One more post from Bagan – one more post filled with pagodas. I hope you are not tired of all the pagodas already, there are a lot more to come. While traveling through the country, I felt like I spotted a golden ‘hti’ on almost every hill. Anyway, back to Bagan…I spent my days cruising on little paths through an endless field of pagodas. Every now and then I stopped to have a closer look or get some shade and walk inside the bigger ones to admire the Buddha statues. It was the most relaxing pastime.
Wind in my hair, the sunshine, the terra-cotta colors and the peaceful atmosphere.
I can only recommend getting an electro scooter to cruise around. The paths are pretty sandy so it’s hard to get along on a bike. And in late March, the temperatures climb up to almost 40°C by midday. So the breeze on the scooter really comes in handy. You can rent a scooter pretty much everywhere in town, prices range between 5000 and 10000 kyats per day, usually sunrise to sunset (although I was never charged anything when I only returned the scooter by 9 pm). Be aware though that riding an electric scooter has limited battery resources and turning on the lights quickly eats up the battery in the evening.
The distances between Nyaung U, Old and New Bagan are quite big – you easily cover 10 km one way from Nyaung U to New Bagan, without counting all the detours you make to stop over for yet one more beautiful pagoda. Stock up on water and sunscreen – when you loose yourself on the planes, hopping from one pagoda to the other, you might not come across any vendors for hours.
Down at the Irrawaddy river in the late afternoon…in my opinion the most beautiful light conditions to capture that perfect shade of gold.
One morning I was invited by some locals into their humble home. The old couple was taking care of one specific pagoda and was living directly next to it. They offered me some tea, regular black tea and the new powdered version coming in little plastic bags with so much sugar in it that it is barely drinkable. I ended up mixing the two to be able to drink them up. With a few words of English and a good amount of body language we figured out each other’s age and origin. He rolled himself some of those betel nut rolls. The men chew on these throughout the day and leave a trail of blood-red spit behind them. The ingredients are adrenalizing – but also completely destroy the teeth. Every man showcases reddened and rotten teeth when he smiles. In the end, I was offered a traditional Thanaka make-up, protecting against the sun and preventing the skin from sweating. She gently asked if I wanted to get it done and if so, asked for some money for it. But it all happened in a very friendly way and I was not appalled at all, but happily accepted and also happily left some money with them since I’ve spent a good hour sitting in their home, sipping tea and looking at pictures on their smartphone. People were so nice and welcoming throughout the country that I ended up donating and giving out a lot more money than I usually do while traveling. People were not begging for it or trying to fool me, but were only asking for something in return for a special favor (like the Thanaka make up). Considering their living situation in contrast to mine and their friendly way of treating me, I thought it was a fair exchange.