Day 4 of my journey in Myanmar has been great so far, especially with that magnificent sunrise over Old Bagan. We made our way to the village of Myinkaba, just along the road between Old Bagan and New Bagan. Breakfast was the first order of the day and it was also a great way to observe the locals on their more relaxed pace. I noticed the similarity with Myanmar’s neighboring Indo-China country like Laos and Vietnam who likes to have breakfast at the streets, particularly tea houses. I pulled out a chair and sat down with Mime and ate like how the Burmese eat.
I was mesmerized at the performance at the show they were watching on TV, aside from the Buddhist prayers broadcasted in TV, there were alternative entertainment shows as well. I saw how a group of girls do a cultural dance where they align as one and make it appears like Shiva with her thousand arms is dancing gracefully on earth herself. I also noticed that tea houses like this is where the latest buzz go around, where news and chatter fly freely in the air over a cup of coffee and delicacies.
Their food was equally interesting too. The Ichague, a long bread made of plain dough tasted a bit bland. It was perhaps a good pair with coffee. The triangular ones called Tumano was my favorite. It has delicious meat filling inside which reminds me of our empanada.
Since we were in Myinkaba, I thought we also visit some notable temples. And it was efficient of Mime to bring us to a tea house just opposite Manuha Paya, the next temple I’ll visit. From the outside, Manuha Paya seems to be just a simple modern looking temple. There’s this huge Buddha filling up the altar space. When I explored the back, I was surprised to see a Giant Reclining Buddha cramped in such a small confines. I learned that this Buddha represents the discomforts of the Mon King Manuha, who was held captive on this Paya by King Anawratha.
I walked on a dust road just a few meters behind Manuha Paya to find a small but beautiful paya which reminded me a lot of Angkor Wat because of its elaborate Hindu bas reliefs and stone carving. Nan Paya, was believed to be the prison that held King Manuha which was converted into a Hindu or Buddhist temple. On the walls I was intrigued with the use of duck patterns which I later found out was a mythological bird Hamsa.
The entrance has to be unlocked when I arrived and there’s a good reason. Nan Paya holds really impressive masonry work said to be the best found in Bagan. At the 4 pillars at the center of the paya, carved are very elaborate bas relief works of a three-faced Brahma with a flower. Initially, the images of the deity were thought to be giving flowers to the centerpiece altar, but according to legend, Shiva had guardians but was too ferocious. She tricked the guardians to eating their own bodies and fed them flowers to avoid eating her worshipers.
It is still uncertain whether it was a Buddha or a Hindu god standing at the center of the pillars but now it’s an open space for visitors to put their donations. The caretaker was really aggressive asking for donations as this is going for the restoration of the Paya. Like a lot of the temples in Bagan, damages were from earthquakes.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.