South Plain

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. 🙂

 

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

exploring bagan by car: the central & south plains {part 3 of 4}

Thursday, February 19:  In Bagan’s Central Plain, we go to Dhammayangyi Pahto, a sprawling, walled 12th-century temple that is visible from all parts of Bagan.  It apparently has a cruel history.  It’s said that King Narathu built the temple (between 1167 and 1170 AD) to atone for his sins: he smothered his father, poisoned his brother and strangled one of his wives, an Indian princess, for practicing Hindu rituals.  The temple was never completed and many passageways are walled off today.

Dhammayanngyi Pahto

Dhammayanngyi Pahto

vendors at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

vendors at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

According to MyanmarBurma.com: Dhammayangyi Pahto, the king required that bricks were to be placed so tightly that mortar was unnecessary. If even a pin could be inserted between the bricks, responsible masons were either executed or had their arms cut off.

King Narathu was assassinated in 1170, perhaps by his father-in-law in retribution for the princess’ murder, and the workers stopped laying bricks. The inner passages of the temple are stoned in and some people believe that the workers filled them in with rubble on purpose after the king’s death.

Buddha at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

Buddha at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

According to Lonely Planet Myanmar, “others quietly argue the temple dates from the earlier reign of Alaungsithu, which would refute all this fun legend behind it.  It’s also likely that this bricking up of the passages was a crude way of ensuring the massive structure didn’t collapse.”

Buddha at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

Buddha at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

sleeping baby at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

sleeping baby at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

entrance to Dhammayanngyi Pahto

entrance to Dhammayanngyi Pahto

Buddha at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

Buddha at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

The western shrine “features two original side-by-side images of Gautama and Maitreya, the historical and future Buddhas.  This is the only Bagan site with two side-by-side Buddhas” (Lonely Planet Myanmar).

side-by-side Buddhas at Dhammayanngyi Pahto: Gautama and Maitreya

side-by-side Buddhas at Dhammayanngyi Pahto: Gautama and Maitreya

monks walk past the side-by-side Buddhas at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

monks walk past the side-by-side Buddhas at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

In the dark reaches of the temple, some of the stucco reliefs and paintings are still intact.

frescoes at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

frescoes at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

frescoes at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

frescoes at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

Gautama and Maitreya

Gautama and Maitreya

Next we head to Minnanthu Village, an agricultural village which specializes in sesame and peanut oil production.

Dhammayanngyi Pahto

a temple on the outskirts of Minnanthu Village

My driver drops me with a local guide, who takes me around the village.

my guide to the village of Minnathu

my guide to the village of Minnanthu

We walk around and she tells me how the village produces sesame oil and peanut oil, and makes jam from sour fruit.

It’s quite hot at this time of day, around 2:30 p.m. and it seems life in the village has slowed to a long extended nap.

walking through Minnathu Village

walking through Minnanthu Village

pretty entryway at Minnathu Village

pretty entryway at Minnanthu Village

my guide at Minnathu Village

my guide at Minnanthu Village

naptime in Minnathu Village

naptime in Minnanthu Village

still life in Minnathu Village

still life in Minnanthu Village

beasts of burden at Minnathu Village

beasts of burden at Minnanthu Village

drying nuts at Minnathu Village

drying nuts at Minnanthu Village

Minnathu Village

Minnanthu Village

colorful house at Minnathu Village

colorful house at Minnanthu Village

workshop at Minnathu Village

workshop at Minnanthu Village

The village is also known for its cotton-weaving.  My guide demonstrates the process.

weaving at Minnathu Village

weaving at Minnanthu Village

strands

strands of cotton

still life at Minnathu Village

still life at Minnanthu Village

As I head back to my driver, a guy with a scarf over his face buzzes into the village on a motorbike, kicking up a tornado of dust.  He is lost and asks my guide for directions.  Then he takes off in another cloud of dust.

