New Bagan

my last afternoon in bagan & dinner at the sunset garden

Saturday, February 21:  By the time I return from Mount Popa at 2:00, I’m famished.  The first thing I do is rent an e-bike from the hotel for 4,000 kyat ($4) for a half-day and head straight to New Bagan to find a place to eat.  I happen upon the open-air Black Rose cafe, where I park my e-bike and sit at a table. It’s late for lunch, so I have almost the whole restaurant to myself.

The Black Rose in Bagan

The Black Rose in Bagan

view from The Black Rose

view from The Black Rose

I order Butter Fish Curry and lime juice.  The fish curry turns out to be one of the best meals I have in Myanmar, and the lime juice is sour – no sugar.

Butter Fish Curry and lime juice

Butter Fish Curry and lime juice

After lunch I stop in at a small pagoda across from the restaurant, and then I’m on my way to the South Plain, along West Pwasaw.

small stupa near The Black Rose

small stupa near The Black Rose

me e-bike for today

me e-bike for today

As I pull up to the first set of pagodas, my e-bike suddenly dies.  When an e-bike dies, it’s not like you can suddenly start pedaling it like a bicycle.  It becomes dead weight and very heavy.  It’s hard to push, especially on a bumpy dirt terrain!  Huffing and sweating, I push it into the parking lot of the pagoda.

Buddhas found in random temples

Buddhas found in random temples

My Chinese phone doesn’t work here in Myanmar, so I’m not sure what to do.  I see a temple keeper walking across a small neighborhood adjacent to the pagoda.  I wave that I need help and when he comes over speaking a few words of broken English, I tell him my phone doesn’t work here and make a waving motion over my phone.  I point to his phone and ask if I can use it.  He miraculously gets all my hand gestures and my English and allows me to use his phone to call the phone number listed on the e-bike.  I explain to the folks on the other end that my battery power on the e-bike is dead and then I hand the phone to the temple keeper to describe my location.  It’s all very complicated!!  But the man tells me that someone will be here soon.

Meanwhile, I walk around to explore these nameless pagodas.

Buddha

Buddha

frescos in a random temple

frescos in a random temple

random temples and pagodas

random temples and pagodas

random pagoda and my e-bike

random pagoda and my e-bike

Buddha

Buddha

the gate to the temple complex

the gate to the temple complex

Finally, someone from the hotel shows up with a new battery.  After trying to start the bike with the old battery, he finds that the battery has simply been unplugged somehow.  After he plugs it back it, voila!  The e-bike roars to a start.  I feel pretty embarrassed that it was something as simple as that, something I could have fixed myself if I were at all technically inclined. 🙂

me with my dead-battery e-bike

me with my dead-battery e-bike

Buddha up close

Buddha up close

By 4:00, I hop back on the e-bike and head down the road to a temple I had passed along the way.  I don’t want to get too far away from New Bagan as it will be dark before long.

pagodas along the way to Minnanthu

pagodas along the way to Minnanthu

It’s so dry and dusty in Bagan.  I don’t know how people eke out a living on this land.  It was a lot greener in the area around Mount Popa, where I was earlier today.  My cough is getting increasingly worse riding in the open air, dust flying into my mouth and nose!!

I climb up to the terrace of the pagoda shown below, where I have some great views of the South Plain.

pagodas along the way to Minnanthu

pagodas along the way to Minnanthu

View over Bagan's South Plain

View over Bagan’s South Plain

View over Bagan's South Plain

View over Bagan’s South Plain

View over Bagan's South Plain

View over Bagan’s South Plain

View over Bagan's South Plain

View over Bagan’s South Plain

View over Bagan's South Plain

View over Bagan’s South Plain

Buddha

Buddha

View over Bagan's South Plain

View over Bagan’s South Plain

View over Bagan's South Plain

View over Bagan’s South Plain

I figure I don’t have enough time to stay for sunset, so I take off again, this time making a 4:30 stop at Dhammayazika Paya, which is under renovation and covered in gold mesh panels.

Dhammayazika Paya

Dhammayazika Paya

This temple sits in lush garden grounds and dates to 1196. It’s supposedly haunted by a general who supervised the construction and died before its completion.

