AsiaMyanmarBagan

Temples, touts and cycling - Day 2

Bagan Travel Blog

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

Sunday morning was spent sat on the rooftop, enjoying our excellent breakfast of Fried eggs on toast with a mixture of fruits, tea and coffee. It was a great start to the day and gave us the energy to go around to the bike shop and arrange our trusty transport for the next 3 days! It was decided that Day 2 would be spent exploring the key temples in and around Old Bagan and we had a rough list of what we would really like to see. Our first stop was at the modern golden stupa of Shwe Zigon Zedi, where before we had even managed to put our bike stands up, we were accosted by 3 women trying to sell us things.
Upali Thein
After looking around the impressive temple for 20 minutes, we had to walk back through a long line of stalls, all selling the same things, until we reached our bikes, where the women were still waiting for us! 'Lucky Money, give me your lucky money' 'Its only a dollar, its nothing to you' 'i have no sales today, no money, i need your money' 'please buy this i have a family to feed' etc etc etc followed, as we politely tried to remove our bikes from their grasp and make our way to the next temple! Already i was getting the feeling that this could be a long day...

Continuing our journey it was becoming plain to see that there were a great deal of impressive temples scattered along the road side, which don't even get a mention in any books.
Ox cart passes by the temples
In fact they seem so forgotten that they only warranted a number written in Burmese on their walls, as a form of identification, to show that they still existed! It seemed criminal to just cycle past them with a passing glance and not have chance to pay any attention at all to them, but it was either do this, or spend 2 months and look at each and every one!

I wont bore you with too many individual temple details, other than to say that we went to Temple 2101, Tha kya Bon, Shwe Leik Too, the impressive 3 storey 150 feet high Htilominlo Guphaya-gyi, which was built in 1218AD, Upali Thein and Chatu Mukha, before breaking for a spot of lunch and to get into some shade from the baking sun. It was funny to see the restaurant filled with locals watching a soap opera on TV and then the second it finished, the place emptied and we were about the only ones left! Refuelled and once again ready to go, we ventured onwards to Shwe Gu-gyi, which was built in 1131AD, That Byinnyu Paya, Nat Hlaung Kyaung Paya, which is the only Hindu Temple left in Bagan and unnamed Temple 1602.
Ven Ganda at Mimaluang Kyaung


At Mimaluang Kyaung there are 2 Chinthe lions guarding the entrance and we also met a monk on his annual pilgrimage to Bagan, who was supposedly there to meditate. It seemed mighty strange that he would choose a Temple recommended in Lonely Planet, which received a steady flow of visitors, as his chosen place to meditate! It seemed even more coincidental that the monk was like so many others in Myanmar and had a treasured collection of foreign banknotes. What was more surprising was that just like all the others, he had never seen Euros or Pounds and also had no dollars in his collection and would be ever so greatful if we could donate any of these notes to his collection. I never carry Pounds around with me, so genuinely couldn't give him any if i'd have wanted to, but what makes me laugh with these people is that all the worthwhile coins that they have like the 1 pound (which they have obviously been given, to add to their collection), they ask if you will exchange them  for  kyat! The cheek of it!

Heading on to Gaw Daw Palin Paya across the road, Julia decided that she needed to use the toilet.
Ananda paya in the background, Thatbyinnyu Temple in the foreground
As many Temples only have Burmese numbers on (different to our numbers), we decided that it was wise to learn the numbers so as to identify each of the temples. This also comes in useful for other things, such as reading the toilet fee as 50kyat. As Julia left, the guy asked for 100kyat and when Julia said that the fee was 50kyat, the man got in a rage with her, as if she was trying to cheat him and not the other way around! That evening when we were shopping for some provisions, we also had the shop owner quoting us way too much for all the products that we wanted, even though the prices were written in Burmese on each item! Obviously not many people learn the numbers and this is a common little scam that goes unnoticed by most. Although the sums of money that you lose aren't that great, it all adds up and its also the fact that they think you are stupid and are always trying to raise the price to Westerners.
Sheep in front of Dhammayangyi Pahto
The woman in the shop again seemed a little angry at first, when she realised that we had caught her out, but it was clear that it was more through embarrassment on her own behalf. It showed that they know what they are doing is wrong, because they get the guilty rages after!

