Friday, April 7, 2017

MY TRIP TO BAGAN

And finally Bagan...or Pagan! I had long looked for information on how to travel from Mandalay to Bagan but some of the information I found online was misleading and not conclusive, so I did not pre-book anything at all. During my stay in Mandalay I did finally book a ticket for OK Express Bus, a mini van which does door to door transportation. It would have picked me up at 10am and dropped me off at my Hotel in Bagan. 10$ was a fair price. I had also asked taxi drivers for a price and they quoted me 100$. So, when the departure day came, I was told to be ready for a pickup at 9:45am, which I was! Actually I was ready as of 9:30am. Just no bus came. Not at 9:45, not at 10:00 and finally at 10:15am an open back truck arrived with a load of tourists and their luggage on it. It said "OK Bus" on the side and I was told that this truck would bring me to the bus itself! For me, it ended right there. I could not see myself loading my two Samsonite suite cases into this "cattle transporter", so I went back to the lobby of my hotel and booked their driver and car for a private transport to Bagan. 120$ and off we went. I sat comfortably in an AC cooled limo with free water and within 4 hours I was at my hotel in Bagan. We only stopped briefly at a rest stop. My way of travelling!!!

My hotel was located next to the Irrawaddy river and after checking out the hotel, I set myself up for the next 7 days in Bagan. After the extensive research for several months before departure, I decided that I would follow Donald M. Stadtner's excellent book "Ancient Pagan - Buddhist Plain of Merit" for my visit. I basically followed the outline of the book which groups the temples into geographical areas. Walled City, Southern group, Northern group, Eastern group and Central group. I followed this outline in the mornings and was free to roam around in the afternoons, where I just went off to anything which looked interesting for a sunset later in the day. This way I have visited all of the 30+ temples covered in the book and have "discovered" dozens of named and un-named (or rather numbered) temples along the roads. 

A lot of the temples were damaged by the August 2016 earthquake and were either scaffolded and under renovation, or completely blocked off and locked. I still went to see them but made the best of it to just take a view photos from the outside. Several temples were also off limits for photography, which I really hate! However, I made the best of it by just looking around inside with my own flash light and took photos from the outside. I never went with a tour guide, since Stadtner's book is the best source of information along with a huge paper map "Bagan And Upper Myanmar"  and,  when available,  google maps. 

So, for the arrival day, I just had a quick visit to the temple next to my hotel, Gawdaw Palin and walked over to Bupaya Pagoda for sunset.  Bupaya was very full but it was a continuous stream of tourists coming and going. I also had my first run-in with a self-proclaimed "artist" who insisted on showing me his overpriced "self painted" pieces, which turned out to be complete mass production prints. I also had my first encounter with the sunset tour sellers, who brought tourists down to the water and into a small boat to see the sunset from the river. First sunset was great, actually better than the sunsets from the top of the completely over-crowded pagodas. 

My other destination for day 1 was to have dinner at Moon Vegetarian Restaurant/be kind to animals (the original) in Old Bagan. Getting to it required a taxi ride and it also gave me a good impression on the dusty roads here. On the way back to the hotel it was dark and I hated the fact that I actually forgot to bring my flashlight, so I did get lost and walked in a complete circle, despite using google maps. In the end, a really friendly street food hawker brought me back to the hotel with his own motorcycle. He closed down his shop for this purpose!!! Loved the guy and wished him all the good karma in the world!!











Moon Vegetarian Restaurant

Moon Vegetarian Restaurant



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