Dhammayazika Paya

Dhammayazika Paya

Dhammayazika Paya

Dhammayazika Paya

Dhammayazika Paya

Dhammayazika Paya

Dhammayazika Paya

Dhammayazika Paya

Finally, I head back to the Sunset Garden Restaurant in New Bagan for an early dinner. It’s now 5:00 and I’m ready to have a large Mandalay beer and settle in to watch the sunset, due to occur around 6:00.

The Sunset Garden

The Sunset Garden

me at the Sunset Garden

me at the Sunset Garden

I enjoy my beer and sunset views over the Ayeyarwady River, and then I order dinner: chicken in garlic and butter with rice for around 11,000 kyat.  The chicken has bones and is very dry, so it isn’t a very satisfying dinner.  The beer is the highlight!

Finally, the sun begins its slow descent and I watch, mesmerized, as it paints the sky in golden and coral hues.  I love watching the fishermen plying the river with the sun setting behind them.

The Ayeyarwady River from the Sunset Garden

The Ayeyarwady River from the Sunset Garden

The Ayeyarwady River at sunset

The Ayeyarwady River at sunset

The Ayeyarwady River at sunset

The Ayeyarwady River at sunset

The Ayeyarwady River at sunset

The Ayeyarwady River at sunset

The Ayeyarwady River at sunset

The Ayeyarwady River at sunset

The Ayeyarwady River at sunset

The Ayeyarwady River at sunset

By the time I am driving my e-bike back to the hotel, it’s dark.  I pass a couple who see me riding along with no lights.  They show me how to turn on my lights so I don’t get run over on my way back!  I can be such a dunce with technology!!

When I get back to the hotel, I treat myself to a full body oil massage at the spa for 25,000 kyat.  It’s a wonderful treat for my sore body!

I still have a bad cough and now I seem to have lost my voice!  Tomorrow at the crack of dawn, I’m heading to Inle Lake. 🙂

 

Categories: Asia, Bagan, Dhammayazika Paya, Myanmar, New Bagan, South Plain, The Black Rose, The Sunset Garden Restaurant, Travel | Tags: , , , | 15 Comments

the drive back from mount popa to bagan

Saturday, February 21:  After I meet up with my driver, we begin the long drive back to Bagan.  Along the way, we pass this shrine, a kind of deserted amusement park, that offers some nice views of Mount Popa.

Looking back at Mt. Popa from a shrine along the way

Looking back at Mt. Popa from a shrine along the way

entrance to a roadside shrine

entrance to a roadside shrine

My driver waits by the car as I wander around taking pictures.  Not another soul is here, so it feels as if I have this whole exotic world to myself.

elephant at the shrine

elephant at the shrine

nats

nats

I’m glad to get some views of Mount Popa as I’m leaving it behind, although I’m sadly facing into the sun for pictures.

Mount Popa from a distance

Mount Popa from a distance

Buddha and Mount Popa

Buddha and Mount Popa

elephant

elephant

elephant and nat

elephant and nat

offering prayers

offering prayers

I don’t stay here long as my driver is waiting.   We drive some distance and stop briefly in this town where I end up buying some strawberries and an orange soda.  I am thirsty and my throat is dry from all the dust, so the orange soda is a welcome relief. It’s about 1:20 in the afternoon and it will likely be another hour before we get to Bagan.  I’m hungry for lunch really, but I don’t see any restaurants and I’d really like to eat someplace in New Bagan before going out to explore on this, my last day in Bagan.

market in a town between Mount Popa and Bagan

market in a town between Mount Popa and Bagan

market

market

market

market

market

market

market in a small town

market in a small town

market along the way

market along the way

strawberries

strawberries

Burmese ladies selling strawberries

Burmese ladies selling strawberries

As we’re driving back, we see these ladies carrying bundles of sticks along the road.  I stop to take pictures, giving them some money for allowing me to take their photos.

ladies carrying bundles of sticks

ladies carrying bundles of sticks

Burmese ladies at work

Burmese ladies at work

Burmese ladies

Burmese ladies

By the time we arrive back in New Bagan, it’s about 2:15.  As soon as I arrive at my hotel, I rent an e-bike from the front desk and take off to explore the last bits of this ancient place that I’ve come to love.

Categories: Asia, Bagan, Burma, Mount Popa, Myanmar, nats, New Bagan, Taung Kalat, Taung Kalat Monastery, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

exploring bagan by e-bike: more temples along the dusty trail

Friday, February 20:  After I leave the “many elephants temple” with my Havaianas and my e-bike, I drop in again at Htilominlo Pahto to pick up a few more of the lightweight cotton pants I bought yesterday for $3 each.  I can wear them as I continue my travels around the country.  I put them on the handlebars of the e-bike and stop next at Ywa Haung Gyi Temple.  Many tourists apparently come here to watch the sun rise.

