compass 24 down, 1976 to go - Myanmar Part 3 compass

Relaxing in Bagan

May 17

The day before James had arranged our horse and cart for the day so after breakfast we met BooBoo and Madonna the horse (not named after the singer, I asked) and slowly got under way. I was a little queasy after yesterday but so very excited. Like I said before Bagan was high on my list and I was finally here! In my horse cart on my way to visit all the temples…well a bunch, there are supposedly over 4000 with over 2000 still standing.

Lonely Planet actually describes it quite well.

-----Imagine all the medieval cathedrals of Europe sitting on Manhattan Island – and then some – and you start to get a sense of the ambition of the Bagan Kings who built over 4400 temples over a 230 –year period on this riverside plain.-----

Starting in about AD 1057 about 20 temples a year were built on average for 200 years or so. Bagan had a rapid decline at the end of the 13th century and popular belief is that Mongols swept over the city ransacking and looting after which the city and temples were left untouched for years. Neglect, looting, earthquakes, erosion and bat dung have taken its toll but it’s still an amazing sight. We noticed new temples are being built and many are being restored and/or looked after.

Click below for a 360 degree panorama view from the top of one of the temples. Click the full screen option, and use the zoom to get the most out of it.

We only went about 5 minutes and BooBoo made a turn into our first temple (which they also call Pagodas, it was confusing at first) where we were met by the key guy who had an armful of sand paintings. Most of the temples are locked and someone has the key, if it’s a popular one it stays open for the day, if not then you just have to look around for a usually sleeping person to open it for you. The key guy of course asked us “Where you from?” and when we answered he replied “Ohhhh Justin Beiber!” Huh? Usually in most countries when you say where you are from you get some sort of reply (Eqypt it was “Ohhh Canada Dry?”) but…Justin Beiber? Too funny!

Once we’d taken a peek around the key guy asked us to look at his hand made sand paintings, which I did….not realizing every key guy has an arm full of handmade sand paintings.

This next bit is more for James and I, we wanted to document what we saw. Every temple was different and beautiful in its own way and a year from now we want to be able to look back and remember.

1Seinyed Templeclimbed up to top, only one with a stupa, could see from our hotel room
2Nagayon Guphaya Templemost beautiful statues I’ve seen, giant gold Buddha
3Abe Yadanar Templebuilt in honour of Kings wife who waited for him to come home from his hanging (didn’t say how long she waited or if he came home)
4Nan Temple½ brick, ½ sand stone, beautiful with black carvings
5Manuha Templegold tops, 3 huge Buddhas built into the walls, and a huge reclining one
6Gu Byauk Gyi Templecan still see paintings inside, gorgeous top, group of small Buddha
7Nye zedi Templepeaceful with chanting and prayer going on
8Dhamayangi Templemore square building like with giant windows, filled with chirping bats
9Phya That Gyi Templegiant burgundy Buddha, temple surrounded by fully in bloom orange and yellow flowered trees. Alone so very quiet!
10Bheake Mout Templeclimbed to top, watched a goat herder go by, amazing view
11Sulanani Templefilled with painting inside, mostly of lying down Buddhas
12Bu Le Thi Templecouldn’t climb, burnt my feet, James made it (but he’s a tough guy in his longyi)
13Alodewbyi Templevery pretty and filled with flowers from visitors
14Gubyauk Nge Templevery peaceful, silly kid walked up behind me and scared the crap out of me
15Gubyauk Gyismall, pretty with amazing ceiling paintings
16Shezigon Templegold and burgundy, a bit newer, many temples big and small in a cluster
17Kyan Sittha U Min Templesmall, low ceiling (unusual so far), unique wall paintings
18Mystery Temple (didn’t get name)beautiful white cream color, part redone
19Htilominlo Templevery large, kinda creepy with thunder in background, bought a wedding gift from sellers outside
20Khay Min Ga Temple10+ temples in a cluster, quiet and peaceful
21Minochendher Temple5 yellow cream temples with a beautiful view of Old Bagan, dog guards on centre one
22Ananda Pagodabig, shiny, white with gold toppers
23Ananda Okkyangsmall, old, one of my favourites, naked lady paintings on walls
24Shwe San Daw TempleWOW! BooBoo saved the best for last, was supposed to be sunset but rain was coming, the view was unbelievable, we sat for quite some time just looking

Feeling small and insignificant

Exhausted, tired, hot and very hungry we made our way home. A great big shout out to BooBoo and Madonna (cart #200) for a great day, he hangs out by Kumudara hotel. At the hotel we jumped into the bathwater warm pool and had a swim before a dinner at the hotel restaurant. I think I have found a new diet, the appetite-sapping Myanmar Diet. Over dinner we talked out how we could actually see a difference in the both of us. Not only was I losing weight in Myanmar but after my glass of wine with dinner I realized the heat and lack of food was making me a cheap drunk. I decided to have one more glass just make sure I was giggly enough to drive James nuts. The night didn’t last long, once in the air conditioning room with the tv on we both conked out…I think before 8 pm! As I was falling asleep I did a rough calculation – we only saw 24 temples today – we’d better pick up the pace.

May 18

We’d debated going to Mount Popa and in the end decided to take the easy way and hire a private car. To be honest once we’d paid for a pool with such an amazing room taking the cheap way to the mountain (a pick up that would add a few hours to our trip) didn’t appeal to us. So with BooBoo’s help we hired his friend to drive us.