Our afternoon was finished visiting Myat Taw Pyay Paya, A Twin Si Gon Paya, Bupaya, Mahabodhi Temple, which was built in 1215AD and climbs 140 feet and is adorned with 465 images of Buddha, Ananda Pahto with its glorious golden sikhara top and gilded spires, which was built in 1105AD and finally we took in the sunset at Buledhi. After been literally followed from temple to temple by touts on motorbikes trying to sell us paintings and 'precious' gems and artefacts, it was frustrating that when we reached the top of Buledhi, a tout had already laid out an array of his paintings covering the viewing area, where people wanted to sit and watch the sunset.
Young monk on a Chinthe statue
Within minutes there were also kids thrusting bottle openers, postcards and clothing in your face, when all you wanted to do was sit in peace and enjoy the scenery. It had been a constant hassle all day with many touts following you into temples and badgering you to buy or look at their art. Often when politely saying no, they just don't except this as final and will keep telling you that looking is for free and keep following you around. What they don't understand is that with 3 and a half days and 4400 Temples to choose from, to spend 20 minutes at every stop looking at exactly the same things just isn't practical. Maybe they don't realise that you haven't travelled half way round the World to look at their paintings of Temples, but would actually prefer to look at the real things! The really sad thing is that once you have gone home and freshened up and are going out for Dinner and wouldn't mind shopping, they have already gone home to get an early night so they can be at the temples first thing and thus be badgering you when you want it the least.
Large golden standing Buddha at Ananda Paya


Having spent the day cycling around and been approached by what seemed like a never ending stream of people trying to sell us things, we arrived back at the hotel to find the horse and cart man from the previous day waiting to try and get us to book a trip with him for the following day! As if the taxis that had pulled up besides us offering us a similar service on our way back hadn't been enough, we couldn't even get away from it back at our hotel. I gritted my teeth, politely smiled and informed him that our bikes were more than adequate, thank you!

Having showered and changed we headed down to Cheriland 1 for another fantastic Dinner and enjoyed relaxing amongst the locals who were no different from us and just wanted to sit with some food and drink and see the night pass them by.
Sunset over Bagan
Leaving the cafe we were immediately accosted once again, this time by a man who said he was a headmaster. As Julia is a teacher and i wanted to be one at one time, we stood and listened to what he had to say and i went with him to look at his private school. He showed me a few excercise books and told me that he taught 40 kids and asked if we would like to come back the following day. I jumped at the chance and said i'd be happy to come and let the kids practice their English and generally do what we could to help. He wished us farewell and we agreed to meet the same time the following evening.
aoisoba says:
arggh so many things to see! i need to toughen up from this flockers, am usually a sucker for it
Posted on: Apr 11, 2008
Deats says:
The problem with travelling such a long time is the inability to buy things that you wouldn't actually mind buying. The cost of sending it home is sometimes 20 times the price of the item! So i've got pretty used tosmiing and explaining it's nothing about the product or price, but just logistics. Sadly this normally makes them more determined as they then think you are interested and go through whole range of ways to tie something to your pack or throw something away!