Ywa Haung Gyi Temple

Ywa Haung Gyi Temple

Girls inside Ywa Htaung Gyi Temple work on handicrafts, which they also sell.

a workshop

a workshop

Ywa Haung Gyi Temple

Ywa Haung Gyi Temple

Ywa Haung Gyi Temple

Ywa Haung Gyi Temple

Ywa Haung Gyi Temple

Ywa Haung Gyi Temple

Ywa Haung Gyi Temple

Ywa Haung Gyi Temple

It’s only about 4:30 in the afternoon, not time for sunset yet, so I head next to Gawdawpalin Phaya, which looms over Old Bagan at 197 feet (60m).  It’s one of Bagan’s largest and most imposing temples.  It’s name means “Platform to which Homage is Paid,” says Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma).

Gawdawpalin Phaya

Gawdawpalin Phaya

It was built through the reigns of Narapatisithu and Nantaungmya, and is considered the crowning achievement of the late Bagan period, according to Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma).

Gawdawpalin Phaya

Gawdawpalin Phaya

This temple sustained great damage during the 1975 earthquake, as it sits near the quake’s epicenter.  It had to go through a major reconstruction after the earthquake.

Gawdawpalin Phaya

Gawdawpalin Phaya

Gawdawpalin Phaya

Gawdawpalin Phaya

Gawdawpalin Phaya

Gawdawpalin Phaya

Gawdawpalin Phaya

Gawdawpalin Phaya

Buddha at Gawdawpalin Phaya

Buddha at Gawdawpalin Phaya

Offerings to the Buddha

Offerings to the Buddha

Buddha at Gawdawpalin Phaya

Buddha at Gawdawpalin Phaya

Buddha at Gawdawpalin Phaya

Buddha at Gawdawpalin Phaya

Buddha's hand

Buddha’s hand

on the grounds of Gawdawpalin Phaya

on the grounds of Gawdawpalin Phaya

at Gawdawpalin Phaya

at Gawdawpalin Phaya

on the grounds of Gawdawpalin Phaya

on the grounds of Gawdawpalin Phaya

Buddha at Gawdawpalin Phaya

Buddha at Gawdawpalin Phaya

Next, I stop briefly at Myet Taw Pyay Phaya, believed to have been built by King Kyanzittha.  Apparently, during his reign, King Thet Min Katon of Rakhine turned on the sitting king, who sent his warriors to capture the rebellious king alive.  As King Kyanzittha prepared to execute the rebel king for high treason, Shin Arahan pleaded for royal clemency, saying that in previous lives the two kings had taken an oath of faithfulness and promised to help each other when in trouble.  King Kyanzittha spared the traitor’s life and built Myet Taw Pyay Paya on the site to commemorate the event.

Myet Taw Pyay Phaya

Myet Taw Pyay Phaya

Buddha at Myet Taw Pyay Phaya

Buddha at Myet Taw Pyay Phaya

Myet Taw Pyay Phaya

Myet Taw Pyay Phaya

Finally, at around 5:00, I head to Shwe-Gu-Gyi, or “Great Golden Cave,” built by Alaungsithu in 1131, during Bagan’s middle period of temple building.  This period transitioned to a light and airy architectural style from the previous period of a dark and cloistered style.  Inside are beautiful stucco carvings and stone slabs that tell some of the history of the temple.  Part of the history not told here is that in 1163, Alaungsithu’s son brought his sick father here and smothered him to death (Lonely Planet Myanmar).

Buddha at Shwe-Gu-Gyi

Buddha at Shwe-Gu-Gyi

My biggest interest here is to watch the sun go down.  However, I still have to ride the e-bike back to my hotel, which I don’t particularly want to do in the dark, so I have to leave a bit before sunset.

views from Shwe-Gu-Gyi

views from Shwe-Gu-Gyi

views from Shwe-Gu-Gyi

views from Shwe-Gu-Gyi

views from Shwe-Gu-Gyi

views from Shwe-Gu-Gyi

views from Shwe-Gu-Gyi

views from Shwe-Gu-Gyi

views from Shwe-Gu-Gyi

views from Shwe-Gu-Gyi

silhouette

silhouette

temple silhouettes

temple silhouettes

After leaving my sunset views, I ride the e-bike back to the hotel.  There, I try on the new cotton pants I’ve just bought at Htilominlo Pahto.  As I bought them from the same vendor, I assumed they would all have the same fit, but I’m wrong.  Several are too small.  I discard them by hiding them at the top of one of the cupboards in the room.  I do this often when I travel and want to lighten my load.  I’ve found if I leave things out where housekeeping can see them, then they come running after me at check-out, telling me I’ve forgotten something.  For the little amount of money I spent on them, I may as well leave them for someone else to discover.