Our next stop is Payathonzu, meaning Three Stupas.  It’s a complex of three interconnected shrines.  According to Wikipedia: Payathonzu Temple, the “interior of the temple contains frescoes, believed to be Mahayana and Tantric in style. However, the temple was not completed. The temple was recently renovated, with the completion of the three stupas atop the temple, which are lighter in color.”

Payathonzu Phaya

Payathonzu Phaya

vendors at Payathonzu Phaya

vendors at Payathonzu Phaya

No photography is allowed inside the shrine, but inside are white-washed walls and “vaguely Chinese- or Tibetan- looking mural paintings that contain Bodhisattva figures” (Lonely Planet Myanmar).

Payathonzu Phaya

Payathonzu Phaya

Just north of Payathonzu is Thambula Pahto, a square temple decorated with fading Jataka frescoes.  It was built in 1255 by Thambula, the wife of King Uzana.

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

view of an adjacent temple from Thambula Pahto

Buddha at Thambula Pahto

Buddha at Thambula Pahto

The Jataka frescoes are intricately detailed and beautifully done.

faded Jataka frescoes at Thambula Pahto

faded Jataka frescoes at Thambula Pahto

Jataka frescoes at Thambula Pahto

Jataka frescoes at Thambula Pahto

Nandamannya Pahto, a small, single-chambered temple, dates from the mid-13th century.  It has fine frescoes and a ruined seated Buddha image; its murals are similar to those at Payathonzu and some art historians believe they may have been painted by the same artist (Lonely Planet: Myanmar: Nandamannya Pahto).

Nandamannya Pahto

Nandamannya Pahto

The temple’s mural of the ‘Temptation of Mara’ is its claim to fame; in the painting, “nubile young females (vainly) attempt to distract the Buddha from the meditation session that led to his enlightenment” (Lonely Planet: Myanmar: Nandamannya Pahto).  It was once thought to be shockingly erotic, but not by today’s standards.  Sadly, no photography was allowed inside the temple.

Iza Gawna Pagoda is our next stop, but I can’t find any information about it.

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Buddha at Iza Gawna Pagoda

Buddha at Iza Gawna Pagoda

Buddha at Iza Gawna Pagoda

Buddha at Iza Gawna Pagoda

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Buddha at Iza Gawna Pagoda

Buddha at Iza Gawna Pagoda

Finally, we head to the Bagan Viewing Tower, also known as Bagan Nan Myint Tower.  The tower was built to “provide a high-rise vantage point for the public without interfering adversely with the Bagan skyline and secondly to help preserve cultural heritage by providing an alternative viewing point to the tops of the crumbling ancient pagodas” (BaganMyanmar.com: Bagan Nan Myint Tower).

Bagan Viewing Tower

Bagan Viewing Tower

I climb to the top, where I have amazing views of the Bagan South Plain.  As it is after 4:00 in the afternoon and the sun is low in the sky, the views opposite the sun are the best for photos.

View of the Minnathu Village area from the Bagan Viewing Tower

View of the Minnathu Village area from the Bagan Viewing Tower

the South Plain of Bagan

the South Plain of Bagan

Tayoke Pyae Temple

Tayoke Pyae Temple

Tayoke Pyae Temple

Tayoke Pyae Temple

South Plain of Bagan

South Plain of Bagan

While atop the Viewing Tower, I meet Marsha from Baltimore, Maryland, who is here visiting with wealthy friends.  She is staying at the fancy resort, Aureum Palace Hotel & Resort Bagan, shown below. She talks on and on for quite some time about her friends and family, telling me all the details of her holiday.

Aureum Palace Hotel & Resort Bagan

Aureum Palace Hotel & Resort Bagan

After leaving the Bagan Viewing Tower at about 4:30, we head to the Nyaung U area to see Shwezigon Paya and then on to Pyathada Paya for sunset.

 

 

Categories: Asia, Bagan, Bagan Nan Myint Tower, Bagan Viewing Tower, Burma, Central Plain, Dhammayanngyi Pahto, Iza Gawna Pagoda, Myanmar, Nandamannya Pahto, Payathonzu, South Plain, Thambula Pahto, Travel, Village of Minnathu | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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