Beautiful Bagan: Myanmar

Let’s just take a moment and say, “Aaaah, Bagan!” That’s all! Don’t need to say much else about this beautiful place.

We decide to rent electric bikes today for a self guided tour. The friendly hotel staff mark the best temples on a map and we are off. Fortunately we make a wrong turn and go left instead of right, which brings us to this huge temple that is almost like a pyramid. I see no doors or windows on this massive pile of stones. I think this temple is not visited very often by tourists because it is a bit out of the way. We are the only tourists here.
  

There are some workers here and they are making this nice sidewalk that goes around the temple. I have everyone stop here for a photo of these cool trees. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

As we round the bend one of the workers calls out to us. He tells us there is a small door for us to go through to enter inside this gargantuan temple. We are curious and as we round the corner sure enough, there is a small door that looks like it has been cut out into the temple wall. He coaxes us to come on in, and he will show us a Buddha inside. He says it will take about 15 minutes to get all the way in.

We are game for an adventure and had even brought our headlamps with us, so we follow him into the hole.

Inside there is a tunnel that is high enough to walk in.
  

The floor is full of rocks and rubble and dust, and since it is a temple you are not allowed any footwear. The air is stale and filled with fine dust that rises up in little poofs with each step we take. I didn’t even realize that I broke temple protocol by lifting my skirt too high and showing off my varicose veins.

Even David can walk upright in this tunnel. 

This passageway is pretty short and we come upon another opening a little bit smaller  than the first. Our guide tells us that we need to climb up and through that opening…..what? We are barefoot! I shine a flashlight through the small opening, and what to my wondering eyes should appear? Bats! They were flying here and there, their nasty teeth flashing in the bright light from my headlamp. And the squeals they emitted were the freakiest thing I have heard!

I look at David. He looks at me. “Are you going in?”

There’s no way in this world that I will go into a narrow passageway filled with bats to see any Buddha, or anything else for that matter.  Then it occurs to me that the fine dust we are walking on barefoot…….it is most likely bat feces! I wonder what kinds of diseases you can get from bat feces? None pop into my head right away, but perhaps there are rhodent droppings mixed in with this bat feces. I know for sure that you can get bad diseases like hantavirus from rhodent feces (probably not here), but I feel sick. The dust is making Bjorn cough. Soon it feels like I can even taste the dust in my mouth.

And what if one of this squealing bats attacks and bites one of us? Dr. Krazer’s words echo in my head as though he is there with us speaking to me. “If anyone gets a wild animal bite you will need to come home right away for treatment. Stay away from bats, monkeys and stray dogs and cats.”

I don’t want go home early! This is supposed to be a once in a lifetime vacation! If someone gets rabies we are done!

I look at David. He looks at me. “I am NOT going in.” And with those words I turn to go back out. Our guide looks a little bewildered and disappointed at the same time.

David leaves ahead of me. Maybe he is more scared than I am. I try to get a shot of him……no…..not those cheeks, hon!

That’s much better….those are the cheeks I want a picture of! Now you can see the opening is barely big enough for big daddy.  
    

I am the last one out. I have to make sure everyone else has safely exited. Luckily I have some wipes in my bag so we are able to wash the bat feces off our feet before donning our shoes again.

  

Okay, that’s enough excitement! We continue our tour and make stops at many temples along the way. 
Every temple has pushy salespeople selling their wares. Quite often they sell images of Budha, which at least in Bangkok at the Palace was frowned upon. This young lady is a perfect example of high pressure sales. It was very hard not to buy something that I don’t need from her little shop.

Back on the bikes to the next temple where we will be harassed by some more aggressive salespeople.


  

You may remember that when we arrived in the Bagan region we had to buy passes for everyone. There are six of us but I only have five passes because I got a discount for one child. I had read that there are stations at some of the temples where they may check your tickets. Here is one such station, but if you look closely you will notice that the ticket inspector is lying down and reading something on his cell phone. We slip past him unnoticed. The sales lady behind him is rushing towards us with her wares.

The views from on top of the sunset temple are phenomenal. As far as the eye can see in every direction there are temples and more temples and more temples.

  
    
    

The steps up are steep and the surface is not smooth. Our tender American feet don’t do so well.

  
    

I love the oxen drawn carts.