Susan trying her hand at beating an ox

The ride was very interesting and we even stopped to see how they still make peanut oil using an ox. Just before Mount Popa we stopped at a viewing spot to take pictures of what we nick named Dr. Seuss Mountain. I was feeling a bit queasy from the jeep ride so let James walk the dirt path/road on his own. I was admiring a lizard when I heard a pack of dogs barking and moving my way and what I figured was chasing James. Yup! One in particular decided to give him a good chase and he ended up backing into the bushes and running through the woods to escape. Man stray dogs are a pain.

Volcano created Mount Popa is the spiritual home to Myanmar’s 37 nat (spirits) and literally home to 10 times that in evil beggar monkeys. Like usual we took off our shoes for the climb up the mountain steps, which I usually find a bit gross but add to that money pee and poo and I was disgusted, I get shivers now typing about it, ewwwww. Almost immediately we were overcome with about 50 monkeys. A lady selling food walked up and asked if we wanted to buy any. No way lady and get that food bag the monkeys are following away from me! It was at this point I was wishing I had taken Jess’ advice and got a rabies shot. They were after food and tried to grab purses, backpacks and bags so I threw James my purse and grabbed not one but both umbrellas.

Adorable cuddly monkeys

Could I turn back? Could I live through the Williams constant teasing and ridicule for how many years to come at not making the climb due to evil beggar monkeys that small children didn’t seem to have any issues with? Not likely. So like the scaredy cat I am I quickly ran up the steps waving my umbrellas around. Once at the top it started to rain and there weren’t as many. I got a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful view before we had to go back down through the monkeys. I made it most of the way and thought I’d only embarrassed myself a bit when a group of monkeys surrounded the guy in front of us and climbed up his shorts and hung there waiting for food. That was it! I looked around and saw a few inching in towards James’ backpack and I had a fit! I started to freak out, a lady with a broom grabbed hold of my arm and we “shooed” the monkeys away…..she walked me to the bottom and sat me on a chair well clear of any monkeys. James finally caught up and we tipped her nicely. As it turns out as I was being escorted down a monkey took a girl’s flip flop out of her hand and her boyfriend had to use his flip flop to whack the monkey on the head to get it back. Evil beggar monkeys!

Susan at her bravest...listen for the yelp at the end (Click on picture for link to video)

Once back in town we had the driver take us to a money exchanger and he did a little loop past a few temples. It got me excited for our bike ride through them planned for the next day.

The daily monster lineup for the ridiculously expensive gas, as opposed to the outrageously priced gas which is readily available.

Once back at the hotel we took a walk to do errands. Book bus tickets, look in a few gift shops and stock up on water and snacks. We were heading back for a swim and a quiet night in front of the tv, felt almost like home.

View from our hotel

May 19

After another delicious hotel breakfast (included) we grabbed some bikes and headed out to visit more temples. I might actually get my fix in Myanmar. We realized very quickly that the small breeze and shade BooBoo’s cart offered made a huge difference in the 40+ degree heat. But we do enjoy a good bike ride, so toughed it out.

Again this next bit might be a bit boring but mostly for our records. We were staying a few minutes bike ride from Old Bagan so asked BooBoo to leave it for us to do today.

1Thatbynnyu TempleHighest in Bagan at 201 feet, white cream with gold toppers, a Buddha was at the top of a stairway you couldn’t climb so a live feed was set up so you could see him and pray to him still – kinda weird
2Shew Gu Gyiclimbed and had an amazing view towards the river, big windows, very airy and carved inside with giant lotus flower, black Buddhas
3Dog/Lion Temple we called itgot a little lost looking for another, a favourite, on water, a bunch of small temples all guarded by dog/lions, so peaceful
4Mahabodhi Templetall bit, recessed Buddahs on outside, surrounded by older ones in ruins
5Bupaya Templebig gold egg shaped, on river, saw 23 tourists boats and only 2 other tourists – there must be a high season

We had a small break to discuss James’ flat tire (finally his turn) and wonky handle bars. The screw on his handle bars came loose so it was hard to turn and keep control, on the sandy side roads to and from the temples it was impossible and then with a front flat tire worse than impossible. But kinda funny…and impressive. The sand was so soft and we went so slow the whole day I’d fallen off my bike 3 times already and James not once. We decided that we were really really really hot and the sun was getting hotter as the day went on so we’d slowly make our way back to the hotel pool just stopping at a few last temples on the way.

6Gaw Daw Palin Phaya Templebeautiful yellow cream
7Mimaluang Templesteps up to platform, large dogs lion guards but very basic small temple on platform
8Nathluang Kyaung Templelast hindu temple standing, beautiful smiling lying down Buddha in entrance

We had a nice long swim and dinner in our room in front of the tv….in the air conditioning!


Country house

Oink! Oink!

May 20

On the way out the door for breakfast James mentioned exchanging our tickets and staying one more day. I jumped at it. The way we had it planned we were taking an overnight bus to Yangon then grabbing a bus right away to Golden Rock, spending one night and then have our last two in Yangon. I have fallen in love with Bagan (and our view) and would rather spend an extra night here. We asked the guy at the front desk then crossed our fingers…..it was not to be. The bus the next day was sold out and the only option would be to eat the cost of the existing tickets and try to find new ones. Not really in the budget. So we had one last meal, one last swim and hung out until our tuk-tuk picked us up.

Our third and last overnight bus in Myanmar was okay….not as nice as the first two but they were better than we ever expected as was this one. I popped in ear plugs (only had Burmese tv on very loud) and snuggled up with my travel pillow and fell asleep.

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