Pagodas from sunrise to sunset

Bagan Travel Blog

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The view from the Sister temples.

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 sister temples in Bagan.
It is often compared with Ankor Wat in Cambodia and the temples are the silent witnesses of the Burmese Golden Age of temple building, that lastet from the 11th until the 13th century.

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.

This is the Burmese equivalent of the Rosetta stone, it can be found in the Mya Zedi Pagoda, next to Gubyaukgyi Pagoda.
Once on the highest point, the plain sprinkled with temples and pagodas makes our jaws drop from astonishment. What a stunning view!!! Everywhere we look smaller or larger orange brick structures peep through the foliage. And we will be seeing this all day long. When we have overcome the first shock, we slowly climb down, put our shoes back on (this may become a nuisance) and hop on our bikes.

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.

One of the four 10 metre high Buddha images in the Ananda temple.
This means that there are more salesmen per visitor, JOY!!!

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.

Kids fooling around in the Ananda temple.
A little past noon we decide to start looking for a restaurant to have lunch in. We park our bikes on the premises of a restaurant in Old Bagan, and guess what: after having lost track of them quite a while ago, we meet Mick and Willem again who are already studying the menu. After only a short glimpse at the menu we don’t feel hungry anymore. A bowl of soup costs $4 and a pizza will set us back $12. We can have three meals for that money! We take our bikes and paddle further into the town of Old Bagan. Near Sarabha gate, on the border of the archeological zone, is a restaurant with the same name. It’s nothing fancy, but it looks clean and there are more people inside.. When we get closer we recognize Anne and Rudolf who invite us to join them. The company is good, the food tastes good and the prices are also a lot friendlier than in the last restaurant. Here we pay 9,000 Kyat for two bowls of soup, two main courses and two Star colas. For desert we get a complimentary plate with fresh fruit.
The astonishing Ananda temple.
Rudolf gives us the tip to visit the Ananda temple, which will prove to be very much worth our while, it is known as one of the largest, most beautiful and best preserved temples on the plain and it symbolizes the best of the Early Period. To prevent that a more beatiful temple would ever be built, king Kyanzittha had the architect executed. The adjacent Ananda Ok Kyaung is a monastery with marvellous murals and is a worthy neighbour of the Ananda temple, unfortunately we are not allowed to take pictures inside. Next we cycle to Nyaung U, where the oldest structure in Bagan stands. The Shwezigon pagoda has a reputation to keep up, but it is a fact that it is not the most beautiful building of the region. Yes, there is a lot of gold and yes, there are a lot of statues, but it misses the finesse of  the Ananda. The hallway to the entrance has souvenir stalls on both sides and the ladies that own them all want us to put our shoes in their stall for safekeeping.
Htilominlo temple was built in 1218 AD and was one of the last tall structures of Bagan.
And for selling us something we don’t want when we collect them again. And yes, we do buy something, three (for the initial price of one) lacquerwork bracelets. They are of the kind: “low prices, poor quality”, but hey, we bought something didn’t we?

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.

Cattle transport on the Bagan plain.
1774. We follow his advice and after a little while an American couple joins us. It is just the four of us and some Burmese boys who are trying to sell us their paintings, but we aren’t really interrested. The sunset is amazing, a huge fiery ball slowly falling from a purple sky to disappear behind the mountains in the distance.

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.

An amazing sky over phenomenal temples.
Aart-Jan is there as well and we join him.

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.

glennisnz says:
Tenacious hawkers get so annoying, you get so you barely even see them you just walk through them pushing them aside, or I did in India- Nepal, and in Indonesia too, Iquickly learned enough of their language to tell them to go away, if I wasn't interested in their wares.
So many temples, and every one worth a look, an intersting place.
Posted on: Nov 15, 2008
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The view from the Sister temples.
The view from the Sister temples.
The sister temples in Bagan.
The sister temples in Bagan.
This is the Burmese equivalent of …
This is the Burmese equivalent of…
One of the four 10 metre high Budd…
One of the four 10 metre high Bud…
Kids fooling around in the Ananda …
Kids fooling around in the Ananda…
The astonishing Ananda temple.
The astonishing Ananda temple.
Htilominlo temple was built in 121…
Htilominlo temple was built in 12…
Cattle transport on the Bagan plai…
Cattle transport on the Bagan pla…
An amazing sky over phenomenal tem…
An amazing sky over phenomenal te…
The last rays of sunlight on the s…
The last rays of sunlight on the …
photo by: planisphere