03.03.2013 - 03.03.2013 39 °C
Cycling around the dust plains of Bagan
Today is Liam's Dads birthday so we just want to wish him a really happy birthday! Loads of love xxxxxxx
We were up, had breakfast and had rented at bike by 7.45am this morning. Chelsea was really excited to get her first glimpse of all the temples, Liam was tired and didn't speak for at least an hour after he got up. Breakfast is on a roof terrace and was surprisingly nice. Toast and Omelette and a variety of fruits, juice and coffee. We paid 1500Ks each to rent a bike from our guest house for the day. We packed a big bottle of water, sun lotion and a blanket and set off on our temple hunt. It didn't take long to find some. We had planned to cycle into Old Bagan and see the main temples there and the old city walls. We planned to see some main important temples and any smaller ones that interested us on the way but it seemed that every cluster of temples interested us so we stopped off at most temples on the way.
We were overwhelmed by the sheer amount of them as we cycled down the road. Leading off the main road are many dusty tracks that lead to clusters of Payas or temples. The first set we came across were beautiful. Down a small sandy track were a cluster of three larger buildings and lots of smaller ones in the distance. When we arrived we were the only visitors apart from a man with his horse and cart and a man selling his paintings of the plains. Some of the buildings you can enter and they still have the original paintings on the wall and shrines to Buddha. We cycled around these sites and then crossed the road to another immediate cluster. This one was a lot bigger and once inside a local man said there were stairs up to get views from the top. We climbed up the narrow stairs and the views from the top were amazing. The whole area is flat and there is nothing but trees, temples and the spires from Payas everywhere.
We are not sure about the climbing up on these old buildings. Before we came here we were against it as some are ancient relics however some of these buildings have hand rails to aid you climb and locals insist you view from the top so we are not sure what the protocol is for walking up them.
Slowly we began to guide our way through the maze of religious buildings. The scenery in Bagan is stunning and can only really be appreciated in real life. The photos don't accurately portray the vastness and openness of the area. You can freely ride down any dirt path and come to deserted buildings. This is what we enjoyed the most. It is so easy to find a secluded spot where you are the only tourist in eyesight. We didn't expect to be able to find areas like this in such a popular place but it is so vast that regularly you can freely be left alone to wander in the quiet around the beautiful landscape and potter in and out of hundreds of temples. It is really something special.
The main temples and Payas however are altogether a different story. They are all crowded with vendors selling cold drinks and souvenirs. They are a lot more persistent than we expected and a lot of them use their children to sell their goods who do a good job of making you feel bad if you say no thank you. Mainly people sell lacquered items, postcards and sand paintings as well as books and jewellery. also some people dress their children in traditional dress and they will pose for a photograph and we also saw minority groups sitting for photos and charging. Along with the many touts there are also many many tourists. At the the main temples we went to their were bus loads of tour groups and music blaring out. It is a different world to the quiet and serene areas you can venture on your bicycle. All the major temples such as Andana Pagoda, Thatbyinnyu Temple and Shegugyi Paya were like this and despite their architectural beauty the feeling you get when visiting is totally different. That been said however they are still most defiantly worth the visit as they are stunning buildings with interesting interiors.
After cycling down the road from Nyaung Oo to Old Bagan we had seen a lot of sights and it was reaching midday so we decided to stop for a cool down and a drink. We found a roadside vendor and sat in the shade with a big bottle of cold water. Liam tried a sugar cane juice drink and Chelsea had a strawberry ice cream and we sat for around an hour cooling off and relaxing out of the sun until a child tout came to try and sell us postcards, bus tickets and her own drawings she had done.
We then decided to cycle through old Bagan and along Anawrahta Road back towards home. This road is a lot newer but seems to have less traffic on it. We stopped off at a few small sights and cycled around the dust roads instead of the main road. In this area there is a maze of dirt tracks that connect all the buildings. The only issue is that sometimes the earths so dry that the sand on the paths is too deep and so your bike sinks and it is too difficult to peddle.
We then decided to check out Shwesandaw Paya, usually a sunset spot. It was around 1pm so we were the only people visiting apart from the touts. This one has steep steps up to the top and a handrail. We walked up a few tiers and admired the view. The stone was baking hot so we navigated from shaded spot of shaded spot and sat for a while half way up in the shade admiring the view. All the sights are religious so you are required t take off your shoes before you enter. As the roads are so dusty it makes no difference to the cleanliness of your feet and it often feels quite nice to walk a round barefoot. Also keep in mind that shorts and spaghetti strap tops are not permitted, as are wearing socks so if you plan to wear a shoulder less top take a shirt or shawl to wrap around your shoulders.
By his point the heat was unbearable and our legs and bums were sore so we decided to make the 5-6k ride back in one. Most of it was uphill so it was a bit of a struggle in midday heat but we were rewarded with our ice cold air conditioned room and a shower when we got back.
After relaxing and showering off all of the days dust we decided to go back out to watch the sunset over the temples. We didn't fancy the mass of tourists on the main sights so decided to find a quiet spot just for us two. We set off quite early as we were not sure what time the sun set and managed to find a quiet spot we had been recommended . It wasnt high up but the views were beautiful and we sat for more than an hour alone watching the sun go down. The sky was orange and the silhouettes of the spires looked lovely. We never expected to come to Myanmar on our travels and are really overwhelmed and happy that we are in Bagan. It is a dream for both of us and watching the sun set over the plains and buildings was amazing. Definitely something we will do everyday we are here.
When the sun finally set we were starving as we hadn't eaten all day and we cycled back into town in the dark. We were surprised to find that they have street lights on the main road and we decided to go back to Weather Spoons for some tea. It was so small and friendly yesterday and the food was so delicious we couldn't resist. We both had a rare treat and had a burger and chips. Anyone in Bagan craving some home comforts should visit Weather Spoons. He is a local man who has lived in England and he does both traditional Burmese foods as well as Western dishes. The burger was gorgeous. Homemade and better than most burgers you can get in the UK. The owner, Winton is extremely smiley and friendly and the atmosphere is lovely. A perfect way to end a perfect day in Bagan.