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The Central and South Plain, a huge festival and a terrible road crash to finish our stay - Day 4

Bagan Travel Blog

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Monks collect offerings at Ananda Paya

People i met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia)

It was slightly disappointing to eat our last breakfast at the Inn Wa Ga Hotel, as we didn't want to give up the food, or our room. If only we could have taken this place and Cheriland restaurant with us for the rest of our trip! Although we had heard that Ananda Paya had a 3 day festival beginning, to mark the full moon in the month of Pyatho, it wasn't enough to have dragged us out of bed for its 7am start, so we cycled down around 9am instead. It became immediately apparent that this was clearly a big thing for the locals, who were out in force and racing around like lunatics on their motorbikes. Rather than concentrating on the road, they were more interested in shouting at us and seeing how long they could look back at us and not in front of themselves, in an attempt to show just how cool they were.

Ananda Paya
There were also trucks and vans overspilling with raucous Burmese people and drivers who were so aggressive that they made no qualms about forcing bicycles off the road and onto sandy dirt tracks wherever necessary.

Arriving at Ananda Paya there were more touts and beggars than ever. Cries of 'bon bon, pen, money' were emitted upon the sight of any foreigner. Frustratingly many of the foreigners had brought along sweets and pens to hand out and this just led to a frenzy of out thrust little hands and pleading calls. What annoys me is that these children spend all day begging and don't even go to school to need a pen, yet they get given dozens a day by well meaning tourists, who are too blind to see that the children just sell them straight back to the shop!

When i was in the favellas of Rio de Janeiro, our guide had set up a wonderful scheme teaching the children that begging was wrong and they should work for their money.

Shwesendaw Paya
They therefore made little picture frames and drew cute photos that you could buy - and everyone on our trip did so! Ever since that experience i try to give money to kids with initiative, disabled or enfeebled, or people at least trying to work. A survey in Sumatra recently showed that the average worker earns $2 a day, whilst the average beggar makes $8. Unsurprisingly the local population are turning to begging even when they could get jobs, as they earn more money - and who could blame them? It makes sense after all. So it really annoys me to see people coming ready prepared with pens and sweets to hand out as well as money. I feel most sorry for the people who work in a kitchen all day and get paid $0.70 a day or school teachers in Myanmar who collect $1 a day from the government - how must these people feel to know that they get a fraction of what these beggars earn?

The festival itself seemed more like an auction, with monks stood on a podium looking for which baskets to accept next, and families handing over a whole bounty of offerings that they probably couldn't afford.
Locals cycling across the Central Plain
As i am rather skeptical about most religions, it always dumbfounds me how people who have nothing in the World, are expected to give what little they do have to their chosen religions. I always thought that it should have been the religions giving to the poor, but who am i to say!?

Already exhausted and having only been to one temple, our plan was to spend the day cycling through the Central and Southern Plains and taking in an array of temples on the way. Our journey took us initially to Shwesendaw Paya, which we had visited on the first evening, but never had a proper look around and then continued on to the pyramid shaped Dhammayangyi Pahto, where Julia steped on a huge thorn that embedded into her foot, even whilst she had her sandals on! Initially i tried to pull the thorn out, but it snapped, so I used my initiative and opened up a staple and used the pointed end to gouge it out instead.
Dhammayangyi Pahto
A few minutes of frantic pulling and poking led to eventual success as I managed to extract a piece measuring the size of a fingernail in length - ouch! During this period, with Julia almost in tears and clearly in distress, those lovely little Burmese kids came up to us on several occassions to ask if we wanted to buy whatever it was they were selling. Clearly they had either a) no common sense or b) no compassion and that really shocked me, i'd previoulsy thought they were brimming with both. Going around the temple i managed to also pierce my foot with a thorn, but thankfully it didn't go too deep, so the pair of us hobbled out and left the temple like a couple of invalids!

Our next stop was Temple 761 followed by Sulanani, Thabiek Hmauk, Temple 820 and Pyathada Paya.
Puppies feeding from their Mum
The going was pretty tiring at times as there was no shelter from the relentless sun and the roads were all sandy tracks, which the bikes struggled their way along. When a young lady called Nyo Nyo Nwe greeted us in the small village of Minnanthu, with the words 'cold drinks' and 'food', we could not have been any happier than to follow her into her families rather large property, to purchase the menioned items.

