The temples and Stupas of Bagan

Trip Start Sep 19, 2010
Trip End Sep 19, 2011

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Where I stayed
central hotel

Flag of Myanmar  , Mandalay,
Thursday, February 24, 2011

13TH Feb.

The bus we were taking to Bagan was a new service, especially for tourists. In other words it was a good bus with A.C. For the first hour and a half we travelled on the "super highway". The roads in Burma it is said were built by British P.O.W.s in WW2. This I can believe. But they are slowly getting around to building proper highways, like the Rangoon to Mandalay highway. Anyway after one and a half hours the highway gave way to a single lane country road and this slowed us down considerably. After another two hours this single lane came to an end and the rest of the journey was completed on an unsealed dusty track!!
The countryside changed as we neared Bagan to what I can best describe as dry African bush. Bagan is in an area called the dry zone. We are in the dry season here in Burma at the moment and needless to say the weather is perfect everyday. Unfortunately at this time of year the waters of the Irrawaddy river get really low and the boats can have a hard time making it up and down the river, but we shall still try. It was a pleasure getting to see rural life out in the sticks. Oxen drawn carts are common place as well horse and cart. The people live in rattan huts with no electricity. To see the locals drawing water from wells out in the yard really brings it home to you. We have a power cut for half an hour and we think the world is coming to an end. These people who have nothing are always laughing and smiling. Yet us who have everything aren't nearly as happy as these people. People in the West are too busy grumbling about not having enough. I hate this western obsession with greed and how we are exporting this disease around the world.
We arrived in Bagan at about 2 PM. We negotiated a price with a driver to take us to new Bagan where we were hoping to stay. When I say driver, I mean horse and cart driver! And it's no tourist gimmick either, this is a very normal form of transport here. Old Bagan is about 8 miles from where the bus dropped us off. The horse happily trotted the full distance in about 40 minutes, it must do the journey regularly. It was on the back of this cart that we saw our first glimpse of Bagan's pagodas.
Now I dare say you have never heard of Bagan, right? Well you will in the years to come. This place is ridiculously beautiful and awesome at the same time. Let me explain. This little town of Bagan has no fewer than 3250 Temples and stupas around it!! I am for this blog just going to call the lot of them stupas, it will make my life easier. Someone once said of Bagan " It is like placing all the Cathedrals of Europe around one little town". In which ever direction you look you see dozens of them. Small ones, medium ones, large ones and giant ones. It is just one of those places which awes you. I kept asking myself WHY??? How many hundreds of thousands of man hours went into making all these buildings? and for what? I don't know but I'm sure glad they did. This place rivals Angkor Wot and I bet Angkor Wot sees as many tourists in a day as Bagan sees in a year.
We arrived at a hotel called the Central in new Bagan and booked in. It was a nice place and our stay here was lovely. There is an old Bagan and a new Bagan. Why? Well about 10 years ago the Government decided to throw all the residents of old Bagan out. No one knows why. They all relocated to a place 4 km south of old Bagan and called it new Bagan. We had dinner that night and went to bed early. The first thing we needed to do the next morning was to go back to the town of Nyaung u where the bus dropped us off and make our way to the jetty. Here we found the booking office for the boat we were hoping to catch to a place called Pyay. We asked the guy behind the counter if there was any boats headed to Pyay. There was, it was $10 per person for the three day two night voyage. Now I like a bargain but this was too cheap!! We had heard some horror stories about filthy boats and Cathy said for that price it can't be very good, I agreed. We decided that we would go to Inlay lake, then try to catch the Pathian Boat from Rangoon. After leaving the ticket office we started to walk back to new Bagan. Our plan was to flag down a bus. Bad plan, we must have walked half way to old Bagan in the blazing heat before I said I was walking no more. We ended up getting another horse and cart back to the hotel.
The next day we hired bicycles and set off out into the countryside to explore the stupas. We reached old Bagan after visiting various stupas. We had a Coke and a sit down for a while and set off again. There are sandy tracks that lead from stupa to stupa and the only practical way of getting around is either by Horse and cart or bicycle. After visiting a huge stupa Cathy went to get on her bike and noticed she had a flat. Oh bugger!!! We were about 5 miles from our hotel. We set off walking home well ticked off. After about 5 minutes a couple of young lads on bikes rode by and asked us if we needed help. I said no we just have a puncture and we needed to walk back. Anyway it turned out these two young lads ride around fixing tourists punctures. They are saving up for University. They actually fixed seven punctures in all, five on Cathy's bike and two on mine. All the punctures were caused by nasty looking long thorns that we had picked up on the dirt tracks leading to the stupas. After they had fixed the punctures we paid them 3000 Kyat, they had only asked for 1500 Kyat. Then they explained that they were artists and they sell their paintings as well as fix punctures to finance their University courses. They were very good indeed and Cathy and I picked out two we really liked. They came to 7 for the pair and I cant wait to get them framed and hung on the wall at home. We covered miles that day and we got back to the hotel as the sun was going down. It had been a hot day and we got a few beers and sat out that night drinking them. A good end to a marvelous day.
The next morning we called into a travel agency to inquire about a flight to Inlay lake our next destination. We were asking about a flight because the bus that goes to Inlay leaves at 4 AM and I don't do getting up at 3 AM. Two hours after walking into the travel agent, our taxi was picking us up and taking us to the airport. It really is that quick here and the airlines are not even computerized!!!
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