Wonderful Bagan… « What to write about Bagan that hasn’t been written a hundred times? », we wonder, as we watch the mesmerising myriad of balloons floating dreamily in the soft pastel sky of dawn…
Bagan and the sky
As usual in Myanmar (*sigh*), we arrive in Bagan in the middle of the night. For the second time in two weeks (the first time was on the way to Mrauk U in the remote west part of the country), bags of juicy rotten fish had been piled on top of our backpacks in the boot of the bus. Now, this is quite unfortunate. There is very little chance that we’ll get rid of the smell anytime soon…
Despite our travel weariness, we are pretty happy to finally be there, in mythic Bagan. After dropping our smelly bags at the nearest cheap hotel, we feel awake enough to start exploring around right away. We are eager to discover with our own eyes the dreamy landscapes we saw so many times on the net or in travel magazines. You certainly know what we are talking about: you too must have seen these incredible pictures of forests of pagodas bathing in a glorious golden morning light dotted with dozens of dreamy hot air balloons…
So we set off in the dark, three tiny silhouettes on a large black empty street (yeah, three. A loopy red bearded German has been following our every move for more than a week now… Scaaaary! What are we gonna do???) We have to walk 6 kilometres on this seemingly endless road to reach the most popular sunrise spot in Bagan, but whatever, we’ve got time. It’s 4:00 in the morning… Along the way, our camera shutters are kept busy by a few beautiful pagodas that are emerging from the gloom, painted golden by powerful light spots.
We arrive a bit early for the big show. The sunrise in Bagan is best admired from the top of high Shwesandaw pagoda, or so everybody says. As a proof of that, an impressive crowd is already stacked up there, patiently waiting for the sun to join the party.
The stars gradually die out, washed away by the pink glowing tide of another fresh morning. The first sun rays languidly stretch their golden fingers through the low hazy veil, a thousand of pointed pagodas casting long pyramid shadows on the vast plain while the famous cloud of silent hot air balloons takes fly in the stillness… But enough poetry. Let the show begin!
Everyone visiting Bagan comes to understand that its magic really reveals itself under the most amazing skies. Those are what we will try to chase for the following days, buzzing around on quiet electrical scooters, trying to find the best places to catch golden hour lights. We will witness another majestic sunrise and also several breathtaking sunsets to try to steal from Bagan a few golden glitters to add to our travelling dreams.
Now you understand why Bagan and its 2834 pagodas are renowned worldwide. Before getting there, we were a bit afraid to find a place overrun and strained by tourism industry, but truth be told the place is really like a giant exceptional archeological forest of temples, in which it is easy to get lost for hours, or for days… It would be no problem for you to find a quiet place there if you are looking for one! Despite Bagan being a national archeological site, life didn’t stop there either and people are still tending to many fields around, of course dotted with crumbling rust coloured pagodas. This is also a very pretty sight!
An other good point for photographers and cheeky kids : you can visit the inside of every single pagoda! It’s like a gigantic playground, and we spent hours going up hidden staircases, dark passages and open rooftops. Careful though, some of the pagodas are in really poor condition. You certainly don’t want one to collapse on you when you get in so be sensible about where you go!
Photography speaking, you also don’t want to miss local Manisithu market in Nyaung U. A nice change from pagodas and also a real multisensory kind of experience. Probably one of our favourite Asian markets, and believe us, we’ve seen quite a few by now. The lights and colours are amazing. The walls are plastered with this old sun burnt peeling pastel green paint so typical of Myanmar. Irresistible!
So, what do you think about Bagan? Would you visit this place? Next time we will bring you to Mindat to meet the last famous tattooed women of the Chin province. See you then!
M. & Mme Shoes