We got up early as usual and got the day started. The hotel offers a decent egg and bacon breakfast. But it’s cold here.
We didn’t expect it to be so cold. We eat breakfast outside on the roof as the sun comes up in jackets.
Just across the road from the hotel is a guy who rent bikes. Here you can choose from the classic bicycle to the electric version. For a few days we should be able to ride the classic ones and then we’ll see what we do on day three.
We ride the bikes toward the first pagoda we know of. One of the biggest in Bagan and a very beautiful one. The area here is easily navigated and it’s basically just down the road from the hotel. As we get there we are instantly overrun by salespeople, more commonly known as Hawkers. They circle around and around and stoop down when a prey is close.
We end up buying a few paintings from one guy with Buddhists themes. Other two are extremely “in our faces” for making us do business with them. We shake then off and move inside the pagoda. It’s stunning. Golden painted on the top, and in the morning sun it’s shining. We take our time and move slowly around. Katja buys a gold leaf and goes inside a little hut to a Buddah and place it on him. “Only women, sir”, they tell me.
We find a little cage where you can donate money and where you can request/ pray for different things. Like passing your exam or winning the lottery. Seemed like a popular place to go.
We walk around the pagoda and find the tiger and the guinniepig to pay tribute to our animals. Before we move back towards the exit. The hawkers are there, but we got loose and got out. The guy who sold us the paintings asked us in rather bad English if we had seen the “mumble mumble”. Honestly we thought he might try to sell us more and got on our way. We later learned that it was the “37 nats” which are figures representing animals in the Buddhist religion. Maybe we’ll go back at some point to see them.
We followed the road west and stopped to ask someone what we just passed. It was as monastery and it was OK for us to ride the bikes inside. So we did. Inside we meet some monks and monkeys (correct naming for female monks?) And we found figures and statues of Buddah. Among them a seldom sight, a skinny Buddah. My guess it’s from his six years of meditation. Guess anyone will loose a few pounds in that time.
We continued our travel and got to a group of Pagodas. We were the only ones there and we walked around and enjoyed the silence along with the sights. We found a blanket and a net with some few things. We never saw the owner but it was in the classic maroon colour of the monks. The trail from the road was filled with bushes with thorns. Small balls filled with them where everywhere on the tyres, in the sandals, outside of the sandals and under the feet. We did clean out the tires, but…
We went back the way we came in, and moved a little down the road before taking the road that leads to the Bagan viewing tower. A thirteen story high building that gives you a splendid view of the area and all the Pagodas.
The road there was like riding in loose sand dunes. It was a horrible ride, but in beautiful surroundings. We got passed by cats and motorcycles and they all drove like someone was after them.
We paid our entrance fee and got into the tower. It is quite modern add was built in 2005. It has an elevator which makes it accessible for older and handicapped people also. There is a restaurant on the ninth floor, and from 11 to 13 you walk the stairs. Well up on the thirteenth floor you have a grand 360 degrees view of the area. It’s easy to be overwhelmed. There are so many Pagodas it’s just insane. It was 4444 of them, but the current number us something like 3150. I’ll get back to that.
After spending some time on the top we hurry back down up the restaurant and enjoyed a lunch with a view surpassed by few.
We got back down and to my big dismay I found I had a flat tyre. Lollipop! We’re far away from home. This it’s gonna suck.
We stop at a new pagoda just around the corner and go inside the area. Were greeted by a young skinny guy who is nice and polite, and who speaks amazingly good English. He walks with us to the pagoda and tells us a lot of different things. Here are some of what I remember, but with possible lacks or even wrongly remembered.
Buddah lived 550 lives before the one where he became enlightened. He was every type of person. Poor, rich, king, slave etc. The Pagodas here was used as shelters during the fighting in World War II, and you’ll find damages to the paintings inside the pagoda from cooking fires and daily life. The department of archaeology has restored a few selected small paintings inside, but there is not enough money to do all paintings in all Pagodas. The was a big earthquake in 1975 that destroyed almost half of the 4444 Pagodas and reduced the number to 2750. In the ones still standing there is a lot of damage to the stucco both inside and outside. It broke and feel of. The are two kinds of demons in Buddhism, good and bad. There are lots of demons depicted on the Pagodas as they are guardians. Monasteries are square buildings and they easy to separate from the round topped Pagodas. There where more, but I end it here.
As we finished he presented us with his paintings that really amazed us and he makes his own paint from charcoal, safran, marbel and vegetables. The difference between the acrylic ones he’d made and the nature based was stunning. We haggled a bit but ended up buying one from him. It’s gonna be up on the wall back home .
His story has (“if it’s true”, the skeptic on me say) a lot of flavor. Son of a fisherman and a mother who sold the fish at the market, who were to poor to send him to school. Her therefore spent three years in monastery preparation at the age seven to ten. His mother passed away two years ago from breast cancer. Hearing that you kind of awaken to the fact that it is not a western phenomenon to get cancer. It happens all over the world, but the mortality rate outside of the western world is much higher. Anyway, the stories gives for a good backdrop for the painting when you see it in our home later.
As we got out and I climbed on the flat bike an Ox cart passed on the road. I have earlier mentioned the diversity in this country, and here people rent us electric bicycles, but still ride a ox cart to bring firewood back home.
We spent some time by the pool, which hold so cold water no one enters with a straight face. And I who wanted to chill and relax in the water. Chill may be had, but no relaxation.
We got back on the bikes and wheeled towards a sunset viewing point. A pagoda that was to be very nice in the sunset. We planned to visit a pagoda a bit further away, and then to stop on the view point in our way back. Maybe there was some relaxation to be had by the pool anyway, because we got out a little too late. We skipped the pagoda furthest away and went straight to the view point. Good thing that we did, as we were not the only one there. The Pagodas was accessible for climbing and we could use a stair in the walls and emerge on the roof. The viewe from there as the sun set was unreal. I write no more, just show you the pictures.
We went from the hotel to a little Restaurant where we saw a lot of locals eating and they served excellent spicy masala and I got to view football on the telly.
As we returned we spoke to the bike rental guy, who by the way has a friend who escaped the junta here 25 years ago and now live in Norway, that we wanted the bikes one more day. We’re planning to go see the sunrise tomorrow on the same pagoda we did today’s sunset.
The internet is not working at the hotel and we’re now way behind on publishing on the blog. As this is written we have about a week’s backlog. With no internet to upload pictures and to publish the text I guess it will be a massive update Web we finally get a decent connection againno honestly don’t think that will happen until we’re in Kuala Lumpur right before Christmas. Time will show. Now it’s an early night as we get up at five for watching the sunrise.
…within the core of each of us is the child we once were. This child constitutes the foundation of what we have become, who we are, and what we will be.
– Neuroscientist, Dr. R. Joseph