BEGIN THE BAGAN
Trip Start Jan 15, 2012
21Trip End Feb 15, 2012
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Where I stayed
(Now, I feel that I must start this section with a disclaimer. We saw soooo many pagodas and stupas and temples in Bagan that there is no way in sorting through all of our photos that I can properly identify which is which. So please forgive me if I don't mention the names of each photo. Just be assured that you are only seeing the best ones.)
Before I get to our photos I'd like you to see 3 panoramas that I came across on Wikipedia.
I don't know who shot them, but they give you a wonderfull idea of the scope and depth of Bagan.
The first morning we were picked up by a very comfortable, horse drawn carriage at our hotel. It was wonderful negotiating the narrow dusty lanes this way. It was like going back in time.
Climbing these ancient monuments was an experience my trek phobic sweetheart was willing to forgo, leaving me to climb the steep, narrow, low, cramped stairs alone. Going up wasn't easy, but going down those steep, narrow, low, cramped stairs brought forth images of hours later finding this body splattered at the bottom of those steep, narrow, low, cramped stairs. Needless to say I must have earned some Buddhist merit sometime in the past, as I made it to the bottom as frequently as I made it to the top. And the views across the stupa-studded plane were worth the terrifying descents.
Our first evening, when we were looking forward to seeing the sunset from one of the big pagodas, our carriage driver took us to a mob scene of tourists covering a humongous stupa like ants on a pile of honey. When we declined to participate in this spectacle he took us to another quieter pagoda.
True to form, TLD declined once again to scale the dark, steep, narrow, low, cramped stairs. When I reached the top I was confronted with a very interesting spectacle. A photographer from Wales had set up his tripod on a case in one corner of the stupa. He had 2 young monks posing on a neighboring tower. There was a stylist helping to arrange the monk's robes and positioning them according to the photographer's instructions being relayed by an interpreter sitting next to him. I got some great shots of his subjects as well as of the lowering sun behind the stupafying numbers of stupas.
I didn't wait for the sun to set before descending the steep, narrow, low, cramped stairs.
We had made a 7PM dinner date with Jan & Trudy for this evening. At 6, we asked our carriage driver to take us to their hotel. He told us it was very far but he would take us part way there and we could get a taxi to take us the rest of the way and back to our hotel afterwards.
For 45 minutes we clip-clopped through the dark streets. Finally, he pulled over and said something to someone leaning against a pickup truck. After a back and forth we agreed on a price for a taxi to take us to our friend's hotel… wait while we have dinner… then, take us back to our hotel.
Someone was sent to fetch the driver who was having coffee in a restaurant around the corner.
Twenty minutes later we were still waiting. The carriage driver said something to one of the men who was standing around and he said he was a taxi driver. He led us to a pickup truck and lowered the back gate and waved us aboard.
This was a standard Bagan taxi. We climbed aboard.
Then, he and 2 other guys opened the hood and started banging on the engine. Another guy crawled under the dashboard and began messing with wires. It was now 20 minutes after our 7PM dinner date time. 10 minutes more of this business and I climbed down and started to get a bit pissed off.
Now, they ushered us to another pickup taxi.
We climbed in the back and we were bouncing off on our way.
15 minutes later he pulls up at the wrong hotel and admits he's never heard of the hotel he's supposed to be taking us to. We're now over an hour late with no way to contact them.
At this point we tell him to take us back to our hotel which he does. 15 minutes later were back where we started over 2 hours ago.
Now he wants to be paid... I tell him that he didn't take us where wanted to go... He replies that we were in his taxi ...
You can see where this is headed...
He's looking very downtrodden...
This terrible tourist is trying to cheat him...
There are other drivers in the parking lot starting to head our way... I give him a few small bills and walk away.
The Lady D has been trying to call Jan & Trudy at their hotel... The hotel operator says she's never heard of them... D goes through the exercise of spelling their names (they use different last names) finally the operator says Oh yes they are at this hotel but they're not in their room... D tells her that they are waiting for us in the restaurant... The operator says she will give them the message that we called.
D admits she's never been in a pickup truck before. Somehow that doesn't surprise me.
We go out to the dining terrace to have a G&T and something to eat. There is a Burmese puppet show as entertainment complete with loud screeching music. A waiter comes over and says there's a call for us... It's Jan. D goes to the phone but can hardly hear. She thinks he heard what she said and she thinks he said we'll email each other when we get back to the real world.
We can only hope.
The next morning we had a new driver (I guess we drove the last one mad with our low stupa tolerance level.)
Today, after a few more pagodas, we are supposed to see some fabulous woodworking and lacquer-ware factory/showrooms. We're stunned at the prices. Even after haggling, the prices even on the most mundane items seem to be still wayyy out of line. Maybe it's the Chinese tourists who are paying those prices.
And, when it comes to antiques, there is no way of knowing if it really is an antique. There were signs at the airport when we first arrived that said antiques would be confiscated when we leave. The merchants say they will give us a note saying this item is a fake... which it probably is.
Interesting... You're paying a merchant for an antique… which he then swears is not an antique…
How very Burmese.
After a craft shop tour interspersed with a pagoda or two we stopped for lunch at a riverside restaurant. The manager told us that they were waiting for 200 tour groupies to descend in an hour or so. Our table was at the front looking out at the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwadi).
Halfway through a delicious lunch we turned around and found that every seat behind us was filled with silent Japanese tourists... most holding cameras in front of their faces taking pictures of the river that had to include us.