Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Many Temples of Bagan

I flew early morning from Bangkok into Yangon, Myanmar and as I was going through the hassle of security and boarding I found myself thinking I actually prefer night buses to flying (what is wrong with me?)...a sentiment that would really be put to the test during the rest of my time in Myanmar. I had the same flight as Mandy, another Canadian with identical flight dates so we stuck together in Yangon and after 2 hours in traffic, we tried to figure out the food situation in Yangon. While walking through a market she asked a tout where was good to eat. He brings us in the building with several restaurants and the second the ladies see the four of us hell breaks loose and I swear I lost my hearing from them yelling at us to go to their restaurant as they would physically try and drag us as well. I ordered the pickled tea leaf salad because when I asked the price it wasn't too bad. Well the other two didn't and paid $10CAD each. An obscene amount for their first meal. Odds are when we asked the bills the tout told us the price plus a hefty bonus for himself since he never left our side for that meal. We met up with Mandy's friend Lina later and got dinner of roadside noodles and that meal was excellent and $0.50. The lady running the stall got such a kick out of us that after taking pictures of us (I had to teach her how to turn on flash) she started giving us more and more foods to try.

We only wanted to stay one night in Yangon so we walked to the Schwedagon Pagoda at night to make sure we didn't miss it. Entry is 8,000kyt ($8) and worth it, this pagoda is absolutely massive, golden on every square inch and packed with old and young monks, religious followers praying or locals and tourists taking pictures. An interesting thing at the buddhist temples here was that they seem to put weight on dates of the week. There was a shrine for each of the eight days of the week and the animal associated with it and people would give offerings depending on their birthdates. Oh and yes eight days of the week, they count Wednesday twice from what I gathered.

Schwedagon Pagoda

We took the overnight bus to Bagan,  a city I'd been dreaming of seeing since I started planning this trip and saw Bagan on a list of SEA places you MUST go. I remember wondering where the hell is Myanmar (my Asian geography was shockingly bad) but clicking the link and being blown away by the beauty of it. Well we were finally here and by some miracle the hostel let us early check-in at 5am so we could rest up before our long day of walking. We were in new Bagan so we set out walking north to get to Old Bagan and the path was just surreal, you take a few steps and see a pagoda, a few more and another pagoda. With 2000 or more pagodas in Bagan the place is littered with them and you could even go in and explore. Every so often you'd come across a really large over the top pagoda and they often had interesting backstories. At the Ananda Pahto temple the king who had it built wanted it to be so unique that once it was done he killed his architects. I'll try and remember that story if I ever get a boss I feel like complaining about.

We spent hours exploring all the temples but for the sunset we'd been told the Pya Tha Da Temple was the best so as it got later we headed in that direction. Unfortunately everyone else including dozens of buses of chinese tourists had heard the same thing. The sunset and view were still amazing but it would've been better without the crowds and buses below. After a beautiful sunset we waited for the hordes to descend first since there was only one staircase - a supremely idiotic idea because that meant it was dark by the time we started our hour long walk back.

If you are a mother or someone concerned about me we made it home quickly and this is the end of the blog. The End.

Okay the truth, for the walk back we followed my offline gps map Maps.Me, which is possibly the best app in the world. I have used it on so many trails and have always gotten to my destination and the same is true in Bagan but we took some scary paths. The amount of times the 3 of us would stand at the entrance of a path and say "are we SURE this is a path?" And I'd respond that Maps.Me says so. Walking in the pitch black with one phone lighting the way going single file down a creepy cornfield is a memory that'll stick. It didn't help that the girls would ask how much battery my phone had left and rather than say less than 10% I'd just respond "Don't worry about it....but lets walk a bit faster". The walk took longer because we vetoed some roads that were too creepy but we made it back and collapsed at the first restaurant we found. I ended up being sick the next day so unfortunately I didn't do much more in Bagan but we still saw a ton that first day which was absolutely amazing.


  1. Finally just read this and this is not a story your mother wants to hear you do again. That's terrifying but at least you were calm for the girls. They were so lucky. Great writing.

  2. Finally just read this and this is not a story your mother wants to hear you do again. That's terrifying but at least you were calm for the girls. They were so lucky. Great writing.