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Published: June 11th 2019
I was happy with my choice of transportation to see the temples of Bagan. It was cool and the pace was sedate.
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 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
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 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
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.
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