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Published: December 15th 2018
Today was long, hot and tiring but very enjoyable. We woke late and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on the rooftop of our hostel. There were finally beautiful blue skies and even at 9am it was very warm in the sun.
Last night we finally had good enough WiFi to download the app ‘Map.me’. We first came across this trekking in Nepal where Robin had it on his phone and it helped us out on a number of occasions (unfortunately we still had to use compass bearings at other times). We found it recommended on a blog for Bagan as unlike google maps it had all of the paths and tracks marked out. I cannot recommend this enough if you are travelling - it’s been ace today and even has annotations about some of the temples on.
Our hostel provides free (very old) bicycles so we decided to peddle today rather than use the recommended ‘e-bikes’ (which are actually just electric scooters). Bagan is on a plain so pretty flat and we figured cycling would be ok. It was, mostly, just the bikes were very hard work on anything other than flat tarmac!
Leaving the hostel we headed west,
towards Old Bagan. We thought we would reach the more or less the furthest point from our hostel and then head slowly back toward it.
Our first stop was the magnificent Ananda Paya. A large, guilded building which stands out from the road and is still very much in use. There are 4 huge standing Buddha’s, one at each entrance to the temple, each behind huge teak doors flanked by 2 statues. The wall in the corridors are covered floor to ceiling with alcoves with images of Buddha in. They rather reminded me of the hall of faces in Game of Thrones.
Next to this temple is a chapel famous for its frescos which was sadly shut.
From here we went to the Thabyinyu Paya, which is the highest temple in Bagan at 207ft. Despite signs calling it a library we could see no signs of this. It has a large, inaccessible, 2nd floor and we wondered if it was there.
Not far from here we saw the only Hindu temple in Bagan, the statues are recent as the originals were stolen by a German in the 1890s!
Most of the temples have been rebuilt (over 2000 of
them since 1995). Partly due to years of neglect and partly as a result of extensive damage following an earthquake in 1975. I’ve seen it described as a ‘Disneyland version of the ruined temples’. Whilst this is controversial as most of the ‘restoration’ techniques just involve rebuilding the things with modern techniques and designs it does make it incredibly frustrating that we are no longer allowed to climb up most of them! Especially the ones with newly cemented stairs...
After exploring some lesser known (and therefore quieter and more pleasant) temples we found somewhere for lunch, a cold drink and a rest in the shade.
Following lunch we headed towards the river and saw the Bu Phaya, a golden temple complete with atm next to the shrine in case you forgot your cash....
Further along the river was a marked view point. The temple here was guarded by some very cool looking lions.
Carrying on along the road, east towards our hostel, we kept crossing it to see the temples either side. Along this route we found 4 temples you can reach the roof on. We ended our day on a very busy roof of a 3 storied
temple, watching the sun set with snacks and a cold drink. Perfect.
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