  
    

We are inside this one temple when I hear that horrible squeaking again! I look ahead to see a small black winged animal take flight. This is what I see when I look up! What’s that? About two hundred bats, maybe?

  

When this particular temple was built the king was very finicky. If a worker had poor workmanship he was to be punished. If a pin could fit between the rock layers, his arm would be cut off on this chopping block.

Sounds like a horrible king! Yes he was! He killed his father and his brother in order to become king. Later he was remorseful and built this double Buddha to commemorate his father and brother.

  
    
    
    

We are trying to make our way to the train station because we are taking the train tomorrow to Yangon. We have to go buy our tickets today. Somehow we find ourselves in a little village.

    

This man calls out to David and wants to show us his lacquerware.

  

Everything is made by hand from bamboo stalks.

  

The man brings us over to his sister’s house. She prepares the bamboo by tearing it into strips. The finished product sells for just a few dollars. They put so much work into it!

    

Goodbye, my friend! We give  him a little tip for his tour, which he resists taking.

Finally we make it to the train station! Don’t ask why we are taking the train. When we told them at the hotel that we are going to take the train they were incredulous! They told us it is not very comfortable. They recommend that we take JJ’s bus service, which is super luxurious with 3 seats per row that are like first class airline seats. The cost is the same. The train not only is not comfortable, it also takes much longer.

We don’t care. We want to take a train! We have to wake up the station master to inquire about tickets when we arrive, as he is sound asleep in an office. David is not super excited when he hears that I didn’t bring enough money to buy the tickets. That means someone has to ride back into town to an ATM.

Finally we are on our way again. Unfortunately David’s electric bike is running out of juice. So we zoom along trying to get back to the hotel.

  
    

  
  Traffic zooms past on the narrow roads.  

We come upon the hotel quite unexpectedly, to be sure! We really did not know where we were, when suddenly we notice our hotel in front of us! None too soon, because there is no power at all left on David’s bike.

We are hot and sweaty and dusty and dirty. We take a quick dip while the bike rental dude figures out how to get a new bike for David.

  

Then we head over into Old Bagan where we grab a quick bite to eat. I order a mango lassi, which is a mango and yogurt smoothie! Ooooooh…..I love it!

We are back on the bikes.

  
    

A sudden rain appears out of nowhere so we seek shelter in an overhang. Bjorn has his trusted kindle along and starts reading. The rain only lasts a few minutes luckily.

We have to rush to the sunset temple to get there in time for the sunset. This time Aundrea and I are running out of juice.

  
    

It’s not the best sunset, but the weather is beautiful, and the views are incredible! The feeling we have while perched high up on this massive temple looking down on the beauty that surrounds us is indescribable. It is just a beautiful and peaceful moment that will be etched in my mind forever.

  
    

We see a bunch of bats fly out of a temple down yonder…..max zoom here….

    
    

When the sun sets the temple lights come on. They look almost spooky now.

    
    
  

We barely make it back to our hotel. It is dark already and both Aundrea and I have no power left in our electric scooters. Of course because there is no juice left we can’t turn the headlights on, and drivers can’t see us too well in the dark. We literally crawl at 10km/hr up the last little hill to the hotel. The rental agent is surprised to see that we have run out of power. “You must have gone far,” he mutters. Of course we went far! That’s how we roll!

We go eat dinner at the same restaurant as last night. The food is cheap and good, and we are watched over like prized pigeons. When we are leaving the restaurant I turn on my headlamp, as we must walk back up the dark street to our hotel. When the light splashed on the ground ahead of me just outside the restaurant door I had a great surprise! I see a critter of some sort!

It is the hugest scorpion I have ever seen in my life and I nearly stepped on it! Thank goodness I have my light with me! When I scream it goes into strike position….we back away slowly….I guess I can add this to the list of things to watch out for!

Back at the hotel the kids go swimming until they get kicked out of the pool well past closing time. When we crawl into our beds we are happy and exhausted. Tomorrow we plan on getting a horse drawn carriage for a half day tour. We have already secured a deal….for $15 they will drive us around. I have always wanted to do a horse drawn carriage, but they are usually prohibitively expensive…..or I am excruciatingly cheap….whatever the case, I am excited for tomorrow.

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