Magic that awakes at dawn

Bagan is Myanmar’s prime cultural sight and as such it attracts crowds of national and international visitors. It is what Angkor Wat is to Cambodians. When we were there it was atmospheric, magical and… scorching hot. The temperature reached 43 degrees during the day and over 30 degrees at night. The only time to see the temples was early in the morning and in late afternoon.

The morning that we arrived, all we wanted to do was to have shower, crush on a bed and sleep, but our room was not ready. At first we just wanted to wait, but after a few minutes we started fidgeting and decided to rent two ebikes instead.
The temples of Bagan covered the area of over 40 square meters, which was way too much on two legs. There were a few ways of doing it without dying of dehydration. There was a posh way – on a horse cart, smart way – on an electric bike (ebike) and suicidal way – on a bicycle. We went for the smart way and moved only on ebikes. And I must say it was quite an adventure for me. I never rode a scooter or a motorbike on my own and was not used to having gas in the right handle. I ended up with scratches and bruises, but it could have been much worse. In two days I managed to park in a bush, knock down two motorbikes on a parking lot and hit a wall of an ancient temple. My right hand just kept slipping off the handle adding more gas when I needed to stop. Oh well… now I know.

Bagan was truly breath-taking, especially at sunrise and sunset. Or rather an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset. Seeing the sun appear and disappear on the horizon line was impossible at this time of the year, as there was a thick layer of clouds hovering over the ground. But still the golden light at 7am and 4pm was unforgettable. Each temple was unique, but Bagan at its best is viewed from the top of a stupa. It’s not the interiors of the temples that make it special, but their exterior architecture and sheer number. All around, all you can see are peaks of temples and stupas.

There is a fee of $15 that tourists have to pay for visiting the sights, but nobody ever asked us for a ticket until the last day. We went to a very popular sunset spot and there he was, Mr Shiny in his uniform, checking tickets. Somehow we managed to excuse ourselves that we had just arrived and had to go and look for an ATM. In truth we didn’t want to pay the fee. That money was going to military government not to local communities and caretakers of Bagan. We didn’t want to contribute to government’s dictatorship. We went to look for another sunset view point.

The most magic light in Bagan was not at sunset, but right after. Half an hour after the sun was gone, the whole surrounding us world was bathed in warm dark orange light. Even an uninteresting road transformed into beautiful location. It was special just to ride our ebikes in that light, feel warm wind on our cheeks and watch scenery pass by.

Still, we anticipated our visit to Bagan not only for the temples. Somebody told us there was good pizza in Bagan and the image of round crispy pizza with melting cheese on top was rooted deeply in our imagination. We went to the place twice. Once they didn’t have pizza. Second time they did have it. That was already a success. The pizza wasn’t as good as we expected though. I mean, Ale was happy he had something in a shape of a pizza anyway, but I left thirsty and disappointed.
During our stay in Bagan my cough was getting worse. I drunk ginger and lemon juices but they did little. Constant temperature changes from hot and air-con room didn’t help either, of course.

On our last day in Bagan we took it easy and dipped our bums in a swimming pool for most part of the day. No, we didn’t have a pool at our guesthouse. We went to a fancy five star resort in Old Bagan and paid $11 for a few hours in a questionably clean water. It was cool though and the place was beautiful. We stayed there the whole afternoon. We needed it before another sleepless night on a night bus.

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