Posted by: lindsaygoes | January 2, 2015

Myanmar – The beauty of Bagan

If you have to get up early, it’s nice when jet lag is working in your favour. The shock of hearing we had to leave the hotel for the airport at 4:15am ended up being worse than actually getting up so early.

The flight to Bagan went nice and smoothly, and as we arrived we could see hot air balloons over all the pagodas and stupas in the area. One of the nicest flight arrivals I think I’ve had. Our first stop was Mani Sithu markets in Nyaung U, which was a real mix of local fresh produce and souvenirs. I ended up picking up a bronze mask to add to my mask collection. Next we visited a local lacquerware workshop, which was really interesting. I hadn’t realised how much work was involved, with some pieces taking up to a year to complete!Mani Sithu Market, Nyaung U, Bagan, Myanmar

I then went on a bit of a solo expedition (that sounds more adventurous than it actually was) to a nearby pagoda, which was gradually being overtaken by plants. It was only when I returnedthat I realised I was covered in burrs, which took me about as long to remove as the walk itself had taken.

In the evening we went to Shwezigon Pagoda, which again was lovely with the colours of sunset changing the gold leaf surface. At dinner I had a Myanmar feast, all served up in a lacquerware plate…so much food!

The next morning it was another early day, as we hired some e-bikes to find somewhere to watch the sunrise. We rode into Old Bagan and then got directions to and old building which had a fantastic view. However, we did have to climb some very steep, crumbling stairs inside a dark building to get tothe top…and eventually we had to climb down. The view was amazing though, with the sun rising over fantastic pagodas and temples, it was like being in some fantasy kingdom! On the way back we could see the hot air balloons rising, so had another stop around some more stupas and pagodas, it was just beautiful!Sunrise in Bagan, Bagan, Myanmar

Once we got back we hopped on some regular bicyles for a ride around Old Bagan. I’m not the best cyclist in the world (I think I’ve done one bike ride in the last ten years), but the bicycles were comfortable, and the roads pretty good for cycling. There also wasn’t much traffic as well. We visited a number of temples, Htilominlo, Thatbinnyu, Mahabodhi, Bupaya Pagoda and Ananda Temple. Htilominlo temple had some lovely market stalls around it, and we also saw some women with brass rings around their necks. I wasn’t overly comfortable with that side, as it did feel a bit exploitative. We went to the top of Thatbinnyu temple, which hada great view of the surrounding area. Mahabodhi temple was quite different in style from the others, as it was modeled on an Indian temple. Bupaya Pagoda was right on the waterfront, so we got a lovely view over the Irrawaddy River, and the pagoda itself was like a giant golden egg, shining in the sun. Ananda temple had a lovely monastery beside it, with some lovely wall paintings.

We had lunch in the archaeological zone, where apparently alcohol was prohibited, so a few people in our group ordered some ‘special juice’ which turned out to be abottle of beer, served in a plastic bag.

After lunch we went to the Bagan Archaeological Museum. The inside of the building was lovely, with an amazing decorated ceiling. There were some interesting exhibits, and others which looked as though they were in jail cells, all barred up – presumably to stop theft as they were the gold ones. It was pretty hot once we had finished at the museum, so we decided to get a horse and cart ride back. We ended up crammed on the cart with the bicycles strapped to the sides, trapping us in the cart and earning us some amused looks from other tourists.Oxen and Pagodas, Bagan, Myanmar

In the evening we visiting Dhammayangi Pagoda, which was enormous. A couple of people walked out of the stone area to take some photos, but I took one step, landed on a prickle and gave up when my foot started bleeding. From there we visited the Shwe San Daw pagoda, one of the most popular spots for sunset as it has five terraces. The steps were very steep, I’m not sure how people even shorter than me manage. There were lots of people there, understandable with the wonderful view. It was a great night to do it as well, with a spectacular sunset, except I think we were all a bit pre-emptive about leaving, as the most amazing colours started after we were back on the bus.

For dinner we went to see a puppet show. The puppeteers were very talented, and when you visited the toilets, someone would dry your hands and give you an arm and neck massage. Not something I’ve ever experienced before!

We had a bit of a later start the next day, and watched hot air balloons passing over the guest house we were staying in during breakfast. Then we went back to Htilominlo Temple and I bought some sand paintings, we also found a monastery next door which had stairs to the roof and had a wonderful view of temples, pagodas and people farming.

Hot air balloons in the morning, Bagan, MyanmarThen it was off to Mount Popa, which has a Buddist Monastery on the top of Taung Kalat (a smaller section of the mountain). On the way we stopped at a palm sugar workshop where they were grinding and cooking the palm sugar. We also tried a palm sugar and coconut mix which was delicious. Near Mount Popa we also stopped at a local market, and stopped for a view to Taung Kalat.

It was 777 steps to the top of Taung Kalat, in reasonably hot conditions, with monkeys watching us climb. I found it a bit commercial, but there were some great panoramic views from the top.

In the evening we had another wonderful sunset at Thatbinnyu Temple. I was also invited to join a Myanmar family in some of their photos. At least, I think that’s what they wanted.

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