05.03.2013 - 05.03.2013 40 °C
Today we took a break from templing and decided to have a relaxing day before our trip to Mandalay tomorrow. After getting up early to have breakfast (which is only served 7 until 9), we came back to the room and caught up on some much needed shut eye. We have had two early starts to see the temples so have never had chance to catch up on the sleep we missed from our eventful overnight bus.
Once we were ready we decided to go for a walk and explore Bagan or more precisely Nyaung Oo, where our guesthouse is. Around the corner from where we are staying there is a market so we started there. Before we got within 20 feet of the place we were harassed by a seller asking us if we wanted to by souvenirs. We kindly shrugged her off and made our way deep into the market where the touts left us alone. The market itself is very cramped and vibrant, it is covered by fine mesh that hangs low so Liam constantly had to duck whilst walking through. The ‘stalls’ are baskets and blankets on the floor that the ladies sit at with their scales. It was really interesting to walk around. Most sold food such as vegetables and fruit, dried fish and spices. There were stalls with huge vats of rice and huge bags of dried chillies and tea which you could smell a mile off. We walked around dodging the souvenir stalls as we went. We were asked if we wanted to by a longyi, a traditional skirt type item ninety per cent of the men wear, a face cream that all the women and most kids where to protect from the sun and the obligatory Burmese Days by George Orwell amongst other things. What we did buy were a few oranges from one of the stalls for the rest of our walk.
From there we decided to go see the Ayeyarwaddy (Irewaddy) river. It was a short walk from where we were but it became apparent that not many tourists come up this way. There are a lot of local houses and a few colonial style buildings and huge trees line the road. A lot of people watched us as we went and said hello and waved, you get this reaction in a lot of places and it is really nice. We followed the road up to the jetty where you can catch the slow boat to Mandalay, unfortunately we do not have the time to do this but we imagine it would be really nice. Have to save that for next time. The river itself was huge and a lot cleaner than we imagined, there were a few boats docked, and a guy did try to sell us a boat ride in badly broken English that Liam understood none of but Chelsea seemed to get perfectly and kindly said no thank you. By the river is a working community and a small village. There are clusters of houses where people sit out front people watching a snoozing in the heat. Women washed their clothes and children swam in the river. People were working in the fields and everyone else was sat in their small shops and cafes waiting for customers. As soon as we approached a group of children ran towards us shouting hello and looking at our bag of oranges. There was only one left but Chelsea offered it them and they shared it between them. We had a walk around and took some photos before retreating to the shade. We took a rest at a little shop and had a drink overlooking the river. We sat for ages people watching and chatting before moving on.
We decided to walk down the river on the road towards a place called Bagan Beach bar that was on our map. We walked down a really small street lined with people houses. Everyone was sat outside in the shade and they smiled and said hello. We crossed a few dry riverbeds that were filled to the brim with litter but the rest of the place was small and looked very basic. Often small bamboo or wooden houses nestled in between big colonial buildings. Whilst walking by a dog went for Chelsea and she weirdly shouted go away in Thai. Liam reminded her we weren’t in Thailand and the dog wouldn’t understand but it seemed to do the trick as the dog backed off. When we reached the bar we planned to go to it was packed with massive tour buses full of people so we decided to skip it and walk back into town. After having such a quiet and slow paced afternoon we weren’t up for sitting with 100 package tourists. It is amazing how different the village is just ten minute walk out of the main tourist strip. We didn’t see any other western people and the locals were smiling and friendly. The whole atmosphere was sleepy and small, totally opposite to the busy roads in the centre and thousands of tourists.
In town we found a smallp lace and ordered a lime soda each. It was really bitter and not even a little a bit refreshing but being polite English people we drank it with grimacing faces and said thank you. We went a few doors down and had a few beers. We sat all afternoon, for hours talking and drinking in the small outdoor area they had and it was really enjoyable and relaxing.
We came home around 4.30pm and did our washing and showered to go out for some tea. Every time you go outside in Bagan you are covered in dust. It’s funny when you take your shoes off and you have perfect dust lines where your flip flops have been. For tea we both had a vegetable Masan Curry with rice. It is a Thai dish we have had before and it is delicious, spicy and creamy with a coconut flavour and full of potatoes. It was gorgeous.
We have had a lovely slow paced day today and feel like we have seen another side to Bagan. The temples are amazing but we would definitely recommend spending another day and just having a walk round the village talking to the locals and seeing their way of life. The market is vibrant and the river is where whole communities live. Bagan has been one of our favourite places so far. It is like no other place we have ever been.