After one action packed day in Yangon we flew to Bagan, Myanmar. This was a prop plane seating 60, but only 6 were on board. They were waiting for us as we let time get away in a coffee shop.
We almost missed our first plane flight in a tiny airport with no people in it, again I guess we are just to casual about all these planes, trains, buses and automobiles. We arrived in 1 hour; and like every other flight in Asia we have a full meal offered by lovely Myanmar stewardess. The dress of the women throughout the country is very fashionable. We think Myanmar women may have taken first place for most naturally lovely in SE Asia over Thailand. See some pics below.
Upon landing, we immediately recognized that this country is more poor than the other SE Asia countries we visited. The average salary is $66 US per month. Across the river you can see hills, but Bagan is flat, dry and dusty. It is very hot, over 95 everyday. They have no rainy season here, it is the desert. Most of the roads are dirt. The construction trucks have an open engine that reminds us of something out of Mad Max.
Bagan is the land of 4000 temples, commissioned in a 230 year building frenzy by Bagan’s Kings. This is an area of 26 square miles with several main paved roads criss-crossing the area. It is formerly known as “ Bagan Archaeological Zone”—entrance fee $15. There is Old Bagan, New Bagan, and the Nyaung U suburb. The old town is surrounded by a fortress wall shaped like a semi circle with the ends meeting the river shore. This space is filled with temples, but outside the walls there are even more pagodas, stupas, and temples.
This place is a Disney ride for cyclist. This includes bicycles, e-bikes, and low cc motos. We, as novice bikers loved the electric -bikes (scooters). We have old buddies that we think would just love to revive their “motorcycle jones” by driving 150-250 cc gas dirt bikes on the roads and pathways between these amazing structures. The traffic is light in this city and all cars and trucks accommodate tourist bikers.
We decide to split our time in Bagan up starting between traditional bikes and ebikes. Day one we are with a bicycled guided group of 4 and peddled 22KM to 10 of the biggest Pagodas. Everywhere we went there were smaller monuments and Buddha temples to see. We peddled with some great companions. Tim and Susan have really lived a fairy tale life. They met in England but live in the Caribbean on the independent island state of Grenadier near South America. They traveled extensively in Asia and will conclude this trip by visiting family in the UK. They were fun to be with, shared beers, and did not say the NFL was rubbish like some Brits. We wished them well and urged them to go to Patagonia and enjoy the rigors of the “Towers of Pain” trek. They were certainly super fit enough to do it.
The next two days we took the e-bikes and sought out many of the other incredible temples that sprinkle every mile of this region; still many unseen but we were satisfied with our search. The top temples are near or inside the fortress wall; three of these are Anada Pashto, Dhammayangyi, and Thatbyinnyu Pashto. We probably had the most fun exploring the dirt trails and coming upon abandoned temples with plant growth and bamboo supports—feeling like tomb raiders. We rode to a modern observation silo for panoramic views, damn ugly. As we traveled the back roads we were invited into a rural native village by an enterprising young lady that spoke superb english. She walked us around the village introducing us to craftsman and inviting us into her home to meet her newborn. Yes, we found some unique stuff to buy—which was probably her intent, but the visit was so pleasant that we felt good about transacting business—with some tea and bartering thrown in.
Our hotel is very nice. The food is this region is really good. The specialty “ National Tea Leaf Salad” with peanuts and some “magic” sauce is our favorite. The fresh squeezed fruit drinks are equally addictive, especially at mid-day when the heat is extreme. We our in siesta mode—get up early, play, then siesta at 2:00, then to the pool in the later afternoon, back out at night.
At one road side lunch, we met a traveler from Singapore, our next destination. He was a nice young man, who joked about speaking customary english to us, but that he would change up his english dialect to a Singapore accent when he went home—for business purposes he said. He cautioned that Singapore is very expensive, which we knew, and mentioned with tempered pride that people work crazy hours to both meet the cost of living, but also to travel in cheaper countries for months at a time. We have a planned 3 day layover in Singapore to check out that mega-modern independent island country. Our final dinner was sitting with a sunset view of the Ayeyarwady River. As the sun went down the skies darkened and heavy rains swept the patio causing many people to move farther indoors. We prayed that the rain would stop soon as we had rode up on the e-bikes. It did, and our ride home with headlights was uneventful. Tomorrow we leave for Mandalay