Sunday, June 2, 2013

Bagan - Temples Everywhere

Bagan - temples everywhere!

On Monday morning (May 20th), we had a very early alarm call due to a flight scheduled from Yangon for a 6:20 departure. Thankfully, we weren't completely adjusted to the 90 minute time zone change so waking at 4.30 wasn't so much of a hardship, despite our neighboring room waking us at midnight when they rolled in. We checked out of the Traders and received 3 'breakfast boxes'. They were full of fruit, pastries, boiled eggs and sandwiches. No one was going hungry! The trip to the airport at 5am was quick and we checked in without any drama and sat down to eat our packed breakfast. No such thing as nothing over 100ml of liquids on this domestic flight - it all seemed very casual. Soon enough our Air Mandalay flight was called. We walked up and headed to a bus to take us to the plane. On the flight, we actually had assigned seats - something we didn't get on our other domestic flights in Myanmar. What we didn't realise was that the flight wasn't direct, so on its first landing, we got up until we were told this wasn't our stop. 20 minutes later we took off again and landed 35 minutes later in Mandalay. Another 20 minute stop - it was a bit like catching a bus or train. A further 25 minute flight and we arrived at Nyaung U which was our stop. Hooray!

We wandered out and got a taxi without an issue and headed on the short journey to our hotel for the next 3 nights - the Hotel at Tharabar Gate. We were very grateful to get straight into our room and rest a little - it was only 9am! Later that morning, we headed out for lunch to the Vegan restaurant "be Kind to Animals". Good food, but a little trickier for the kids - we ordered fried rice, but it was spicy. On the afternoon of our first day in Bagan, we went for a wander and were inundated with offers of horse and cart. One entrepreneur offered us a free ride back on the condition we use his services the next day. After a swim in the afternoon, we headed to dinner to a restaurant next door to the hotel. Then an early night for all! 

On day 2 in Bagan, we decided we would take a horse and cart for the morning. After some negotiation, given how hot it was (we were melting the previous day), we decided we would take 2. We agreed a price of 10000 kyats each (I'm sure overpaying however as I've got older, my willingness to bargain has diminished!) We headed off to a number of temples. They were all pretty impressive. Alex and Tara particularly liked the old palace where they went up some stairs and found a viewing platform. Being low season, we weren't hassled too much by touts, however sand paintings were available everywhere. There were some very young kids selling too. The temples are plentiful (they are everywhere you turn) and also beautiful. It was a great half day. We finished our horse and cart tour at lunch and ate at Star Beam (very impressive bread). That afternoon we headed back to rest and go for a swim before dinner.

Day 3 in Bagan was spent resting in the morning. We ordered a taxi to take us into Nyaung U- the main town. We left around 11am, with the intention of exploring the markets - however, it was really hot already and we were all pretty hot trudging through the markets. We bought a couple of t-shirts for the kids (less than $3 each with no bargaining), and some mangoes for 200 kyat (around 20cents) each. We then decided we should get some lunch and headed to a place called Bagan Beach Bar. It was on the river (which was really low). It was huge inside, but we were the only customers initially (us and many flies). Food was ok, nothing to write home about. We then went in search of a taxi and found an old uncle with a taxi sign on top of his station wagon who would take us. No seat belts and the car had seen better days but we made it back ok - we had to stop for roadside fuel on the way. He was very friendly (as most Burmese are).

Later that afternoon, I went to go to the money changer at the local store that our horse and cart driver had taken us to the previous day. Tara and I were accompanied by a young boy who chatted to us the whole way. He told us he was 9 years old and learnt English at the monastery where I think he went to school. On our return journey he wanted to sell us some postcards. The previous day, kids at the temples were selling 10 for 1000 kyat (just over $1). My young friend mocked shock when I suggested 1000 and said no madam, these are 2000. I think he expected me to bargain, but the grin on his face when I handed over the 2000 kyats was worth it. He was very good company for Tara and I on our short walk and later on when we ventured out or dinner greeted us like old friends.

Bagan was a great place and somewhere I could see us returning to 1 day.

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