Bagan and its two thousand temples

As I was saying before, the arrival to Bagan was an early one: almost 4am and after suffering food poisoning. Although confused, I was more than fine and I got into a taxi with an Australian guy that has his hotel in the same area I did.

No hotel in this town was opened at this time, apparently. So I had to leave my bag and made my way to the sunrise spot with Julian. After the rip-off I thought we suffered from the taxi driver, the problem was that it was too f*cking early. And cold, really cold. Imagine how cold it was that I was keeping my socks from sleeping in the bus and wearing my sandals. Looking beautiful as ever and not giving a damn. Julian seemed not to be in the dirt backpacking wave, he wouldn’t facilitate my attempts to bargain with the taxi driver, but he definitely surprised me when he proposed to make a fire right there. My always expressive face was probably a whole poem as a reaction, but of course I didn’t refuse. After all, all we could do is trying and there was nothing else to do, nothing open, nobody around yet and, overall, it was cold.

The fire was a success. We used wood piled up where a fire camp had been before and we made quite a good fire. It kept us busy plus it attracted the family that was living around the pagoda, who apparently owned the fire place and used it every morning to get warm. They offered us tea that we took gratefully as something hot inside was always good. Plus, I have had an empty stomach for a whole day; I needed to start feeling something inside it.

Sunrise took place and we enjoyed the views from the top of the pagoda. It was magical to see all the mist around the temples, the sun rising, the sky changing colours and lots and lots of temples everywhere you looked at. Then, the hot air balloons took off and offered us a beautiful panoramic scene. Wow.

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This sunrise was worth every single bit

When we had enough of it, we urged for breakfast. Coffee. Something. I was hungry, finally! Then, we found a local market and got a traditional Myanmar breakfast: 3 in 1 coffee and noodles. It didn’t matter, my stomach could take it and I needed something consistent that would provide me with energy.

The check-in time would not be until after midday, so we had a morning to be filled with walking around, markets, temples and chilling time. We ended up making our way to the hotel walking while enjoying the landscape: brick temples and pagodas spread around everywhere. After checking in, I instantly felt the good vibes in my dormitory. There was a French guy and an Italian guy and we all chatted away. I liked the atmosphere and although I was supposed to be meeting Julian for sunset and dinner, I didn’t lose the opportunity to invite the guy that was left in the room, Giampy, to join us, which he did.

The first thing we needed to do was to find a good spot for sunset, but we got a bit lost at the very beginning and when we headed to the right direction, it got a bit too late to get there on time. We ended up in some other random place, a ruined temple we climbed up not without danger to enjoy a sunset for the three of us. We felt privileged.

After that, dinner was needed and by the time we finished, Gianpy and me had instantly clicked. We were talking enthusiastically about random stuff such as travelling, leaving your job, meditation and yoga, life experiences, sports and a few other things. He even suggested on travelling together! Julian felt tired and retired but we kept going as if I have had enough sleep the previous night.

On top of that, I woke up at 5am to get one of those famous e-bikes in Bagan and catch the sunrise. I had mixed feelings about it: I didn’t feel prepared to ride a motorbike on my own, plus I saw a couple of accidents the previous day, so it was clear that although everybody was renting them, there were many people that was quite inexperienced. I didn’t feel like creating an unnecessary risk of sending myself home after a bike accident. But I also knew this was the only way to catch the sunrise somewhere cool and quieter than the previous day and that it was the only way to get around Bagan and do the only thing you could be doing here: getting lost and enjoying a landscape filled with temples. So, I grew a pair and went for it.