At this point, from all the dust I’ve been kicking up all day, I am coughing and my throat is rough and dry as sandpaper.  I decide I need a glass of wine and a good dinner at the Green Elephant.  I take quite a long walk to the open-air restaurant.

The Green Elephant

The Green Elephant

I enjoy the views of the grounds as I eat a dinner of mini-spring rolls, tomato and peanut curry, rice, and a glass of red wine.  All the while, I am coughing and clearing my throat.  I’ve planned to visit Mt. Popa tomorrow, which should give me a break from being exposed to the dust on the plains of Bagan.

the grounds of The Green Elephant

the grounds of The Green Elephant

At the end of this day, I’m happy to be reunited with my beloved Havaianas after having “lost” them earlier.  However, at Mt. Popa, much to my chagrin, my flip-flop debacle continues. 🙂

 

Categories: Asia, Bagan, Gawdawpalin Phaya, Green Elephant, Myanmar, Myet Taw Pyay Phaya, New Bagan, Old Bagan, Shwe-Gu-Gyi, Ywa Htaung Gyi Temple | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

exploring bagan by e-bike: kicking up dust among pagodas & herds of goats {& the flip-flop debacle – part 1}

Friday, February 20:  This morning after having a buffet lunch on the lawn of the Floral Breeze Hotel, I rent an e-bike for 7,000 kyat, or around $7, for the whole day.  I’ve never driven an e-bike before, so this will be a challenge.  The rental guy shows me briefly how to drive it, and I’m off.   The brake and the accelerator are both on the handlebar of the e-bike.  It turns out this will present me with some challenges and funny scenes throughout the day.

I drive down the main road in New Bagan, which luckily isn’t heavily traveled, and cruise smoothly along until I come to the first temple, #1056, name unknown.  I pull up to the entrance on the dusty road and hop off the e-bike. With a start, the bike takes off with me hanging for dear life to the handlebars.  It ends up going up some of the rough ground with me running frantically after it, still attached, and then the bike hits a bump and falls down on top of me.  Ouch!  It’s a lot heavier than it looks.  I get out from under the bike, pick it up, and it spurts to life again, running away with me again.  This time it doesn’t get far as I realize I need to stop turning the accelerator on the handle.  I do so and park the bike, shaking and dusting myself off after the whole ordeal.

Temple #1056

Temple #1056

There is another couple with a child at the temple and they have a laugh at my shenanigans and offer to help.  There isn’t much they can do at this point, but I do take them up on their offer to take a picture of me.

Besides the fun of riding the e-bike today, I’m also wearing some of the ubiquitous baggy cotton pants that so many tourists throughout Bagan are wearing. It feels like I have pajamas on.  What could be better than riding an e-bike in PJs through thousands of gorgeous temples on the plains of Bagan?

me & my e-bike

me & my e-bike

Next, I venture to another nearby pair of temples, on foot, leaving my e-bike on the sidelines to give myself a break. I’m now a little worried about taking it back on the road, afraid that I won’t be able to stop the bike in an emergency.

The temples are a side-by-side stupa and shrine, Seinnyet Nyima Paya & Seinnyet Ama Pahto.  They’re traditionally ascribed to Queen Seinnyet in the 11th century, although, according to Lonely Planet Myanmar, they clearly point to a period two centuries later.  The zedi rests on three terraces and is topped by a beautiful stylized umbrella.

