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Elaine and Peter’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 23 Mar 2016

Location: Bagan, Myanmar

MapWe had a disappointment this morning in that there was a cock up with our booking of a sun rise balloon flight over the Bagan temple complex and so we could not go.
So instead of a 4.30 wake up call we had the usual start to the day to explore this archaeological site.

It was quite an arduous day but we saw the most significant temples. It is the festival of the full moon for three days which probably explains to some extent the overbooking of the balloon ride.

The ruins are scattered over 26 sq miles so the are an estimated 2200 temples, pagodas and other religious structures.
Droves of visitors converge on this maze of dusty foot tracks which wind their way through the ancient buildings of Old Bagan. It is quite an exotic spectacle and the vision of earthy red hues and meditating Buddhas is indeed memorable. Today whole villages travelled by whatever means to the temples, many to our first stop, Shwezigon Pagoda, a gem hidden amongst the variety of palms trees....oil, sugar, coconut and erika nut. Every five years, this gilded pagoda has to be recovered. We were amazed at the number of monetary bills in the donation boxes. Whole families of women and children sat in and around the shrines sharing food offerings with each other. They were quite amused by us as their villages are so remote, they have never set eyes on Europeans. In several places, the monks were holding prayer meetings for families to worship, but where did the men go!

We found this such an interesting place.

Here and everywhere, are hawkers and street sellers but they are reasonably mild and are easy to dispel.
What was more difficult to cope with was the walking barefoot over the hot ground off in all of the temple areas. ....the temperature reached 40 degrees today so the ground was scorching!

The next temple, Htilominlo, was surrounded by a market full of all kinds of crafts. Here we found two Kayan ladies from outside the area, who had heavy metal rings round their necks to make them longer. They are known as the long necked ladies.
Nearby was Gubyaikgy cave temple, held to be in high esteem because although small, was decorated with precious murals.

Our last stop before returning for lunch was fabulous, the Ananda temple, the architecture was most impressive.

Late in the afternoon we went to New Bagan which was quite an upmarket place. In 1919, the population of Old Bagan were relocated form the archaeological site. So in new Bagan you find, the hotels and craft workshops. We visited the lacquer workshop which again was most impressive. Such skill and dexterity to create the most delicate and intricate designs.

We spent some time here before going through the arid fields between the temples to stop at a steeped temple which we could climb to watch the sunset over a panoramic view of Old Bagon. This area in the monsoon is unrecognisable. Gone is the brown dust and in it's place are fields full of corn, peanuts, lentils, sesame. It is too dry here to grow crops such as rice.

And so we came to the second disappointment of the day, the clouds came in across the sun, even though the temperature was still 35 degrees, sunset.hmmm, win some lose some.

Nevertheless, we finished the day on a high note with a fabulous on board Burmese string puppet show.