Those of you who have been reading since the early days will remember when we visited Jasper in Canada we visited an abundance of lakes. So this here is the South East Asia version featuring more temples than we could possibly get round in 48 hours!
A 4am alarm and we were up and at 'em, ready to be collected. We were joined by 2 young Mexican guys and headed to the airport at 5am for our flight to Bagan - an ancient city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 3822 temples and pagodas. Thankfully it was a nice, quick flight and we were in Bagan just over an hour later. After being greeted by our guide for the next couple days, George, we paid our 25,000kyat (£12.50) each to allow us to enter the archeological zone for the duration of our stay and headed off.
Our first stop was to Bagan Market in Nyang-U. Now we must say, neither of us are big fans of markets, not least because we're rubbish at haggling. As soon as the door of the minivan opened, we were accosted by women trying the sell us postcards, magnets, make-up, traditional Burmese sun screen the lot! We managed to escape relatively unscathed other than some strange paste being put onto Katy's face. The obligatory once over confirmed we still don't like markets. Once we had reaffirmed our epiphany (especially this one, as Craig was too tall and kept banging his head) we found ourselves a little tea room and waited for the rest of our group with a green tea - much more peaceful!
Shwezigon Pagoda was our first pagoda visit of the day. Construction of the pagoda began during the reign of King Anawrahta (1044-77) and was completed in 1102, it is believed to enshrine a bone and tooth of Gautama Buddha. This pagoda is considered the blueprint for all future pagodas in the region.
Pagoda - solid, usually bell shape on top of base. There is usually a relic from Buddha enshrined inside.
Temple - hollow, statues of Buddha inside with depictions of his life.
Monastery - where monks live(d).
The first temple of the day was Htilominlo Temple, built during the reign of King Htilominlo (1211-1231). It is a 47 metre tall, red sandstone building. It was damaged during both the 1975 and 2016 earthquakes and is currently undergoing repairs.
Just along the road from Htilominlo Temple was our next stop. An area of abandoned land that is full of pagodas which we enjoyed spending some time exploring. During Bagan's 'Golden Age' (1044-1285, before Kublai Kahn and the Mongolians did their thing) farmers would build pagodas on their land to bring good karma, but then the son, who inherited the land, would also build a pagoda to bring good karma to him and then the grandson and so on.
After taking plenty pictures we headed on to Ananda Temple. The temple was huge and an extremely impressive building - it has been dubbed the Westminster Abbey of Myanmar. The temple is based on the Nandamula Cave in the Himalayas, and was crated by 8 monks who had spent time meditating in this cave. Two giant Buddha's remain from the 11th century, the other 2 are replica's due to treasure hunters breaking them apart to find jewels.
Once we had finished wandering around Ananda Temple we headed for lunch at a local restaurant before getting checked in to our home for the next two nights, Bagan View Hotel. Having had a full on morning, we were quite content to have an hour to lie on top of the bed and chill out. Come 15:30 we were ready and raring to go!
Our first stop (and 3rd temple) of the afternoon was Thatbyinnyu Temple, which at 61 metres high is the tallest temple in Bagan. We weren't able to see inside due to time constraints but we were content seeing how beautiful it is on the outside.
Our final temple of the day was Dhammayangyi Temple, the largest of all the temples in Bagan. Sadly, the temple has a fairly tragic backstory, it was built by King Narathu who reached the throne after he assassinated both his father and brother. It is thought he went on to build the temple in an effort to reverse the bad karma from his sins, but he was killed in battle by an Indian army before it could be completed. We also got to climb an old monastery to get a slightly higher 360 panoramic view.
Last stop for the day was Nyang Lat Phet Hill, a manmade mound with a view over the temple spotted plains to watch the sunset. An absolutely spectacular spot!
Having had such a long and tiring day we were happy to have a quick dinner and an early night!
We enjoyed a little bit of a lie in the next morning before heading to reception to organise a tuk tuk to take us around some of the more unusual temples off the beaten track. Armed with a map and ready to barter we found someone willing to take us round every where we wanted for £9 (we might have been ripped off, we aren't sure, but it certainly sounded cheap to us!)
We headed to Nagayon Temple, Nanpaya Temple (not pictured as we were too busy running away from the women trying to convince us to buy things from them!), Manuha Temple, and Payathonzu Temple (also not pictured for the same reason as above).
We also saw Mingalar Zedi Pagoda, Shwe San Daw Pagoda and finally Dhammayazaka Pagoda. On balance, the pagoda's are less interesting as they can only be walked around but are often far more highly decorated on the exterior.
After another full on day we enjoyed a quiet afternoon then made the most of the hotels happy hour at the rooftop bar for sunset. Dinner followed, at a lovely little family run restaurant a block over from our hotel before another early night so we could be up in time for sunrise in the morning.
Next stop, Mandalay!