Our hotel here is gorgeous. We are taking turns having our own room as three in a room is a challenge here, so I have my own for the next five nights. It is a huge modern clean (for Myanmar) room on the edge of the pool. There are lots of resteraunts serving vegetarian food here too so I am a happy person.
We had arranged a horse cart driver for the next two days but he did not show up this morning. The internet here is very temperamental so I couldn’t check my emails back and forth to him so we just hired another horse cart driver to take us to the temples. One would sit in front beside the driver and the other two in the back. Sounds romantic and fun doesn’t it, a horse cart in Bagan going to visit all the temples. Not. It was very bumpy and uncomfortable and only the person in front had a really good view.
There are thousands of temples in a very small area, it is breathtaking. There are the golden pagodas, one of which we went to first. Again, it was nice but we are getting pagodaed out already. We met two German women there who said that they have pagodaitis. Seen one you have seen a thousand. But the rest were the Cambodian type. Clustered together in fields, some small some huge. A few of them looked like castles. Our guide said that there are now 4,000 but before the earthquake in 1975 there were 4 million. We are not sure about that number but suffice to say there were a lot more and a large number of them ended up in the river because of the earthquake. They were built by wealthy families, each one would have their own temple.
One of things that we don’t appreciate here I’m afraid is all the people trying to sell us things. We arrive at a major pagoda and find sellers with their shops on either side of the walkway on the way in. When we arrived at one these three ladies practically accosted us getting out of the cart and were very insistent that we look at their shops. It is hard to get away from them. If you show any interest at all they follow you until you either get almost rude or buy it. One mask I was looking at started at 35,000 Kyat and I ended up getting it for 10,000 but I am not even sure I really wanted it……
In front of one we saw some ladies and children selling what looked like small pieces of wood, so we went and asked what they were for. They showed us how the end of the wood is ground on a small platform with water and then the little girls put some of the yellow paste on our cheeks and noses. This is the paste that everyone wears on their faces. We had no idea that it came from a tree. I bought a small pack of it and then we started taking pictures and joking around with them. This little girl had a small package of it in a plastic bag and was holding it in front of me. I kept saying,’ no thank you I just bought one’. She kept insisting and so I opened my pack to show her that I already had one and realized that she had not given it to me yet and was trying to get me to take it. They are so honest.
The women all try to trade their goods for lipstick, mascara or perfume. I wish I had brought some with me to trade for their goods. Our hotel clerk was telling us that the people here are so poor. The hotel staff only work in the winter as do the horse cart drivers. The summer is so hot here, 42 degrees, that tourism is down so much they lose their jobs and have to farm or do something else. We try to buy from different vendors if we do buy and try to spread it around.
There are young children selling postcards at every temple. We have bought a number of them, even though we may not use them, but it is a good way to give them a little bit of money without them having to beg. One little boy of 8 was selling a group of postcards that he had made. They were all colored drawings and so sweet. I asked how much they were and he said 1,000, which is what the regular postcards cost ( 10 for $1.25). I gave him the 1,000 and took the postcards and his picture and he was jumping around he was so happy. It may have been his first sale of his own art but he sure was excited.
We were able to climb (gingerly) to the top of a few of the temples and get an amazing panoramic view of the countryside. Our cart driver took us to where they make laquerware. Most laquerware is made here in Bagan and the process, for good quality, will take up to 6 months for each piece. It is quite fascinating and gives a whole new appreciation for it. Did you know that the base is made from either bamboo or teak and some are bamboo and horsehair. Then there are up to 7 layers of laquer put on top of that. Laquer is from a tree, like a rubber tree, and looks like tar. Then these young girls carve pictures into the piece and it will then be dyed. They get paid $2.50 per day for this and they are amazing artists.
We went back for lunch and a swim before continuing on to see a couple more temples and then climbed to the top of the biggest one to witness the sunset. It was straight up, no handrails and quite high. Coming down was worse. The view was spectacular but the sunset just so so. We love Bagan. There are very few cars and motorbikes compared to the last two places we were in. We are going to rent bikes in a day or so and see the villages and temples that way. I am glad we have five nights here.