With the bikes they come with a good little locking system attached to the bike. I think they would be safe but its better to be safe than sorry!
Posted on: Feb 03, 2008
sylviandavid says:
yikes..... It appears one must be quite strong mentally to handle the constant barrage of sellers.... I would probably buy, buy, buy then when my backpack weighed too much be stronger & say no, no, no...... Very good tip to learn to read the numbers...
This is such an interesting and educational blog..... so much unexplored history... I love the descriptions....
dumb question but did you need to lock the bikes?
Posted on: Feb 03, 2008
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Shwezigon Zedi
Shwezigon Zedi
Upali Thein
Upali Thein
Ox cart passes by the temples
Ox cart passes by the temples
Ven Ganda at Mimaluang Kyaung
Ven Ganda at Mimaluang Kyaung
Ananda paya in the background, Tha…
Ananda paya in the background, Th…
Sheep in front of Dhammayangyi Pah…
Sheep in front of Dhammayangyi Pa…
Young monk on a Chinthe statue
Young monk on a Chinthe statue
Large golden standing Buddha at An…
Large golden standing Buddha at A…
Sunset over Bagan
Sunset over Bagan
Shwezigon Zedi
Shwezigon Zedi
Shwezigon Zedi
Shwezigon Zedi
Shwezigon Zedi
Shwezigon Zedi
Statues in Shwezigon Zedi
Statues in Shwezigon Zedi
Shwezigon Zedi
Shwezigon Zedi
Shwe Laik Tu
Shwe Laik Tu
Buddha inside Thagya Pone Temple
Buddha inside Thagya Pone Temple
Temple 2101
Temple 2101
Buddha inside Temple 2101
Buddha inside Temple 2101
Thagya Pone Temple
Thagya Pone Temple
Htilominlo Guphaya-gyi
Htilominlo Guphaya-gyi
Htilominlo Guphaya-gyi
Htilominlo Guphaya-gyi
Htilominlo Guphaya-gyi
Htilominlo Guphaya-gyi
Htilominlo Guphaya-gyi
Htilominlo Guphaya-gyi
Oz cart making its way across Bagan
Oz cart making its way across Bagan
Buddha statue at Shwe Gugyi
Buddha statue at Shwe Gugyi
Door carving at Shwe Gugyi
Door carving at Shwe Gugyi
Me at Shwe Gugyi, with Thatbyinnyu…
Me at Shwe Gugyi, with Thatbyinny…
Shwe Gugyi
Shwe Gugyi
Julia climbing steps at Shwe Gugyi
Julia climbing steps at Shwe Gugyi
Dhammayangyi Pahto
Dhammayangyi Pahto
Thatbyinnyu Paya
Thatbyinnyu Paya
Mahabodhi Temple
Mahabodhi Temple
Thatbyinnyu Paya
Thatbyinnyu Paya
Cows resting outside Thatbyinnyu P…
Cows resting outside Thatbyinnyu …
Thatbyinnyu Paya
Thatbyinnyu Paya
Thatbyinnyu Paya
Thatbyinnyu Paya
Thatbyinnyu Paya
Thatbyinnyu Paya
Sheep been herded in front of Shwe…
Sheep been herded in front of Shw…
Sheep been herded in front of Shwe…
Sheep been herded in front of Shw…
Thatbyinnyu Paya
Thatbyinnyu Paya
Nat Hlaung Kyaung Paya
Nat Hlaung Kyaung Paya
Temple 1602
Temple 1602
Chinthes guarding Mimaluang Kyaung
Chinthes guarding Mimaluang Kyaung
Looking across Bagan, Thatbyinnyu …
Looking across Bagan, Thatbyinnyu…
Thatbyinnyu Temple
Thatbyinnyu Temple
Buddha statues inside Thatbyinnyu …
Buddha statues inside Thatbyinnyu…
Me and a giant gold Buddha statue,…
Me and a giant gold Buddha statue…
Thatbyinnyu Temple
Thatbyinnyu Temple
Thatbyinnyu Temple
Thatbyinnyu Temple
Myat Taw Paw Paya
Myat Taw Paw Paya
Mahabodhi Temple
Mahabodhi Temple
Mahabodhi Temple
Mahabodhi Temple
Temples at Bagan with the moon in …
Temples at Bagan with the moon in…
Bupaya
Bupaya
Ananda Paya
Ananda Paya
Ananda Paya
Ananda Paya
Ananda Paya
Ananda Paya
Ananda Paya
Ananda Paya
Temple next to Buledhi
Temple next to Buledhi
Temple next to Buledhi
Temple next to Buledhi
Carving at Ananda Paya
Carving at Ananda Paya
Sunset over Bagan, watched from Bu…
Sunset over Bagan, watched from B…
Sunset over Bagan, watched from Bu…
Sunset over Bagan, watched from B…
Sunset over Bagan, watched from Bu…
Sunset over Bagan, watched from B…
Sunset over Bagan, watched from Bu…
Sunset over Bagan, watched from B…
Sunset over Bagan, watched from Bu…
Sunset over Bagan, watched from B…
Me watching the Sunset over Bagan,…
Me watching the Sunset over Bagan…
Sunset over Bagan, watched from Bu…
Sunset over Bagan, watched from B…
Sunset over Bagan, watched from Bu…
Sunset over Bagan, watched from B…
Sunset over Bagan, watched from Bu…
Sunset over Bagan, watched from B…
Sunset over Bagan, watched from Bu…
Sunset over Bagan, watched from B…
Sunset over Bagan, watched from Bu…
Sunset over Bagan, watched from B…
Sunset over Bagan, watched from Bu…
Sunset over Bagan, watched from B…
Bagan
photo by: planisphere