The Itinerary

The Itinerary

Monday, March 30, 2015

March 24, RV Paukan 1947 to Bagan

Tuesday, March 24, Day 49 - RV Paukan 1947 to Bagan

At dawn, we are up and dressed, already underway and approaching a very long railroad bridge. 

After the bridge, the river turns and we can see stupas on the horizon and a few pagodas dotting the river bank approaching Bagan. 

We arrive at the riverboat landing about 30 minutes early and are greeted by a throng of people with things to sell. As has become usual, we see women washing clothes in the river by dipping them in the brown river water and beating them on rocks. Sure must play heck with white cotton shirts! Others, both children and adults are bathing and the little children are playing in the water. Everybody is there except our driver!

One of the ship’s crew, who has already been most helpful, uses Dick’s cell phone and talks to the local travel agency representative. We are assured that our car is on the way and it shortly appears. Our new driver, Myo, apologizes for being late and tells us there is a large tree limb blocking his usual route, Tharabar Gate, to the dock.

The dock is in Old Bagan. Once the driver gets us loaded into the car, again a nice, clean relatively new, air conditioned Toyota we head to Nyaung-U. We drive past the downed tree and stop to take a few photos of Tharabar Gate as the light is good now. We are shown how rotten the tree's interior is/was by all the men standing around talking about it! A chainsaw could have it moved in 30 minutes. Wonder how long it will take?
On our way again, right off the bat we pass Htilominlo. It is a majestic temple 46 meters high built in 1216 in the style of the late Bagan period. There are smaller pagoda groupings all around Htilominlo and we want to stop at them all...the morning light is showing them off to their best advantage.

After a few stops and many pictures, we get to our first planned stop, Nyaung-U market. Myo drops us off to explore. It is very busy, but the locals are very tolerant of the tourists wandering around and getting in their way. This is a vibrant working market selling all sorts of food stuffs and daily needs. There is a small section for the tourists but we pass on this. Back in the car, we work our way back to Old Bagan.

Carolyn had originally planned a stop at Shwtilominloezigone in Nyaung-U which is the prototype for Schwedagon in Yangon, but in deference to Dick’s distaste for taking his shoes off for yet another pagoda, we skip it and head to Gubyaukgyi which has had some restoration done. It was built in the 13th century by a son who had killed his father to atone for the murder! Along the way some other temples catch our eye.

Our next stop is Sulamani which dates from 1181. The temple is imposing in size and grace with lots of detail.

We drive by a very pastoral scene near one of the temples of a farmer tending his livestock and cutting fodder.

Myo has a favorite spot, a little hill in the middle of many of the best known temples. He takes us there in hopes that we can get more of a birds eye view of the plain. The sun is high by this time so we decide this might be a better spot for late afternoon. 

Moving on, we stop at Dhammayangyi. It is a massive temple, the largest in the Bagan Plain. It was started in 1163 and its red brickwork is almost perfection.  According to legend, if the laying of the bricks was not right the king had the brick mason killed!  Talk about job incentive! 
As we explore, there are still other pagodas that call to us so we stop. We tried to keep all the major temples with the right name on the picture...the pictures are in order of our tour, but the names tended to run together so there maybe some mislabeling.

It is now noon, the heat is awful and the sun is too high for good pictures, so we head for the Hotel at Tharabar Gate to check in. As we pass the downed tree limb we see two men cutting on it with a large two-man buck saw. The main part of the limb is still blocking the road. But all the smaller limbs are gone.

The hotel is very spread out and all on ground level with nice grounds and a big pool. The lobby is open air and we are welcomed with a glass of cool fruit juice and seated in the lounge area to check in. Nice gesture but it is still miserably hot! We have agreed to meet up with Myo at 3:30 to finish our tour in Bagan. We are quickly shown to our room which is huge and thankfully already cool. We collapse and share a club sandwich from room service for lunch. Neither of us is hungry but a bottle of water each and part of a sandwich revive us.

