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Published: December 22nd 2016
Hmmm.....how to sum up a week in Bagan when you haven't been blogging the whole time - Pagodas and dust perhaps? Once more the pictures do not to the place full justice as it is just awesome!! Loved it here and felt I had at last found the Burma of my dreams.
The military junta formed the Bagan Archaeolgical Zone (and tourists have to buy a 5 day permit to visit), people who had been living for generations in this area were turfed out of their homes and forced to move to the outlying areas. The then government allowed their cronies to build tourist hotels in the zone and a very odd watch tower with a restaurant in the top, which apparently the locals hate and does look totally out of place. All of this is part of the reason they have been denied World Heritage status.
Outside of the zone are the towns of Nyaung U, New Bagan and Old Bagan and now the military hold is relaxing a bit local people are allowed to build and own hotels in these areas. The two places we stayed Motel Zein in N U and Bagan Emerald Hotel in the
We climbed up here
middle of nowhere, but near the bus station were both locally owned.
We had a taxi driver at one point who was very vocal about local opposition to what the military government have done and about their hopes for change now the Lady is elected. I hope so too.
We hired an e bike for 4 of the 6 days we were in Bagan and certainly made the most of it! We must have seen hundreds of pagodas and for once I'm not exaggerating and properly explored about 70! As there are 1000s of them I guess it was only a small dint. We must have built up innumerable Buddha points as we circumnavigated each of them also.
There were red brick ones, white ones, gold ones, ones you could climb on the outside, ones with secret stairways on the inside which you popped out onto the roof of, ones that tour groups visited and ones where we were the only people there, ones with frescoes to marvel at by torch light and ones where you could hear the squeaking of the bats up in the ceilings, ones which you could not enter, ones with bamboo protection
and ones with a human chain snaking up onto the roof as buckets were passed along as part of their restoration - these were some of the many damaged in the recent and past earth quakes. The one common denominator in all of these pagodas were the sand painting sellers, who were tucked into all sorts of nooks and crannies with their wares and often must spend the entire day just sitting on their own in the hopes a tourist might appear.
We had a bit of luck when we visited on pagoda which was known to have wall frescoes, we were the only tourists there but there was a photo shoot taking place and the very dark interior with the large gold Buddha was lit up by lots of small candles, it looked amazing! A young monk was meditating before the Buddha and again ringed by candles, not doubt this will feature in some calendar somewhere next year but it was a really special sight. We were encouraged to take photos also but my phone camera just couldn't capture it well.
So we carried on exploring, going along bumpy sandy tracks that nearly had us in the
Yes I bought it!
bushes a few times, all the time more and more spires appeared amongst the trees and each time you thought you had seen the most gorgeous view until you went round another corner and there was another one! Magical.
The people are lovely, so friendly, calling out Min gar bar la and hellos. All the ladies and some men have the thanaka paste on their cheeks and faces, a kind of natural sunscreen and loads of people have red smiles from all the betel stain on their teeth. They are all fascinated by my tattoos, the ladies and girls just look amazed but the lads want to look more closely and wanting a photo. They then shyly show me their tattoos and explain that colour tattoos are not good in Burma as the ink is not a good enough quality and then describe what tattoos they want to get next or laugh about how much they think it will hurt, yes in Burma tattoos are great conversation starters!
We climbed up the outside of a couple of pagodas but I couldn't get past the third layer as it was so steep and I'm not good with heights, I
sat huddled back in a corner trying not to have a panic attack, while Howard went up to the top. The views across the plain of pagodas was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen, the air was so still and the spires so bright it was a very special moment.
On the e bike we also ended up exploring plenty of back streets around the town were the locals live, not always on purpose! sometimes ending up in peoples back yards, generally the only foreigners and mostly as the source of much amusement. We some how managed to watch one sunset on the riverbank amongst the locals washing! Ah well if you get lost someone usually points out the right direction.
Nyaung U boasts a restaurant street, which we ended up at most nights. We gave Weatherspoons a try once, you just have to! However the food wasn't up to much but despite this the place was always packed and often people stood waiting for a table! It's all about the name obviously. We discovered a great little beer garden in between the Nouvel restaurant and it's BBQ area, the beer was draught and
Old Bagan city gates
the chocolate banana pancakes with honey were divine and unusually huge for Burma. It was a great place for people watching, got packed with locals on Friday and Saturday nights and was perfect for practising your kissing noises when you needed the staffs attention - well all the locals do it so we did too and it worked everytime 😊
Our final 3 nights were at the Bagan Emerald Hotel and we hired an ebike on the middle day, did a few more temples and had tea out, then we had to get back in the dark, I mean pitch black, wow look at the stars dark, it was not fun, how Howard managed alternating between total darkness and then being dazzled by on comming headlights, not knowing where the road was and avoiding sand I do not know but we got back eventually and both agreed just to eat in the hotel the last night!
This hotel had a swimming pool!!! Which was wonderful, if freezing, but great once you were in and my birthday was spent just lazing by it. The hotel staff bless their hearts had a big board in reception with Happy Birthday Melanie
Even Buddhas gets thirsty
Anne on it and when I went back to the room later the bed was completely decorated with flowers and leaves saying the same. All the staff kept saying Happy Birthday to me and seemed genuinely happy and excited that I loved all the decoration and the effort they had made and thanked them for it.
Oh and my birthday present, a line of 5 monks following a Buddha was purchased outside one of the pagodas from a man who spoke a bit of English, had only a couple of red teeth and has now probably shut up shop and taken his family away on holiday for a fortnight on the strength of that one sale but I love them! Thanks Howard xx
That night we did eat in the hotel and ended up chatting with another English couple who also liked travel, rock music and bikes so a great way to end a lovely day.
Next stop Inle Lake
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