Sitting down at a small table in the courtyard, we noticed that the family also made and sold clothing and decided that now was as good a time as any to do a little bit of shopping. Julia bought a nice little top and soon we were eating a couple of portions of vegetable fried rice and slurping down a couple of star colas - Myanmars answer to Pepsi! Tin Swe Myint was Nyo Nyo Nwe's sister and the cook and after eating, she kindly explained to us about their peanut farm and the tobacco that the women all smoke.
Inside Dhammayangyi Pahto
Having thoroughly enjoyed the last hour that we had spent with the 2 sisters and their grandma, i felt it only fair to leave a nice tip, as i'd had my faith restored in the people around here! As Nyo Nyo Nwe walked us from their property, the World seemed a better place again and humanity a wonderful thing - that is until she started asking for presents from us! After all the money we had just spent on food, drinks, clothes and a tip, i couldn't believe what i was hearing. Not 'thank you' but 'give me', just perfect. Julia and I looked at each other in disbelief and i decided that the photo i'd taken of the sisters together and had intended to send them, was no longer one of my priorities.

Cycling off in sheer annoyance, i had lost all my spirit and just wanted to get the place over and done with.
Dhammayangyi Pahto
Whistle stop tours were made to Leimyethna Pahto, Tayok Pye Payn, which had some nice panoramas from its terrace, Paya Thonzu, Them Bula Paya, Nandamannya Pahto, the Winido Group and Izagawna. It was about 4.30pm and i had no desire to get accosted any more by visiting a temple for sunset, so we began our long ride back to Nyaung U, glad that our day was nearly over. However, any plans of a nice ride home were scampered by the idiots flying around on their motorbikes once again, so i cycled on just dreaming of the hot shower and air con room that was waiting!

SCREEEEEEEECH...... WHAM!!! After a motorbike carrying 3 young Burmese guys had just come hurtling past me, the man on a push bike infront of me began to make a left turn, whilst carrying his 2 very young daughters.
Sulamani Temple
Clearly he had not checked behind him as he was probably more concerned about holding tight to his kids and the motorbike driver was going way too fast to just simply slow down and let the guy pass into the middle. What resulted was the motorbike driver sliding his bike, which then crunched into the push bike sideways and sent all 6 people flying off in different directions. Buddha was clearly shining on the little girls, who after their initial shock and brief crying, stopped as they realised that they were ok in comparison to the 4 adults strewn around them.

I jumped off my bike to see if there was anything i could do, but other than offer some water and make sure everyone was alive, it was pretty hard to communicate with someone who doesn't speak your language.
Buddha statue inside Sulamani Tample
The drivers face was peeled off, with blood dripping all over, one of the passengers looked like he might have fractured his skull on the curb and the other passenger seemingly didn't have a clue where he was. The Dad also seemed to have escaped pretty injury free somehow. As luck may have it, the accident had taken place smack outside of the local hospital and when some more locals arrived on the scene, they tried to help the casulties walk into the hospital. Most of them were stuggling with their co-ordination and i'd be very surprised if there were not some long term injuries caused. It was all such a major shock to see things happen so closely to you, and it left me a bit shell shocked. The sad thing was that an accident like this had just been waiting to happen with the way people were driving around, with no regard to anyone else on the road.
Julia and some cows on the way to Thabeik Hmauk


That evening we dropped our bikes off the second we got home and decided to find a nearby restaurant on foot. Having not eaten a Western meal in some time, we chose somewhere a bit pricier, but sadly the quality was far worse than what we'd been eating for half the price in Cheriland 1. An hour of trying to get internet connection unsuccessfully was followed by witnessing a group of wannabe 'Hells Angels' tearing about the centre of Nyaung U. With three people on a bike, they were pulling wheelies and screeching their tyres. After what i had witnessed just a few hours ago i had a serious urge to go over and lay one of the ******* out. Thankfully we found a Cheriland 2 in Nyaung U and just like its big brother, they served up a wicked banana pancake to sooth my nerves.
Grandma smoking at Minnanthu Village


I went to bed that night feeling thoroughly let down by the people who inhabit this area - from the crazy motorists to the never ending pestering from horse and cart drivers, taxi drivers, trishaw drivers, painting, laquerware and postcard sellers, money changers and so on and so forth.  If it hadn't been for Inn Wa Ga and Cheriland then i don't think i could bring many positives from this place. To be honest, the temples were ok and the sheer number of them was obviously impressive. But sadly most look like modern recreations after the earthquake destroyed a lot of the original structures. Added to this the lack of any peace and quiet whilst looking around many of them, i can only conclude that I found the whole situation a hassle. Certainly Bagan would not be somewhere that i would recommend anyone going out of their way to see, give me the temples at Angkor, Ciudad Perdida, Macchu Picchu, Sukothai or any range of others that i could care to mention, any day of the week!

