20th and 21st + sunrise on the 22nd
Where does one start? Well at any one of the 2200 thousand temples, and stupas really!!
It was a long and difficult bus ride from Mrauk U to Bagan, and the biggest shock upon arrival was just how touristy the place is, almost reminiscent of Thailand, the pushy loud vendors, outside the big temples, the souvenir shops and stalls, the taxi drivers trying to charge extra. After Mrauk U, it was a huge change, the temples and stupas are also very different, (more on that soon). The hotel was good (Bagan central hotel), and I was travelling with another solo traveller I met in Mrauk U who happened to be travelling to the same place so we joined forces and the room was cheaper shared. Also it was good to have someone to assist in the navigation around the Bagan, as the temples can be hard to find at times. The e-bikes are basically electric scooters and are pretty fun, and the best way to get around unless your keen on cycling, though they [the e-bikes] don’t handle soft sand well! A lot of people used the many horse carriages around but I would certainly not recommend this if you care in any way about animal welfare.
The sheer scale and number of Bagans temples and stupas is truly incredible, on no photos will ever do this justice, there simply isn’t a camera lens with an angle wide enough. The temples and stupas were built in different era’s so are of notably differing styles, and materials. Although the local tourist police informed us that the site is UNESCO world heritage listed, this status however was actually revoked, fairly recently I believe, because of the way the Myanmar government was going about restorations, and frankly I don’t blame them. The work was/is pretty shoddy, and in many ways this spoils the site, the history, and ultimately the significance of the area. They are using cement, plaster, new bricks and often painting over original artworks on the walls of the temples!! Furthermore, the history here is fascinating and I don’t doubt there would be no shortage of experienced, knowledgeable, and trained, experts, that would happily volunteer to assist with getting the work done properly. I suspect the governments regulations are causing complications here, this is ironic as what they’re doing might just turn away tourists eventually, and hurt the industry, as will the huge tourist taxes, and the accommodation costs, but more on this another time I think.
Unlike Mrauk U, it is the scale and number of temples and stupas in Bagan, that is impressive they cover the plain of Bagan, and if you were really into it you could spend weeks here and not see all of them! The high light for me was sunrise on the last day, it’s an early start, but like Mrauk U so worth it, we found a temple that had an excellent east facing view, and wasn’t crowded, we sat and watched the sky turn pink, and as the sun came over the horizon, the balloons floated across the sky in front of the sun, as it got higher and higher, such a lovely light across the plains of Bagan.
Found a lovely souvenir, in the form of a painting, actually one of the guys I was travelling with liked the same paintings so in order avoid disagreement, we brought the two favourites and flipped a coin later! These are the travel stories I love, one day I will look at my painting from Myanmar sitting pretty on a wall, and remember the people I’ve met on the road, and the 5 Thai baht coin that chose that painting. The lovely artist used natural colours made from materials like ground stone, and tea leaves, and although she painted from a photo it was clear that each piece was her own creation, something I did not see in any of the other ‘artists’ in the area, many were cheap knock offs, and copies.
Two day’s in Bagan was enough, although three would be also good to relax a little, and have time to shop around the lacquerware workshops, and stores, I wanted a bangle but did not find one I liked enough, and as it is a touristy area, so everything is more expensive, maybe I will find something on my travels later. The bus to Mandalay is only 5 hours and there is several each day starting at 7.30 am, we got the 8.30 am, so arrived in Mandalay around 1.30-2 pm.
Heads-up; I have added more pics of Mrauk U, on my previous post!!!…..