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A scam at the 'school' and a trip around New Bagan and Myinkaba - Day 3

Bagan Travel Blog

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

Another fantastic rooftop breakfast was wolfed down in the morning, and its one of the things i will miss most about Myanmar when we leave. The breakfasts that are included in your room price always motivate you to get up and give you a great start to every day. Having consulted our map of Bagan, it was decided that the day would be spent looking at Temples in and around New Bagan and Myinkaba.The first stop was on the road down to New Bagan at Alo Taw Phi Paya, where a monk was keen to take our photos, which was a pleasant role reversal from me normally wanting to take theirs! The temple itself contained some excellent frescoes and there were plenty of other fantastic temples in the vicinity including unnamed temples 369, 371, 378, 200, 2330, 386 and the photogenic Htilominlo in the background.
Buddha inside Ywa Haung gyi Temple
The only problem we encountered in this area were the sharp thorns all over the floor, which kept lodging into our feet, as you have to remove your shoes and socks to be able to walk around any of the temples. Our feet certainly took a battering over these 4 days and i praise the person who invented footwear!

Next on our route were Ywa Haung Gyi Temple, Mingalazedi, 710, Gubyaukgyi, 1321, 644, Manuha Paya, Adeyadana Pahto, Nagayon, which was built in the 11th century by King Kyansittha, Lay Myet Hna Pagoda, Somingyi Kyaung and Sein Yet, before we stopped in New Bagan for a very late lunch. The sun had been beating down on us for hours and mixed with the exhaustion of riding the bikes and viewing the temples had come the added frustration of trying to deal with the touts at every stop along the way.
Manuha Paya
Unlike the temples of Angkor, where sellers can't enter the Temples, at Bagan there are no such restrictions and basically anything goes. The cleverer salesmen know which are the remoter temples and go to these posing as someone who is there to point you in the right direction around the temple and will normally point you to the place where his paintings are layed out! I can't blame them for trying to earn a living, but to be followed from pretty much the second you leave your hotel to the second you return is a thoroughly draining experience and was slowly but surely ruining my experience of the whole area.

The late afternoon was spent cycling between and viewing the Temples 1126, Dhamma Ya Zika, a very ornate gold leafed giant temple, with an unusual 5 sided shape and pretty surrounding grounds, Thit Sa Mandaing, Sutaung Pyait Monastario, 572 and 801.
1 of 3 Giant seated Buddhas at Manuha Paya
As it had been another long long day, we both agreed that we would give the sunset a miss and go and lie in our air con room and freshen up, as we had our pre arranged meeting at the school with the headmaster.

Around 6.30pm we cycled down to meet Sein Thaung, the guy who claimed to be the headmaster of a private school, where he taught 40 children English and Maths. Upon arrival he said that we could go and meet the children and i was a little surprised that only 4 or 5 children were there with his daughter and none of them seemed particularly surprised or bothered that we were there. Rather than introduce us and let us talk and teach the kids, he dragged us away into the main section of his house - the 'school' was actually just a room in his house.
An Ox cart works its way from Dhammayazika Temple
He sat us down, brought us some Chinese tea and then got his wife to come and paint Thanaka on Julia's face - a white powder used by the Burmese to protect against sun burn and also as a beauty product for the skin. Saying that Sein taught English, he knew very few words and just kept repeating the same lines about the age of his children, the 2 subjects they learnt and that was it really. That was until it came to his sales pitch to get money from us. He'd obviously rehearsed this much harder.

'My children all have final exams, they need money for books and pens, we are very poor at the school and if you could leave some money, then i can buy the children some books and pens and rulers'. As Julia and I had discussed in advance the possibility of taking such things along with us, this request wasn't really too much of a problem, so i replied that we'd be happy to buy these things tomorrow and bring them, but wouldn't it also be useful if the kids would practice their English with us? These suggestions didn't go down too well and he reiterated that they didn't want the books and pens, but they wanted the money so they could buy the books and pens themselves! I explained that i'd rather hand over the actual books and pens and he then said that all the shops would be shut tonight and tomorrow for the festival at Ananda Paya, even though they were open all around us right at that moment and therefore we had to give money! Money money money, nothing was good enough other than money.
Dhammayazika Temple
Julia looked at me and could tell that i was boiling. After making the effort to come here and try and make a small difference it was all just another way of asking for money. It all sank in, the children were no doubt his grandchildren, his wife seemed so annoyed to be doing the thanaka painting on Julia, because clearly this was her role in a scam, which she probably didn't want to be involved in. I asked one last time if he would like books and pens and again his response was that money was the only real thing in his mind. I politely made our excuses and said that we had to be leaving for Dinner and walked out of the building wanting to both scream and cry. Bagan was becoming a real ball ache.

