Published: July 11th 2011July 10th 2011
BAGAN: EXPLORING MYANMAR’S MOST WONDROUS SIGHT (Dear friends. No, I’m no longer in Myanmar. I’m actually in Brazil, but time didn’t allow me to finish blogging on my last trip until now. So, here is a little more on Burma, before I blog on Maceio.
Among the joys of travelling are meeting of travelers and at times bringing down stereotypes. I had a chance to do just that as I started my journey to Bagan and the sights of the centuries old temples of which first drew my attention to Myanmar.
From Inle to the Heho airport I shared the taxi ride with Laura, an incredibly talkative and friendly girl from Latvia. She was nothing like the stereotypical person from the Baltic region: “cold, unfriendly,…”. Arriving at the airport, I meet 2 very arrogant, unfriendly Brazilians. Now, I’m Brazilian, and we have a reputation for being fun, loving, warm people. Definitely not those 2! The point is that people are who they are, and being open to new encounters will bring you both positive and negative surprises alike, along the way. I take the experience simply for what it is, and love meeting people. ARRIVING IN BAGAN
My pre-arranged pick-up service from the hotel Kumudara was a no-show. A traveler suggested Kaday Aung Hotel ($18, excellent room) and I took a taxi to the resort like setting, located in New Bagan.
Checked in, met a couple from France, rented a bike (expensive, but convenient @ hotel: 1,500K for ½ day) and went to the internet (cheaper here: 800K/hr). Riding back in the dark, got lost, and as I found myself sliding through the soft sand, I hear a voice calling my name: It was the French guy, now playing a board game with some locals. I joined them and later we all had dinner together. Just my luck, I spotted frogs hopping everywhere. Yeah, yeah…. I embarrassingly confess to be a little scared of the little creatures, and from that point on, since I knew they were all around, there was no more walking in the dark for me, only biking. EXPLORING BAGAN:
A brief peek on the history of Bagan: A 26-square miles plain of more than 4000 century-old temples (2,000 still up), mixing Hinduism, Buddhism and Nat (spirit), makes the area a jaw-dropping sight like no other. Truly spectacular! The temples
started to be built by King Anawranta’s architects in 850 and continued to be built until the 13th century. Hard to imagine that this truly spectacular area was a spooky region, riddled with bandits and “guardian spirits” from the 14th to the 18th century! Only the temples survived, as they were made of brick. The houses as palaces, made out of wood, had all vanished by the time the British came to re-occupy the area.
Eager to start exploring, at 5am I was up and on the go. I rented “the best” bike at the shop, and it was still a bad, squeaky one, definitely not made for the soft sand all around. Since it was my first day, I followed this dude from Spain who had been in the area for some days and became my unofficial guide.
The temples are all unique. The big ones holding more riches and artwork, but it was in the small ones that I found myself “belonging”. Peaceful, serene! Sometimes a temple stood by a poor family’s hut, with animals, kids and the century old temple, (besides me, the intruding visitor), all coexisting. Sometimes, there wasn’t a single soul in sight;
many were very dark inside, requiring a flashlight; some with access to the top for a singular view of the whole plain.
Herds of goats and Ox carts were common part of the landscape, cruising among the temples. Time appeared to have stopped centuries ago, as I biked on the dusty paths, thorns often pricking through my sandals and pants. Only as I approached the bigger temples and I was approached by vendors eager to sell me paintings, clothing, bracelets, and the sort, the spell would temporarily be broken. Once I’d decline purchasing the goodies, the vendors would start the plea for trading: “You have lipstick? Mascara? Perfume?” Some wanted my sunglasses, and others even my shirt!!! I’ve seen people starved for trading like these in movies only! That was a surprise.
Sunsets and sunrises are popular at certain big temples for their spectacular views, but some locals told me of a smaller temple where I could enjoy the scenery without the crowds. It was a shame that the clouds got on the way during all 4 days, spoiling the opportunity for that perfect clicking moment, as I attempted to witness and freeze, the sun behind the temples.
However, eventhough not perfect for photos, the scenery and vibe were still magical.
FOOD in the Bagan area: I loved the concept, atmosphere and the food at “BE KIND TO ANIMALS”, a vegetarian restaurant. In New Bagan, Royal served tasty food at good price. The owner was very friendly. The locals we shared the board game with shared their delicious meal with us. Nuts, grains and rice mostly.
Instead of going to the LACQUER shops published or with signs, I ventured into an area in Old Bagan where all family members worked right there in their yards. Very poor surroundings, yet with incredible art being produced before your eyes. I wish I had the space to bring several pieces home. Besides the beauty of the work, I developed an even greater appreciation for the artistic and time consuming
process involved, requiring enormous skill. The finished pieces displayed delicate and intricate designs.
My time in Bagan was tranquil. I explored the area in 4.5 days without rush, feeling comfortable with the surrounding, returning to areas I enjoyed, getting to know some locals. At other times of the year it may be cooler, but April wasn’t crowded, and that
was a major plus. Exploring the temples of Bagan was nothing like exploring the ones in Cambodia. A completely different experience. Both unique in their own ways, and I feel very fortunate I have gotten to witness both.
I truly enjoyed my journey in Bagan.
Until next time.
There are more photos below