After a harrowing 9-hour bus ride from Yangon, we arrived in Bagan at around 4 am. Bagan is a city located about 3 hours southwest of Mandalay, and is known for having the highest concentration of Buddhist pagodas and temples in the world. There used to be over 10,000 such structures in the Bagan region, and 2,200 of them are still standing today.
In order to enter the Bagan Archaeological Zone, you must pay a $15 fee. I’ve been trying to determine how much of that money goes toward the preservation of Bagan, and how much ends up lining the pockets of the government. The notorious corruption in Myanmar leads me to believe a significant portion of that money goes to the military. Nevertheless, the fee is unavoidable (even if you roll in in the wee hours of the morning).
I also have another glowing review for the hotels in Myanmar. The Zfreeti Hotel allowed us go to our room as soon as we arrived, despite the fact that it was about 10 hours before check in time. Given our sorry state, we were eternally grateful.
While Alex was still feeling under the weather, I felt well enough to go on a short walk that afternoon…
It was so oppressively hot that I was only out for about 30 minutes. Strolling around, I realized, is not the way most people see Bagan. It’s far too hot and sprawling for that. Still, it was a great taste of what we would see the following day.
By the next day, with both of us back in tip-top shape, we hired a horse cart to take us around to the different pagodas.
Our first stop also happened to be my favorite pagoda of the day. The caretaker (and seller of souvenirs) told us a little bit about the history of it, and let us take in a view of the region from the top.
This painting of Buddha is over 800 years old, and made it all the way to 1975 without much incident. An earthquake that year did significant damage (we heard a lot about this infamous earthquake throughout the day).
And to answer your question, yes, our feet were quite grubby even after just one pagoda (you always take your shoes off when entering a Buddhist temple).
Next up was the Thatbyinnyu Temple, one of the tallest pagodas around at 216.5 feet.
Roundabout Pagoda #6, temple fatigue was hitting us hard. We were sitting outside of (another) pagoda, when a woman told me that I looked very hot and motioned for us to come with her. She mixed us up some thanaka, a paste made from ground bark that women put on their faces as make-up. It also has the wonderful side effect of being a protectant from the sun and cooling on the skin. It’s not uncommon for little kids, or even men, to wear it as a facial sunscreen.
We both felt much better and ready to take on (a little) more sightseeing before lunch.
I know I don’t have a whole lot of information about individual temples, but they all started blending together a bit. I wasn’t interested so much in the individual architecture of each one as I was in the overall feeling of Bagan. It felt so different from Yangon: though touristy, it was quieter and better suited my mood for the couple of days that we were there. What I’m trying to say, even though it’s incredibly cheesy, is that Bagan felt magical to me. I was enchanted by the landscape, and the continued kindness of the Myanmar people.