Temples of Bagan
Trip Start Mar 04, 2006
19Trip End Apr 13, 2006
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Where I stayed
Golden Village Inn
I arrived yesterday from Yangon at 7:30 AM, checked in and went for a walk around town, just trying to get a feel for the place
Given the heat, I put off bicycling into the temple zone for a bit and hid out in the shade of a local restaurant, eating homemade spinach ravioli (so-so) and washing it down with the local Star Cola. Eventually realizing it wasn't going to cool off, I hopped on my trusty pink steed and headed for the temples.
Bagan. I don't know what I can say about this place that hasn't been said a hundred times before. How do you describe 2200 temples, pagodas, and stupas spread out over 40 square kilometers? How do you communicate the magic of the moment when, sitting in the shade of an 800 year old temple, you witness a family passing by on their way home from the market, in their ox cart? Or your disbelief at the woman carrying two five gallon buckets of water home at the ends of a bamboo pole? For me, the most amazing thing about Bagan isn't the temples, it's the chance to witness life continuing much as it must have been at the time the temples were built
After a couple of hours of wandering the sandy ox cart paths that run throughout the temple zone, I headed back for the road to look for a large temple with external stairs, so I could have a good view at sunset. Unfortunately the only one I could find in time was one where the tour bus operators bring all the package tour tourists for the very same reason. So I enjoyed the sunset in the company of 200 French, Italian and Swiss tourists who had been whisked around Bagan all day in the air conditioned comfort of their buses. Lazy bastards. And I'm not saying that just because I had a 30 minute uphill ride on my single speed, all steel, pink (with white basket), Chinese bicycle to get back to the inn either. Really.
For dinner I headed to Aroma, the only authentic Indian restaurant in town. Run by Omar, a second generation immigrant from India, they make an amazing chicken curry. Served with 6 different condiments (tomatoes with herbs, candied mangoes, ginger, etc.), it was awesome. And there was an appetizer, a plate sized potato chip thing with spicy tomato dip what was fantastic. I ended up in conversation with the guy at the table next to mine, Richard from Illinois. He's an expat living in Bangkok for the past two years
Thanks to the late night, my plan to get up and out to witness sunrise over the temples didn't quite happen. But I did make it out eventually, and it was another great day of exploring, with almost no distractions. It's amazing how far you can roam without running into anyone. Once you get off the main roads it's just you, the temples and the heat.
My last "what I had to eat" story from Bagan I promise. Lunch today was my local favorite, Burmese chicken fried rice. More importantly though, was desert. I found a restaurant that makes chocolate and banana crepes. After a week without chocolate, I was like a junkie his first day out of jail. It was fantastic, as good a crepe as I've had anywhere.
Almost time to head out for today's sunset
...I didn't make it to the internet shop last night, so here's the rest of day two in Bagan. I headed back out after lunch, going further east on the ox cart trails than before. After exploring for a couple of hours, I headed for a minor temple with stairs near the main road. Being smallish, I was hoping it wouldn't attract the crowds. The plan worked, and I ended up being one of only four tourists watching the sunset from there. Strangely enough, Richard had also found his way there. We talked a bit, enjoyed the sunset, and made plans for dinner.
Up early today to catch the morning light on the temples. I make it about two kilometers when the back tire starts losing air. I manage to get some pics of some minor pagodas and temples, then turn back before the thing goes completely flat. I'll be taking it easy the rest of the day I think. I need to book transport to Kalaw, and I'm being told there's no express A/C bus for a couple days. I'm not sure if that's true or if they're trying to steer me towards a flight, and bigger commission for them. Time to shop around. One way or the other, I'll be leaving tomorrow.