Myo is right on time and we resume our outting. First stop is a lacquer wear shop that Myo suggests. We stop there to get a lesson on making the unique lacquer articals for which this part of Myanmar is famous. It is a tedious process taking up to 6 months depending on how much detail is in a piece. There is a week's drying time between each step, layers of lacquer, carving the design and then adding each layer of color. The shop has some beautiful small furniture pieces that we love, but the idea of shipping a piece home from Myanmar is mind boggling!! We want a set of coaster, but their selection is very limited so we settle on a small box for $18US. There was another place Carolyn has asked to visit; a very small family affair so we go there and find the coasters, but we do not have enough cash and even though they advertise Mastercard, the owner is not there so they miss a sale.

The sun is getting low in the sky and it is time to make the last three temple stops. Dick is not a happy camper.  Remember, he was through with temples back in Mandalay. But we forge on to Thatbyinyu, the tallest of the temples at 207 feet built in 1177 and inside Old Bagan’s city wall or what is left of it. We climb the mound that was the wall and get some pictures. 
Next is Ananda, considered the masterpiece of Bagan’s surviving Mom architecture, finished in 1091. Carolyn is determined to go inside this one and tells Dick he can stay in the car or come. He comes with her! Ananda is in the shape of a Greek cross. It has a series of corridors that form a square with four large niches in the middle of each corridor that each contain a tall teak Buddh coated in Bronze. Two are original and two are new. A young guide has attached himself to us and is giving some information as we explore. The corridors have a series of progressively smaller niches going from almost ground level to the ceiling, each containing a Buddha. These hallways are very interesting and the temple is very pretty inside. Even though it is late in the afternoon, the temple is packed with pilgrims and more are pouring out of every type of conveyance while we are there. There are very few other "round eye" tourists.

 As we clean our feet, Dick says he is done. Carolyn says there is one more! Always one more!! So Myo takes us back inside the city wall to see Shewegugyri built in the 11th century with massive old intricately carved doors. The plan was to take sunset pictures here of the nearby temples, but we are way too early. Dick is fed up with the bare feet business but there are inside stairs to the terrace where he might be able to get some nice photos.

Carolyn explores the first level and Dick goes up one more level on a very tightly spiraled, low stair. Myo has asked one of the vendors to help Carolyn with the stairs to the first level as the surfaces are very uneven. This is an interesting, smallish, temple and Carolyn is enjoying looking at the carving and the vendor is telling her about the temple detail. Dick however is not a happy camper as the walking surface on the upper level is made of sharp gravel and he succeeds in cutting his foot.  Not a big cut but enough and he is hot tired and filthy!  He heads back to the car and tells Carolyn where she can put the rest of the temples! Myo just smiles and gives us some more wet wipes for our feet!

It looks like there might be a nice sunset so Carolyn asks Myo to take us back to his special spot to see what photos we might get, Dick can keep his shoes on there. The spot is really a little hill near the famous sunset temple, Shwesandaw. When we get to the hill we watch a line of buses heading to Shwesandaw. It sounds like there is already a party going on over there. We don’t really get much color as there is a heavy line of clouds on the horizon that blocks the last of the sunset. 

We call it a day and head to the hotel. We make one last check of the status of the downed tree limb and find that one man is still there sawing at the largest part with a two man saw!  He will be there all night! There is much discussion about what time we need to be at the airport tomorrow to catch our 7:45AM flight and we finally compromise and do it Dick’s way. Myo will pick us up at 6AM! Myo says 6:30 is plenty of time, but Dick is a nervous plane catcher.

Our room is cool and we order in is really too hot for us to enjoy eating outside. The hotel has a little mini bar with rum and several other liquors and soft drinks...we bite the bullet and order some ice and sandwiches from room service. After a shower, disinfecting our feet, some ointment for Dick's small scratch (he insists it is a cut), emptying the pint bottle of rum and two cans of coke with some food, Dick is much happier. For us, the temples are best seen from the outside. The massive litter problem around the temples, the gauntlet of vendors and tour guides one has to run and the masses of people plus the fact that the floors are down right gross on the inside creates a real turn off to going inside with or without shoes. We actually enjoyed the small no name pagodas best because we could look at them at our leisure. But even with all the distractions, we are so glad we came to this special place. The sheer number of thousand year old temples of all sizes and states of disrepair is simply mind boggling!!!

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