Bagan

We took an overnight train from Mandalay to Bagan. This was our 3rd and last train in Myanmar and was by far the most comfortable. It even arrived earlier than scheduled to our destination, so it was around 3am when we were deposited on the station. We had decided we were going to try to skip paying the 20USD entry fee that goes to the current government (it has gone up consistently over the past 10 years) and distribute the money among the locals instead, by spending a bit extra than we normally would on food, postcards, etc.

With that in mind we started walking towards town instead of taking any of the offered transport options. When we saw the ticket booth we turned our torches off, left the main road and slowly and noiselessly sneaked through a dirt road parallel to the main. I don’t know if the person inside actually missed us (he might have been sleeping) or just did not care, but we made it. It was quite exhilarating and we felt very happy to have gotten away with it. We did not however have our typical celebratory high five until we were out of there and sure we got away with it…

So after a good two or three hours of walking with our packs (forgot to mention we left a bunch of crap in Yangon so they were much lighter than usual) we found a hotel to set them down. By this time the sun was about to come up so we rented an e-bike and went out to explore Bagan. About 5 minutes later then sun did indeed appear over the horizon, so we took a side road and stopped to admire it next a pagoda. To our surprise and amazement, a bunch of balloons raised with the sun, giving us quite the spectacle…

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We took turns at driving around the different old temples. Bagan “is home to the largest and densest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins in the world with many dating from the 11th and 12th centuries”, with over 2000 temples to visit. Nowadays its only but a fraction of its old splendour, but it remains a unique and amazing place. To our dismay the battery on our bike started running flat with little warning (comparable to a phone that goes FULL, FULL, FULL, ONE BAR, GONE) so the last thirty minutes we stopped constantly and I ended up walking the rest of the way… One of these stops was at a few smaller shrines, one of which had quite interesting legends scratched on the outside walls.

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We left the bike to charge, had a nap and resumed our exploring in the afternoon. We visited a few more spots and then chose a high temple to go see the sunset from. It was not the most popular spot so it was quiet and peaceful. Some of the ruins are decorated with fairy lights, that started coming to life as the sun hid (still not sure how I feel about that tbh). We met a kid there that goes most days to talk to tourists and practice his English. He was only about 12 but spoke well and genuinely wanted to learn. He carrier a bunch of foreign currency around and proudly showed us his collecion: he even had 2 Argentinian pesos! For dinner we opted for a vegetarian restaurant were we had amazing local curries.

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The following morning we woke up at 4am, arranged to rent a bike for just half the day and returned to the same temple to see the sunrise. We figured the opposite side from the previous night (obviously) would provide us with a nice panoramic view of the sun coming up and shining over the many surrounding temples, and we were correct. The balloons did not fail us either and we got a good time lapse of them climbing up and making their way around the place in a seemly orderly fashion. I imagine it is quite a spectacular sight for those that can afford going up in them!

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We spent the afternoon reading, writing and playing guitar at the hotel reception, waiting once more for an overnight bus to take us onwards. The hotel clerks were delighted to hear Tim play, and we got recorded practising “Fake plastic trees”. It was possible horrible, but they seemed happy enough 😛 For the sunset we walked to the river and found a whole family bathing in it as the sun was making its descend, which was quite a nice way to close our Bagan chapter…

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