October 4 and 5
After our tour of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon (which by the way has a gold stupa that is visable from all over town and is said to be topped with more than 6500 diamonds, rubies and other precious stones with a 76 carat diamond crowning the top), we headed for the airport and arrived in Bagan in time to see the sunset from the “Sunset Pagoda”. It was a beautiful panorama, but the sunset was obscured by clouds.
Bagan is known as one of the richest archeological sites in Asia. Today there are over 2000 pagodas, temples and monasteries that remain (about half have been destroyed). They were built during the Bagan Dynasty in the 11th and 12th century.
After seeing the enormity of the area, we went to our hotel, Bagan Lodge, for dinner and to spend the night. What a beautiful place! In some ways it reminded us of our luxurious tents in Africa, although it was not a tent.
Our dinner was around the beautiful pool and was a Myanmar delight. Rice, of course, noodles and a variety of dishes all served buffet style.
We saw these 4 hot air balloons as we went to breakfast.
And, after a wonderful shower and restful night, we had breakfast – again very traditional – here is a photo of it.
And here are some of the areas in the hotel by day. Each building holds two suites.
We visited the Shwezigone Pagoda in the morning. Equally impressive by day, you see the gilded zedi that dominates the small town of Nyaung-U. It has 4 shrines at the cardinal points, each housing a 13 foot high bronze standing Buddha, the largest surviving examples in Bagan. Phinda told us how to tell the authentic Buddhas from the replicas, it has to do with the style of the hair, the length of the ears, the shape of the nose the curve of the hips and the transparency of the cape! Interesting.
One of the things that really made us laugh all through the trip was the local vendors, selling clothing, postcards, paintings, etc. They met us at the first pagoda and tried hard to sell us things. Wnen you said no, they said “maybe later, what’s your name?” So you told them and said “maybe later”. Little did we know that they have motorcycles and cell phones, and they followed us to every single stop, on both days!!! Now that is entrepreunerism at its best! Of course we all contributed to the local economy. In fact, I coined a new meaning for the words “window shopping” because they came all around the bus and people ended up buying stuff through the bus windows.
We had a horse cart ride through the temple area and our driver would stop anywhere we wanted to take pictures. Each cart was for two people and the one hour ride was wonderful. I have so many temple pictures I can’t believe it! He also drove us through his village and we got to see his granddaughter. Very special indeed.
One of the four remaining main temples in Bagan is the Ananda Temple. It is also known as the finest. largest, best preserved and most revered of the Bagan temples.
We then went to a local restaurant for lunch. Much like breakfast with rice, noodles and a variety of Myanmar specialties.
We had a visit to a local market, and enjoyed the many signts and sounds there. I wouldn’t want to buy any of the chicken or fish, though, as the flies were all over it. The vendors even followed us to the market and chastized us if we even thought of buying something from someone else. “You KNOW me, why you buy from them?”
Then we visited the Dhammayangyi and the Sulamani Temple. The Sulamani temple offers some of the finest ornamental work and is in fairly good condition. After the 1975 earthquake which destroyed many temples, it was restored in 1994 utilizing brick and stone with frescoes in the interior.
You must take youir shoes off in all temples because there needs to be 5 points of your body touching the floor while praying, two hands, two feet and forehead. They believe that taking your shoes off keeps it cleaner for that, but so many of the floors were red sandstone that I am not sure it matters. Our bus attendant always gave us wet wipes to clean our feet before putting shoes back on.
A visit to a lacquer-ware factory – Bagan is famous for their lacquer-ware – was very educational. I had no idea of the number of steps and time involved in making the real lacquer-ware and the degree of artistry it takes to do it well. We bought several bowls, and while I was taking a picture of one of the artists (who was working freehand), he asked me for my phone and drew this elephant figure on the case. Of course I gave him a tip.
Before going to the airport, we had one last climb on very steep steps to view many of the thousands of pagodas- it was amazing and again, photos do not do it justice.
Being in these countries is eye opening and makes me realize that while I may think nothing of spending $4 on a cup of coffee, $4 to them is a lot of money. I bought some souvenirs in part to support the people.
After a 1 hour 15 minute flight (we were almost the only people on the flight), our buses were waiting with a snack box from a French restaurant in Yangon – a baguette sandwich and a big cookie. We needed it because there was no police escort on the way back to the ship and it was pouring. The traffic was terrible and it took almost 3 hours to make the trip from airport to ship. Pinda had small lacquer-ware boxes for each of us. She was a terrific guide, and said a sad goodbye as we reached the pier.
Another plate of sandwiches and cookies was waiting in our room – that’s the kind of service you get from Oceania (of course it was wasted as we weren’t hungry at all).
A wonderful, inspiring and always educational trip to Myanmar – we want to return! We also had a lot of fun with the people on “yellow bus”. Nancy from destination services was with us and she has the most delightful blonde curly hair. The locals all wanted pictures of her. She also did a lot of “retail therapy” with the local vendors.
Fishing boat seen before leaving Myanmar at 8:30 AM on 10/7. This is a clearer picture, but no pigs. We enjoyed the fresh fish that night. The cruise line contracts with some of these fishermen. Hope no flies sit on those!