Mount Popa and the Bagan plain
Bagan Travel Blog› entry 20 of 27 › view all entries
We get up at a rediculously early hour, this time it is a quarter to six in the morning when I open my shutters. We want to be on top of the Older Sister temple before dawn, so we can see the darkness change into light. In the pitch black we “borrow” two bikes (there’s no one awake that we can ask permission from) and walk the first stretch to the main road. We would probably break our necks if we didn’t, because we can’t see any of the rocks that are lying around on the road.
We climb the Older Sister temple like we did yesterday, the only difference being that it is now dark and we have to be even more careful. Seeing the sun come up on the plain of Bagan is an experience of unimaginable beauty.
We make it back to the hotel just in time, it’s 7.30 a.m. when we get there and breakfast is already being served. I am hungry like a bear and chow down four slices of toast and a pancake in a matter of minutes. At eight seven of us leave for mount Popa, the rest aren’t coming. Mount Popa is the home of the nats and the mountain lies a one and a half hour drive from Bagan that leads through a rural area where people are working on their patch of land or in lumbering (palmwood).
We make a short stop near a house where peanut oil, palm wine and peanut and sesame sweets are made. As usual the people are very friendly here and are more than willing to explain everything to us, for as far a linguistically possible. The palm wine, called Toddy, contains 50% alcohol and I can feel it slide down my oesophagus and into my stomach, the taste lies somewhere between petrol and diesel fuel. The main ingredient for this rot-gut is the sap of a palm tree of some kind that contains a lot of sugar and which needs to be harvested by making cut-aways high up in the tree and collecting the sap in clay pots. The man exchanging the pots filled with sap for empty ones almost flies up the tree, using an extremely narrow ladder with very high steps. Once high above the ground he wraps one leg around the ladder to have both hands free and starts doing his fast-change routine.
Soon after the stop the road starts to ascend and it doesn’t take long before we have mount Popa in our sights. Before entering the village at the foot of the mountain we have a nive view at the entire mountain, so we stop to take some pictures before being dropped near the entrance of the small temple with the images of the nats. Opposite this temple lie the stairs leading to the top of the mountain. The stairs are crawling with monkeys and it stands to reason that the stairs are therefor littered with monkey droppings, dried, squashed, and in every other possible shape or form. Since the mountain is holy ground and we are on our bare feet again, it is a certainty that our feet won’t be smelling of sweat tonight.
On the way back to Bagan it starts getting pretty warm in the mini-van and slowly, but inevitably, my eyelids get heavier and heavier...
We are back in the hotel at a quarter past noon and we eat a couple of slices of cake, before cycling to Old Bagan to have lunch at Sarabha restaurant.
All afternoon we cycle from pagoda to pagoda, bouncing up and down on the saddle with springs that are unable to support my weight, giving my bottom a good beating every once in a while. Not all pagodas are equally beautyful, but we get our share of nice architecture, murals and opportunities to climb the structures.
After a rushing last bicycle ride we are standing on the second highest terrace of the Shwesandaw pagoda, the top terrace is cramped with tourists, but that doesn’t make that big a difference in height.
When the sun is gone we buy a coconut at the base of the pagoda and drink it leisurely, resting a bit from the tiresome day. The one thing we have to keep doing is tell everyone around us that we don’t want to buy anything. In the end we turn out to be more persistant that the salesmen/women.
Another Maglite lit bike ride to the hotel later, we end up having dinner in our New Bagan favourite restaurant, this time with Riet and Ben.
We start prepairing for tomorrow around nine p.m., packing things and writing my travel log.