Pagodas from sunrise to sunset
Bagan Travel Blog› entry 19 of 27 › view all entries
The day begins at 7 a.m., because we want to be on our bicycles before 8.30 to explore Bagan. Before we can get on our way we have to try out the rental bikes, because it is hard to find one that doesn’t have any major flaws. The staff of the hotel are having convulsions of laughter when I mount their largest bicycle. For Burmese standards this is quite a large bike, but I can put both my feet flat on the ground, without even touching the saddle. Renting a bike costs 3,000 Kyats per bike per day, so budgetwise it shouldn’t be a problem.
Bagan is famous for its enormous concentration of temples and temple ruines, about 2,200 buildings are still in tact, and another 2,000 damaged or nearly destroyed ones can be found on an area of 40 square kilometres.
The first temples we encounter are the Sister temples, one being the older sister, the other the younger.The older sister temple is the biggest, square building, the younger sister is round and smaller. The older sister can be climbed by means of a small staircase in a tiny niche left of the entrance. These temples aren’t cleaned as intensively as the ones that are still in use and this means that we will be having a lot of sand between our toes for the next couple of days. On the first platform we can go across to the other side of the building, where we can climb several more metres.
For a while we seem to have made the same plan as Mick and Willem, but as time goes by our ways separate. People we cannot seem to get rid off are the souvenir sellers, it doesn’t matter where we show our faces, they just pop up out of the ground. And boy are they tenacious!!! Bagan is Burma’s main tourist attraction, and it shows. Many people here make their living from the tourist industry and because of the political unrest of some months ago, their aren’t as many tourists as in other years.
Across the street from the terrace where we are drinking a refreshing Star cola, we see the Manuha pagoda, this is where Willem gives me the advice to buy the book Burma Days by George Orwell. The book is sold by almost every salesmen and after some haggeling I buy it from a girl for a small amount. I probably still pay too much, because the quality of the paper is very poor. I am not meant to own this book, because I will leave it behind in an unguarded moment, probably when I’m putting my shoes back on when leaving one of the many temples.
We cycle along for quite some time, struggling up the sometimes steep hills and freewheeling cheerfully down the other side again.
Close to the Shwezigon paya is a cave pagoda with murals that depict Mongolian soldiers and nobles from the time that Kublai Khan occupied Bagan. We can’t just go in, someone has to unlock the gate for us. Of course he doubles as a guide and shows us the parts of the paintings that all tourists are looking for.
When we are on our way to the Dhammayangyi pagoda to view the sunset from its highest point, a boy tells us that it can’t be climbed anymore (like many others) and that it is better to climb nr.
When it has gone dark the four of us cycle together to the major intersection where the Americans turn right towards Old Bagan and we take a left to New Bagan. The bikes don’t have lights and often it is so dark that we cannot tell the road from the shoulder. With one hand on the handle-bar and in the other our mini Maglights, we make our way back to the hotel. We put our bikes back where we took them this morning and walk to the same restaurant where we had dinner yesterday.
We are back in our room around nine o’clock, where we take a well deserved shower, do some laundry and make plans for tomorrow.