Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Pagoda-hopping in Bagan by Electric Bike: Myanmar Photo Blog

"Can I walk from here to the pagodas?" I asked.

"OH NO! (Waving his hand) Too far... Too far... 7 kilometers..." The little boy I bumped into at a motorbike shop said. " E-bike.. E-bike".

I was skeptical... I have never ridden on a motor bike before. I have ridden on the back of motorbikes, but I had never actually been the driver (corrected by my past motorbike drivers who insisted that I have ridden on motorbikes before, just not the driver). The E-bike he pointed to me looks like a "real thing" and I didn't think I could handle by myself. But this is my first day in Old Bagan and I WANTED to see the pagodas so badly. I said to the boy, "Teach me".

This is how an e-bike look like.
To my surprise, I got a hang of handling an electric bike in less than 10 minutes of training. It felt like riding a heavier bicycle without having to pedal it. It ran at 20-30 km/hr. Nice and slow. I paid 6,000 kyats for rental and headed right to the direction where I got myself started with my pagoda-hopping adventure!

It was rainy the past two days so the path was a little muddy.
But, who cares! 
Puddles? Not a problem! 
Put on your sandals and deal with the mud!
Don't wear white, though.
Isn't this lovely?
Pagodas were EVERYWHERE!!  Left, right, back, front!!!
A 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit Myanmar in August and some pagodas got hit on the top - so, some re-construction works is currently happening. Mostly on the top.

Some bigger pagodas which cars/tourist coaches could reach.
Having enough seen of the outside of the pagodas - which honestly looked pretty similar from pagoda to pagoda except for the size and accessibility. The following are a bunch of pictures showing the inside of the pagodas that I have stopped by and visited - In a nutshell, every pagoda, big or small, has a buddha statue in it. For some (bigger) pagodas, there is a pagoda caretaker sitting in the pagoda helping you out with getting your lower body covered with longyi if you are wearing shorts or making sure you remove your shoes before entering. No shoes or shorts is allowed in these pagoda temples. 

These pagoda caretakers were also doing a little bit of business selling their sand paintings. Just be nice and patient when you are repeatedly being shown the same sand paintings again and again. They are really low income earners trying to make a little bit more to live comfortably - they barely made USD100 a month for living - They are okay people and helped me out with directions even I did not end up buying anything.

Giant buddha statue with a little construction works happening at the side.

Golden buddha.
Caretaker and buddha statue.
Standing buddha statue and a police man who showed me the best pagoda to go for sunrise.
A hidden one.
Some other pagodas with slightly unique designs:
Shwe Zi Gon pagoda - just 600 meters away from where I lived.
Bu Paya temple right by the Ayerwaddy river.
And also the candid moments with beautiful Burmese people:
I later found out that she was actually hiding to speak on the phone. She works by the river.
Monk making prayer.
Construction workers and policeman.
Burmese ladies selling snacks. Good balancing skill, hur?
Grandma making prayer.

The sole reason why I decided to go to Myanmar was because I have always wanted to visit Bagan in person - where some 2000 pagodas stood mightily for hundreds of years from the early civilization. Even though I still don't understand why the king has to build so many pagodas/temples and many pagodas were just a few centimeters away. Would it be possible that there might be a secret message hidden behind the locations of these pagodas? Maybe I would find out the message when I got to the top...

This morning, I self-forced to wake up at 4.30am for the worldly Bagan sunrise - Shwe San Daw pagado it is I was heading to - which was about 10 minutes bike ride from where I lived. It was cold riding in the morning and I was hungry. With me, I had my camera, bags and tripod. The thought of giving up and sleep in was fighting on my mind against the urge to see the sunrise ten times on my way to the pagoda. The road was empty and I kinda doubted on my decision to wake up this early. Until I arrived at the spot, and little did I know that the reward was well worth anything it took to bring me there in Bagan.

Thank you Bagan for your greatness. I appreciate that I got to see this phenomenal sunrise in person during my lifetime. I doubt everyone has the luxury to travel like me or to be blessed with the courage to explore an exotic plain by myself just all out of spontaneity. And just because I am alone, I get to experience this timeless gem of Asia from a completely different perspective. Thank you again, Bagan, for being charming Bagan - I am not sure if this is the message that THE ONE who built these pagodas was trying to convey to his future generations, but I learn today, to appreciate nature, to give back to nature, to be nice to people, to be genuine and work hard to be rewarded. 

Thank you Bagan... till next time!

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