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The infamous e-bike

When I tried the bike I realised how quick it was getting to a considerable speed and I felt unsettled about it. But I had woken up early and I was dying to get another of these beautiful sunrises. I asked for a recommendation on where to go and headed down that way. When I arrived to the temple it was closed, so I decided to keep going and see if I could find another one. But the paths started getting horribly sandy and I was not skilled at all with the bike. In addition, I could not find any climbable temple, which was the most important to get to see the sunset. By the second time I fell, I actually hurt myself and I realised that sunrise was about to start. I felt angry with myself and stupid at the same time. How could I think I could drive a bike, in the dark? How could I think I could find a temple myself? How could I think I could do all this alone, I am not that skilled or intelligent even. I started feeling that I would have to give up and just find a spot without trees, good enough to see the sunset, and just be the only person that has been to Bagan and has not been able to find a place to see a decent sunrise on his/her own. I would be that one, definitely. But that’s what I thought, because I kept going, somehow, trying to reach somewhere before it was too late and then spotted a temple that could be alright. I left the bike in the “main” path, as I was not willing to get it to the very temple and fall again in the middle of the way. I also thought it was not worth the effort of taking the bike there and then coming back and I would rather do it walking. So I walked to the temple to find a door closing it. What it called my attention was a bike parked at the front of the temple, a couple of pairs of flip flops and that the door was broken at the very bottom, allowing the entrance to it if crawling. I did get in, of course, because this felt the one I was looking for and there probably were a tourist or two around. But inside was dark and I couldn’t find stairs, which meant there was no way up. D*mn it! I made my way back, feeling quite useless when I spotted two people on the top of the temple. Wait a minute, they climbed up! I was shouting ‘hello, hello’ before but they didn’t answer (because they didn’t hear it or because they didn’t want to share the temple with anybody else) but now I could see them and they had to. So I was asked them how on earth could I climb up and they indicated that there were stairs exactly in the opposite side I had been looking for them. I made my way up there and enjoyed the best sunrise in Bagan. Beautiful and completely quiet, I felt I had this moment for myself and felt rewarded on my persistence despite my negative thoughts. I also felt veeeery cold and a bit sore from falling but that’s another story and not an important one.

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This is the sunrise I caught and was so lucky to enjoy!

On my way back to the hotel for breakfast, I could see how the first place I hit that morning was not closed anymore, which only meant that I was got there too early. I just thought it could be used as sunset place for later on and never worried about it anymore. I have to add that something funny happened in this place while I visited it: I found myself talking to myself, something that I realised I do lately. Only that this time a monk was around to hear my comment and felt completely stupid. Funnily enough, after saying ‘Mingalaba’ (my favourite word) to him, he made a comment on exactly what I was commenting to myself before, even though I did it in Spanish and there was not a chance that he could have picked it up. The universe sometimes is funny and likes games like this!

I spent the morning wandering with my e-bike and had the chance to enjoy some kind of festival I stopped for. There was a truck with music and a huge line of people following it. They were very well dressed, the make up was more original than usual and the kids after them were in fancy horses, everything and everybody wrapped in wonderful colours. A fake dancing elephant closed the line.

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Festival, with a line of people very well dress, music, dances, horses…

I kept wondering around but the sandy paths made me give up on the idea of having the bike rented for the whole day. Half day would perfectly do, I was too tired and I didn’t want an accident and the way I saw it was: the longer you ride for, the more possibilities of opening your skull. Call me drama queen, but I was not comfortable doing more and that was it. Plus, I was lucky to find some temple with three chambers and paintings inside that apparently was quite unique, so I felt I found the one that was different and I didn’t need to see more Buddhas.

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Buddhas, Buddhas everywhere

 

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T

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Temples anywhere you look

I gave the bike away and headed back to the hostel. Giampy, the Italian guy, was hanging around so I went for lunch with him to organise what would be our supposed travelling together. A walk for lund and lunch called for a coffee stop and lots and lots of chats, laughing at everything and talking about stuff, sometimes deep, sometimes not. And we rushed for a new sunset in a new place. Although the place was the same I had been recommended twice and I knew it would be a bit crowed, somehow we managed to find a wall to climb that was empty, despite being 5 minutes away from where everybody was. And the feeling of having something unique for your own, that’s special. I think after making our way back in the darkness and grabbing dinner together, with all the amount of time we spent together and the stuff we had the chance to talk about, made us be closer to each other. I also could see in him a fun and interesting person to travel with and share experiences and comments. It is always good to have somebody to listen to your comments that is not an unexpected monk! So we got our tickets off to Mandalay for the next day. It was funny enough how he changed his mind twice and had his reservations about this: he was cool about travelling together and for him it was the first time he would travel with somebody he didn’t know, but at the same time he also wanted really badly to get to the beach at some point soon. By the time we enquired about tickets and he enquired for his to the beach, the guy at the ticket office send him to Mandalay! It must be written from before that we were meant to go together.

***

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