BAGAN - TWO THOUSAND PAGODAS


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Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Bagan
August 12th 2018
Published: June 11th 2019
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MY CHARIOTMY CHARIOTMY CHARIOT

I was happy with my choice of transportation to see the temples of Bagan. It was cool and the pace was sedate.
BAGAN

Although the bus to Bagan was a large coach with recliner type seats, I could not reach the foot rests and kept slipping off the seat. Thanks to the chilly air conditioner I shivered through most of the evening. I transferred to a small van when we reached Bagan. We passed a dozen lit pagodas in the next fifteen minutes. I arrived at my hotel after midnight. I was so happy to have a bed to stretch out on.

I slept late, had a good breakfast and sat outside under an awning to use the computer and skype. A driver took me to a small settlement to find an ATM and buy some fruit and bread. On our way I saw tourists on bicycles, motor scooters and on foot. There were sprawling fenced hotels rubbing shoulders with temples. My back door faced the pool with a backdrop of stupas and temples, almost close enough to touch. I changed into my bathing suit just as the empty pool was taken over by a group of boisterous men. Then the skies turned gray and the rain began. No swimming for me today.

I went to the front desk to
STUPA ON THE SIDEWALKSTUPA ON THE SIDEWALKSTUPA ON THE SIDEWALK

It seemed strange to see ancient pagodas rubbing shoulders with schools, hotels and businesses.
arrange a tour of the temples. I asked what choices of transportation I had. When the concierge mentioned “horse cart” in her list of options I jumped at the chance to add that experience to my travels.

The next morning after breakfast I was introduced to my horse, Imya, and driver, Kotek. Such a cute cart – I knew I had booked the right transportation. I thought it was a lark to get my leg up to my hip height and pull myself up to the bench seat, at first. I knew there were a lot of temples and I had plenty of energy for the first twenty or so. A covered awning protected us from the sun and there was ample space in the cushioned back of the wagon for my bag of fruits and sweets. There was a nice breeze and it was pleasant to hear the horse’s hooves. The leisurely pace was relaxing.

The first temple was empty of tourists. There was just a young Burmese family and the young man guided me through the building. He cautioned me to watch my head, the arches were sometimes low. He told me about a magnitude 6.8
STUNNING VIEWSSTUNNING VIEWSSTUNNING VIEWS

Sometimes the best view is from a distance.
earthquake in 2016, which damaged or destroyed 400 pagodas. I worried a bit about the crumbling walls. When we were finished he took me into the last room where he had his artwork spread out on the floor. I was amazed and bought several beautiful drawings.

We came to the next temple, bigger and full of tourists. It was different and there were many vendors selling lacquer ware, clothes, jewelry, food, and so on. I couldn’t help but think of Jesus admonishing the merchants in the temple. Each time I would tell the driver I would not be long, and I wasn’t going to buy anything else, and every time I came back to the cart with a purchase in my hand. Once as I was watching three women filling holes in the outside wall of a temple with cement, a woman offered an inexpensive cotton longyi. I couldn’t pass it up. At another stop I found a cotton pullover blouse to match. (I wore this outfit many, many, times during the rest of my trip.)

“There are over 2000 temples, pagodas and temples in Bagan,” Kotek said. He explained that stupas are ornate shrines that you just
TEMPLE RISING FROM SURROUNDING GARDENTEMPLE RISING FROM SURROUNDING GARDENTEMPLE RISING FROM SURROUNDING GARDEN

Serenity here...inside there were always vendors.
observe from the outside, and temples are those with rooms you can walk through, and sometimes a traveling monk might spend the night there. Monasteries are homes to resident monks and are open for study and prayer. Always there are local artisans selling their wares.

No two temples were alike. I gave up trying to identify them by name. In one silent temple I was given a private tour, the guide pointing out ancient murals that were dreamlike pastels of the life of Buddha. There were always golden statues of Buddha, often ancient carvings in the walls, and ornate carved architectural enhancements on the outside of the temples, the soaring roof sometimes gilded.

Finally my driver took me to a restaurant where I had some tea and lunch. I felt somewhat revived as we continued our drive. Around three o’clock my camera and my cell phone were full so I could not take any more photos. I was exhausted from pulling myself up onto the horse cart, and I told Kotek I was finished. He was incredulous. He said I must see the sunset. I shook my head and grimly said I was done. He pulled up to
BURMESE LACQUERWAREBURMESE LACQUERWAREBURMESE LACQUERWARE

This young woman was delighted to show me some of the techniques her family uses to create lovely designs on shiny black lacquerware cups, plates and bowls.
another temple and I just sat in the cart. He climbed into the back and waited, and waited. After forty five minutes he said, “You are really not going to get out?” And I said, “No. Please, take me back to the hotel.”

I had time to swim and eat. Then I boarded the bus for Lake Inle.


Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


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BUDDHABUDDHA
BUDDHA

There is a circular walkway inside, usually with a Buddha in each of four shrines.
IMPRESSIVE IMPRESSIVE
IMPRESSIVE

It would take some study to understand the different postures and symbolism.
ANCIENT ARTWORKANCIENT ARTWORK
ANCIENT ARTWORK

Older temples require careful attention to even see the old murals and carvings.
WINDOW ARCHITECTUREWINDOW ARCHITECTURE
WINDOW ARCHITECTURE

There is as much detail and embellishment outside as there is inside.
SO MUCH TO SEESO MUCH TO SEE
SO MUCH TO SEE

This is in a public square at one of the larger temples.
RENOVATIONRENOVATION
RENOVATION

Workers building a ladder. Many temples suffered severe damage during the 2016 earthquake.
REPAIRSREPAIRS
REPAIRS

Artisans working to restore a temple.
OLD BUILDING TECHNIQUES, NEW TECHNOLOGIESOLD BUILDING TECHNIQUES, NEW TECHNOLOGIES
OLD BUILDING TECHNIQUES, NEW TECHNOLOGIES

This is one of my favorite photos, a cultural wake up call. It drags me from the past to the present.
MY DRIVERMY DRIVER
MY DRIVER

Kotek waited for me in comfort. Sometimes he visited with friends while I walked barefoot on hard cement or tile...for miles, it seemed.
MINIATURESMINIATURES
MINIATURES

A view of the surrounding landscape. The sheer number is astounding.
AN EPIC UNDERTAKINGAN EPIC UNDERTAKING
AN EPIC UNDERTAKING

Repairing a major structure.
WOMAN REPAIRING A WALLWOMAN REPAIRING A WALL
WOMAN REPAIRING A WALL

She is injecting plaster into holes in the wall.


12th June 2019

Pagodas and more pagoda
Bagan is an unusual and marvelous town. Maybe a saturation point on pagodas. Looks like you are having a great time.

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