Temples and a Lake in Central Myanmar

Nov 23, 2013 1 Comment by
 
Arriving at a new destination at 4:00 in the morning often proves challenging, and Bagan was not any different. After making my way to the hotel and checking in, I was told that my room wouldn’t be ready until around 10:00 am; not that that surprise me. Exhausted, I did what any normal, sane person would do. I borrowed a bike and biked the 4,5 km to the temples to watch the sunrise.
Sunrise over Bagan

Sunrise over Bagan

Mystical Bagan shortly after sunrise

Mystical Bagan shortly after sunrise

Sunrise over Bagan is a jaw dropping experience. At 5:45 the first sliver of light makes its away across the plains. As it hits 6:00 am, the temples become drowned in the deep golden hues of the days first light. Add a few hot air balloons into the mix and you have a truly magical experience. Note: I did not do a hot air balloon ride. At $350 for the opportunity to ride over Bagan in a balloon was just not in my budget. But it sure did provide for a surreal moment in time. Dotted around the plains of Bagan you will find an impressive array of brick and stucco temples, which had been commissioned by the kings of the ancient kingdom. Over an approximate 230 year span, up until late 1280 and the Mongol invasions, the kings of Bagan had commissioned more than 4400 Buddhist temples. A remarkably impressive and truly unforgettable vision. Inscriptions found at the site indicate that the kings had flirted with a couple of different names for this portion of the kingdom, Arimaddanapura or City of the Enemy Crusher, and the less dramatic Tambadipa (Copper Land). Personally, if I had the choice of giving the name I would go with the former. It’s a much more formidable name, however, owing to the color of the temples themselves (a slightly copper red color), Tambadipa would be the more appropriate name.
sunset over Bagan

sunset over Bagan

I was not as impressed with Bagan as I thought I would be. I think two factors contributed to this feeling. The first of this was the fact that I had been suffering from heat exhaustion. Daytime temperatures on the plains were reaching the high 90s during the day. Add to this a night on a bus with very little sleep and you have a recipe for disaster. The other factor was the complete lack of privacy at the temples. Right outside, no more than 10 feet from the temples, were hawkers selling all sorts of tourist souvenirs and other crap. To me it really took away from the experience of being there and after a half day of exploring the temples I left. Maybe one day I will regret this decision, but I’m not sure when that will be. From Bagan I boarded an Air Mandalay flight to Inle Lake. The lake region itself is really quite nice. The atmosphere is unlike anything else that I had experienced before. But on my boat trip across the lake, I could only hear the words of Admiral Ackbar saying, “It’s a trap. … It’s a tourist trap.” All along the lake are many small villages and temples which provide for many experiences. At Nyaungshwe, the main town along the lake, you can hire a boat for about $18 to take you to a few of these places. All tourist traps. Though it was nice to see traditional weavings being made at one factory, where they harvest lotus, cotton and silk, spin, dye, and weave on a loom.
Showing the traditional fishing techniques on Inle Lake

Showing the traditional fishing techniques on Inle Lake

Unique to Inle, the boats that don't use motors, traditionally use their legs to row the boats. In September they have a rowing competition which would be interesting to see.

Unique to Inle, the boats that don't use motors, traditionally use their legs to row the boats. In September they have a rowing competition which would be interesting to see.

The main reason for coming to Inle was to go to the Lu Ping (Firelight Balloon Festival) in the neighbouring city of Taunggyi. It is celebrated by the Pa O (one of the many ethnic groups in the region). The word, Lu Ping, means ‘eliminating all evil by giving alms and offerings to Buddhist monks.’ During the festival, which takes place during the week leading up to the full moon in October/November, there are hot air balloon competitions. From the hot air balloons are attached either messages designed with the use of floating candles or fireworks.. It’s not the safest festival in the world, as you stand around the balloon as it’s being lit on fire and sent to the sky, where you hope it doesn’t start with the fireworks until it’s up in the air … or in the case of the second night I went, where the balloon went up, caught on fire from the fireworks and came crashing down on the people, still giving off fireworks. No one was injured from what I could tell as most people ran out of the way.
at the fire balloon festival in Taunggyi.

at the fire balloon festival in Taunggyi.

[Video coming in December when I am home and have a good internet connection to upload]

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About the author

"To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour."          William Blake My world revolves around my travels. Beyond that, there is very little that exists.

One Response to “Temples and a Lake in Central Myanmar”

  1.   kirch004 says:    
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    Heat exhaustion, sleep deprivation, and a low tolerance for crap may have taken some of the wind out of your sails, but your sunrise and mystical Bagan photos are magnificent! Hang in there. . . Hope you’re feeling better!