Deats says:
Thanks a lot buddy :)
Posted on: Aug 13, 2009
jlchatham says:
Really great blog and superb photos. Fantastic job!
Posted on: Aug 13, 2009
Deats says:
TAke notes in a small diary i just bought, then stick it in a blog when i have a free night. WE had to spend 10 days in BKK due to JUlias stolen bag, so plenty of time!
Posted on: Feb 13, 2008
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Monks collect offerings at Ananda …
Monks collect offerings at Ananda…
Ananda Paya
Ananda Paya
Shwesendaw Paya
Shwesendaw Paya
Locals cycling across the Central …
Locals cycling across the Central…
Dhammayangyi Pahto
Dhammayangyi Pahto
Puppies feeding from their Mum
Puppies feeding from their Mum
Inside Dhammayangyi Pahto
Inside Dhammayangyi Pahto
Dhammayangyi Pahto
Dhammayangyi Pahto
Sulamani Temple
Sulamani Temple
Buddha statue inside Sulamani Tamp…
Buddha statue inside Sulamani Tam…
Julia and some cows on the way to …
Julia and some cows on the way to…
Grandma smoking at Minnanthu Villa…
Grandma smoking at Minnanthu Vill…
Temples on the Central Plain
Temples on the Central Plain
Monks collect offerings at Ananda …
Monks collect offerings at Ananda…
Ananda Paya
Ananda Paya
Lasy smoking at Ananda Paya - note…
Lasy smoking at Ananda Paya - not…
Ananda Paya
Ananda Paya
Shwesendaw Paya
Shwesendaw Paya
Julia in front of Shwesendaw Paya
Julia in front of Shwesendaw Paya
Shwesendaw Paya
Shwesendaw Paya
Puppies feeding from their Mum
Puppies feeding from their Mum
Puppies feeding from their Mum
Puppies feeding from their Mum
Dhammayangyi Pahto
Dhammayangyi Pahto
Dhammayangyi Pahto
Dhammayangyi Pahto
Dhammayangyi Pahto
Dhammayangyi Pahto
Dhammayangyi Pahto
Dhammayangyi Pahto
Temple 761
Temple 761
Sulamani Temple
Sulamani Temple
Carving at Sulamani Temple
Carving at Sulamani Temple
Paintings in Sulamani Temple
Paintings in Sulamani Temple
Paintings in Sulamani Temple
Paintings in Sulamani Temple
Cows walking past Sulamani Temple
Cows walking past Sulamani Temple
Thabeik Hmauk foreground, Sulamani…
Thabeik Hmauk foreground, Sulaman…
Sheep herded across the Central Pl…
Sheep herded across the Central P…
Sulamani Temple
Sulamani Temple
Swarm of wasps at Thabeik Hmauk
Swarm of wasps at Thabeik Hmauk
Temple 820
Temple 820
Julia on the Central Plain
Julia on the Central Plain
Pyathada Paya
Pyathada Paya
Monks at Pyathada Paya
Monks at Pyathada Paya
Cactus plants line the way to Leim…
Cactus plants line the way to Lei…
Leimyethna Pahto
Leimyethna Pahto
Tayok Pye Paya
Tayok Pye Paya
Views of Bagans Southern and Centr…
Views of Bagans Southern and Cent…
Views of Bagans Southern and Centr…
Views of Bagans Southern and Cent…
Views of Bagans watch tower, seen …
Views of Bagans watch tower, seen…
Views of Bagans Southern and Centr…
Views of Bagans Southern and Cent…
Tham Bula Phaya
Tham Bula Phaya
Izagawna
Izagawna
Winido Group
Winido Group
Izagawna
Izagawna
Bagan
photo by: planisphere