Seinnyet Nyima Paya & Seinnyet Ama Pahto

Seinnyet Nyima Paya & Seinnyet Ama Pahto

Buddha at Seinnyet Nyima Paya

Buddha at Seinnyet Nyima Paya

Seinnyet Nyima Paya & Seinnyet Ama Pahto

Seinnyet Nyima Paya & Seinnyet Ama Pahto

When I finally get up the nerve to get back on the bike, I ride for a bit until I come across a herd of goats.

goats on the plains in Bagan

goats on the plains in Bagan

goats on the plains in Bagan

goats on the plains in Bagan

As I carefully drive up and park my bike at Somingyi Kyaung, I see a Japanese young woman across the road who is having the same problems with her e-bike as I did. She’s running frantically after the bike, which is taking off with her holding on dearly to the handlebars!  I can’t help but laugh and I tell her I was just having the same problems.  We both have a good laugh over the whole affair, and then we take pictures of each other on our e-bikes.

me & my e-bike

me & my e-bike

We walk up together to Somingyi Kyaung, and she tells me she is traveling alone.  Her name is Sunoko and she works in interior design in Shanghai.

Somingyi Kyaung is a typical late-Bagan brick monastery, believed to have been built in 1204.  A zedi to the north and a gu to the south are also ascribed to Somingyi.  This monastery is unique as it has monastic cells clustered around a courtyard, according to Lonely Planet Myanmar.

Soc Mingyi Monstory

Somingyi Kyaung

Buddha in Soc Mingyi Monstory

Buddha in Somingyi Kyaung

Soc Mingyi Monstory

the zedi north of Somingyi Kyaung

Sunoko takes another picture of me and I take one of her, and then we take off in separate directions to do our exploring for the day.

me at Soc Mingyi Monstory

me in front of the zedi at Somingyi Kyaung

I drop by another temple along the road, but as you can see from the sign below, I can’t read the name of it.  One of the locals tells me when I’m leaving that it’s known as the “many elephants” temple, something like Shimsa (?), but I can’t find any reference to it online or elsewhere.  Just another one of Bagan’s thousands of temples.

Here, I leave my favorite blue Havaianas flip-flops at the entrance and go in to explore.

unknown temple in Bagan

unknown temple in Bagan

unknown temple

unknown temple

Buddha in unknown temple

Buddha in unknown temple

unknown temple

unknown temple

unknown temple

unknown temple

This temple is wonderful, with some marvelous faded frescoes and Buddhas with a variety of enigmatic expressions.

Buddha in unknown temple

Buddha in unknown temple

Buddha in unknown temple

Buddha in unknown temple

Buddha in unknown temple

Buddha in unknown temple

Buddha in unknown temple

Buddha in unknown temple

When I leave the “many elephants temple,” I see a pair of blue flip flops and, thinking they are mine, absentmindedly put them on.  I hop on my e-bike and take off down the road, heading north and then getting off the main Bagan-Chauk Road.

I stop next at Shwe San Daw Pagoda; the name means “Golden Hair Relics” as it enshrines sacred hairs of Gautama Buddha.  I ditch my flip-flops at the entrance, as you have to do at all the Bagan temples. According to Wikipedia: Shwesandaw Pagoda (Bagan), the pagoda contains a series of five terraces, topped with a cylindrical stupa, which has a bejewelled umbrella, or hti.  King Anawrahta built the pagoda in 1057.  It once contained terra-cotta tiles depicting scenes from the Jataka.

Shwe San Daw Pagoda

Shwe San Daw Pagoda

All four sides of the pagoda have a stairway leading up to the fifth terrace. At the side of the second terrace on the west, there is a tunnel dug by robbers which enabled them to access the central chamber in which relics and treasures were enshrined. Up till 1957 the whole structure of this pagoda was in its original condition— fine brick-red in color with no plaster covering, according to BaganMyanmar.com: Shwe Sandaw Pagoda.

figure in Shwe San Daw Pagoda

figure in Shwe San Daw Pagoda

Shwe San Daw Pagoda

Shwe San Daw Pagoda

Shwe San Daw Pagoda

Shwe San Daw Pagoda

After looking around the pagoda for a while, I take off on my e-bike, where I stop to take pictures looking back on Shwe San Daw Pagoda from afar.

Shwe San Daw Pagoda from afar

Shwe San Daw Pagoda from afar

Shwe San Daw Pagoda from a distance

Shwe San Daw Pagoda from a distance

I head off now in search of Sulamani Pahto, one of the most beautiful temples in Bagan, which I saw only in passing yesterday.

This is the most fun I’ve had on a holiday in a long time!

Categories: Asia, Bagan, Central Plain, Myanmar, New Bagan, Seinnyet Ama Pahto, Seinnyet Nyima Paya, Shwe San Daw Pagoda | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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