squeaky pushbikes to explore the works of the ancients. You can’t go far without stumbling across a temple in Bagan, they are everywhere, that’s why there are 2,217 of them. The only partially annoying thing being every time we had to go in one we had to take our shoes and socks off because Buddha thinks that foot wears for fags. So we respected the Buddha’s best wishes.....for the most part. The whole plateau of Bagan is reasonably flat, so after climbing a few stairs you are rewarded with some amazing views across the whole of Bagan which allows you to really soak up the number of temples that drench the valley.
At a few of the most popular temples there are a number of hawkers trying to sell you their wares, I’d heard tales that if you didn’t purchase goods from them then
they would let your tyres down whilst you explored the temple and when you come back a guy would offer to put air back into your flat tyres for an overinflated price – no pun intended. But we never witnessed such savagery.
One slight pitfall were that for reasons of preservation some areas of temples were sectioned off, it just so happened that these corridors led off into dark and dingy looking places that would seemingly offer a greater sense of adventure, but I think this is perhaps a case of don’t press the big red button, to which of course we didn’t, for all we knew there could have been nothing down these sectioned off areas...except rape.
As the mid-afternoon heat kicked in we re-treated to the confines of our plush hotel and chilled out by the pool next a mediocre Spanish bird with big norks that neither I nor Steve ever spoke to. In the evening we visited a nearby temple for sundown and to fore fill photographic opportunities.
Upon our last full day in Bagan we hired a taxi for $35 to pay a visit to Mt. Popa, a mountain that rises some 1518
metres above sea level, approximately 50km south east of Bagan. The Taungkalat temple at Mt. Popa and the way it is positioned upon the summit of a section of rock was quite a sight as too were the views from the temple itself. However the actual peak of Mt. Popa was some way off, we kind of had visions of perhaps doing some trekking to its summit, but this didn’t seem to pay any part of the package that we had paid for. Our trekking requirements would have to get soaked up when we visit Kalaw and Inle Lake.
And so draws to a close our trip to Bagan and its surrounds, I appreciated the temples and the master crafts that went into them, and as I knew for me and probably for Steve also a whole day of trudging around the temples was definitely enough for me, to soak up the works of the ancients and the days of an empire long gone, the ability to be able to hire a bicycle and visit the temples in your own time makes for a more idealistic approach to exploring the area as opposed to being shipped about via a
coach on a group tour. This obviously being a personal choice as others may beg to differ, but regardless Bagan and its confines are a must for any visitor to Burma.
There are more photos below