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Published: January 27th 2012
Leaving Mandalay, I opted for the slow ferry heading to Bagan. With a 5:30 am departure, it was only $10. The ride should have been between eleven and fifteen hours, though it slowly turned into seventeen hour cruise down river. Lined with Burmese families, they spread themselves across the floorboards laying on their mats. Families huddled together draped in their handmade blankets to stay warm. I wasn't expecting Myanmar to be this cold. Roosters crowed and the sun beganto rise as we slowly pulled out of the dock leaving Mandalay behind.
As the morning progressed I could see the families were very interested in the handful of foreigners along for the ride. The people I met were kind and generous. Sure, some of them wanted to sell me blankets, and food, but how else would they make any money. Each person I spoke with laughed at my Burmese though enjoyed hearing a white person make an attempt at the language. Throughout the day from family to family I learned new words, enjoyed some food, and played with the children. For many of them, it was their first time seeing and speaking with westerner. It was surprising to me the amount
of construction equipment being moved up and down the river. Myanmar is a developing country that is about to explode with not only its agricultural exports, but its energy and tourist industry as well.
Stopping at numerous villages along the way, the number of golden topped pagodas and stoopas continued to amaze me. In what seemed to be the middle of nowhere you could always find one lining the horizon.
The sun began to set and the cold set in. The sky opened up and with no light around us the stars shined down. We finally made it to Bagan.
I stumbled across a picture of Bagan five months ago while killing some time on the internet. “The Land of a Thousand Temples”. Really, its more like three-thousand. Seeing this picture - I knew this was a place I had to be.
I met up with Julie and Melanie who I traveled with back in Mandalay, We rented bikes for the day to wander the area from pagoda to pagoda. Exploring Bagan I imagined myself to be Indiana Jones adventuring through unknown temples, thinking there may be booby-traps at every turn.
Each temple has its
own feel. I can't pronounce any of them, but that just makes them even more fun to explore. Temple after temple, Buddha after Buddha. I don't think its possible to see them all.
A local family greeted us as we approached one of the bigger ones. The mother assured us our bikes would be safe with her. She insisted her children take us around the area. Two of her daughters twelve and nine years old showed us the way. “Namebehlokole?” I asked. “What is your name?” They giggled and then told me. I cant say I remember them though. We visited a handful or temples before finally settling in on a quiet one for sunset and enjoyed the dusk.
The next morning the three of us woke up to catch the sunrise. I had heard Bagan was a big place for ballooning and that they launch at sunrise. Wanting to catch the sunrise over the temples with balloons in sight, we left the hotel around 5:30 am biking with a thirty minute ride ahead of us. With the moon and stars above we peddled hard to try and not be late. We got to the pagoda as dawn
crept up on the horizon. Climbing to the top, the view was breathtaking. It was more than I imagined. Again, I can only say that words and pictures do not do this place justice.
The mist set and the sun rose as the thousands of Pagodas shined. In the distance we could see the hot-air balloons taking off. Floating in the sky they made their way across the horizon towards the Pagodas. It was a surreal experience that I'll never forget.
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