Thursday, 21 June 2007

Baking in Bagan

I've spent the last few days at perhaps Myanmar's most famous site, Bagan, home to 2500 temples, most of which are around 800 - 1000 years old.

I don't know if any other nation can have the same experience as an Australian when in the presence of such historical sites, only because our own documented history is so short. It's a marvel for us to gaze at the Notre Dame or the Colosseum, only because out big but small land was so far from being born into the nation that we know today. I don't mean to take away from the history of the aboriginals but aside from rock art, we have little to look at to understand their culture all those years ago and I, for one, wasn't taught it at school.


In short, Bagan was awesome. I ended up spending four days there, most of the time hiring a bicycle to ride through the temples, which are scattered over a 15 square kilometre (or thereabouts) area. I made some great new friends - a German couple and American guy - and of course with the Germans we had a cracking schedule organised. Our first day was the highlight, us being struck with beauty of seeing all of these temples scattered across the flat, hot plain. On our first day we also took a trip up the Ayerwaddy to see a more remote temple, and ended up having tea and fudge with a monk who was living in a cave.

When we were templed out, I shopped for lacquerware souveigneers and sand paintings (tradition lives on mum). We also took a half day trip up to Mt Popa. On top of this volcanic pinnacle is a temple to the nats, pagan spirits which the Burmese worshipped and appeased prior to the widespread adoption of Buddhism. The temple sits perched far above the earth like a prison castle in a Rapunzel-like fairytale - it is quite magical to look at.

Otherwise, there was more cycling, more Star Cola and more temples. All in 40 degree heat; we sweltered but apparently the temperature wasn't as bad as the week before when it had got up to 52! I dunno if that's the truth or just an American's translation from Fahrenheit to Celsius but nonetheless it was baking in old, beautiful Bagan.

No pics yet cos the internet is faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarked in this country (if you even get electricity). xx

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