Thankfully the ever reliable Cheriland 1 cheered me up somewhat, but this feeling soon evaporated with the knowledge that Sein knew that this was where we ate and would no doubt be back the following day to continue his charade.
A view of Bagans temples from Dhammayazika Temple
It was with deep regret that we were to make this our last meal at the restaurant, so as not to have to run into this small time crook again. Slowly but surely, meeting people like this was making me put my defences up against the Burmese people and i didn't want to be doing that one little bit, but i just couldn't help it.
mountains04 says:
i really enjoyed reading this blog. try not to become jaded about the burmese in particular. scams are everywhere, in every country! i know of many other travelers (including myself) who have been taken advantage of because of their openness and willingness to trust a bit more easily while traveling to foreign lands. at least you weren't hurt. unfortunately, i've known others who have been threatened with weapons (guns, knives) and robbed at some point during their travels. stay cautious and take care ~ sandra
Posted on: Feb 12, 2008
Deats says:
Burma can be quite draining to travel, but i think this was the day where i began to lose my patience with the population. It went downhill after this moment sadly!
Posted on: Feb 03, 2008
sylviandavid says:
How disappointing to have a scam when you thought it was a genuine school and proposal....... You handled it well.... really well..... David is calm like that.... I would not be. Loved this blog... Sylvia
Posted on: Feb 03, 2008
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Alo Taw Pyi Paya
Alo Taw Pyi Paya
Buddha inside Ywa Haung gyi Temple
Buddha inside Ywa Haung gyi Temple
Manuha Paya
Manuha Paya
1 of 3 Giant seated Buddhas at Man…
1 of 3 Giant seated Buddhas at Ma…
An Ox cart works its way from Dham…
An Ox cart works its way from Dha…
Dhammayazika Temple
Dhammayazika Temple
A view of Bagans temples from Dham…
A view of Bagans temples from Dha…
Alo Taw Pyi Paya
Alo Taw Pyi Paya
Golden Buddha inside Alo Taw Pyi P…
Golden Buddha inside Alo Taw Pyi …
Alo Taw Pyi Paya
Alo Taw Pyi Paya
Murals inside Alo Taw Pyi Paya
Murals inside Alo Taw Pyi Paya
Temples 369 and 371
Temples 369 and 371
Small Buddha images in Temple 378
Small Buddha images in Temple 378
Temple 378
Temple 378
Temple 200
Temple 200
Temple 386
Temple 386
Temple 386
Temple 386
Htilomino Temple
Htilomino Temple
Buddha inside Ywa Haung gyi Temple
Buddha inside Ywa Haung gyi Temple
Buddha inside Ywa Haung gyi Temple
Buddha inside Ywa Haung gyi Temple
Painted Buddha inside Ywa Haung gy…
Painted Buddha inside Ywa Haung g…
Ywa Haung gyi Temple
Ywa Haung gyi Temple
Julia at Ywa Haung gyi Temple
Julia at Ywa Haung gyi Temple
Buddha inside Ywa Haung gyi Temple
Buddha inside Ywa Haung gyi Temple
Mingalazedi
Mingalazedi
Puppy at Mingalazedi
Puppy at Mingalazedi
Bagan archway
Bagan archway
Flowering cactus at Gubyaukgyi
Flowering cactus at Gubyaukgyi
Temple 1321 and 644
Temple 1321 and 644
Julia with a massive reclining Bud…
Julia with a massive reclining Bu…
1 of 3 Giant seated Buddhas at Man…
1 of 3 Giant seated Buddhas at Ma…
1 of 3 Giant seated Buddhas at Man…
1 of 3 Giant seated Buddhas at Ma…
Julia with the finger of 1 of 3 Gi…
Julia with the finger of 1 of 3 G…
Abeyadana Pahto
Abeyadana Pahto
Carving and paintings in Nagayon
Carving and paintings in Nagayon
3 statues in Nagayon
3 statues in Nagayon
View across Bagans plain
View across Bagans plain
Nagayon
Nagayon
A window with crucifixes at Nagayon
A window with crucifixes at Nagayon
Statue at Nagayon
Statue at Nagayon
A window with crucifixes at Nagayon
A window with crucifixes at Nagayon
A view of Bagan
A view of Bagan
Julia in front of some beautiful f…
Julia in front of some beautiful …
Somingyi Kyaung
Somingyi Kyaung
Locals getting transported around …
Locals getting transported around…
Temple 1126
Temple 1126
Dhammayazika Temple
Dhammayazika Temple
Dhammayazika Temple
Dhammayazika Temple
Dhammayazika Temple
Dhammayazika Temple
Dhammayazika Temple
Dhammayazika Temple
A view of Bagans temples from Dham…
A view of Bagans temples from Dha…
A view of Bagans temples from Dham…
A view of Bagans temples from Dha…
A view of Bagans temples from Dham…
A view of Bagans temples from Dha…
A view of me and Bagans temples fr…
A view of me and Bagans temples f…
A view of Bagans temples from Dham…
A view of Bagans temples from Dha…
Dhammayazika Temple
Dhammayazika Temple
A view of Bagans temples from Dham…
A view of Bagans temples from Dha…
Thitsawadi Temple
Thitsawadi Temple
2 temples at Bagan
2 temples at Bagan
A view of Bagans temples from Dham…
A view of Bagans temples from Dha…
Monastery at Bagan
Monastery at Bagan
Temple 572 (i think!)
Temple 572 (i think!)
Monastery at Bagan
Monastery at Bagan
Julia getting Thanaka put on her f…
Julia getting Thanaka put on her …
Julia getting Thanaka put on her f…
Julia getting Thanaka put on her …
Julia getting Thanaka put on her f…
Julia getting Thanaka put on her …
Julia with the headmaster and hi…
Julia with the 'headmaster' and h…
Julia after having Thanaka put on …
Julia after having Thanaka put on…
Bagan
photo by: planisphere