Morning of Day 9 finds me a little sad realizing my journey in Myanmar is nearing its end in a couple more days. I moved in from my stuffy hotel to my roomarama-sponsored accommodation at Mandalay View Inn. It also gave me time to do a little backpack-keeping and chores. I also realized that I’m up to my last few kyats and needed to use my emergency funds at this time. I didn’t expect the low exchange rate when I came and I was surprised how low it got just from last week (US$1 = 740 from 780 when I arrived) when I changed money. After lunch my motorbike service came. My driver this time was Tubo since Olsen had to accompany a friend who had an accident to a hospital. I hopped on the bike, put on my helmet and we rode on to Sagaing.
We followed the similar route we had to Amarapura but went way past U Bein’s Bridge continuing to Sagaing, the next division after Mandalay. Sagaing is known for its hundred of Stupas (more than 500), a lot of monasteries and nunneries that it has been dubbed as the vacation place for monks. My drive along this town was truly pleasant. Air was just right and the sight of the huge Irrawady (Ayeyarwady) River adds to its charm. And what I really liked here is that it seldom sees a lot of tourist. But some people who can’t make it to Bagan usually go here to see a piece of scenery of hundreds of stupas spreading to the river banks.
Sagaing Hill was our first stop. I found myself staring at another flight of stairs leading to the hill summit. Unlike Mandalay Hill though, I can keep my slippers on during the climb and remove them when I reach the temple. Sagaing Hill also have several routes, people can even ride a taxi to the highest point (which I found out later). I took the stair route facing Irrawady River since this way, I didn’t have to pay the US$3 entrance fee other entrances.
It was a much quicker climb, about less than 30 minutes with a few stops. It was much more pleasant too since the only crowds there were some monks going up and down the stairs and a couple of caucasian tourist climbing with me. We passed by a few Monasteries where a few monks greeted me and was surprised to hear one say ”Mabuhay”. He told me he had met some Filipinos here before.
The summit wasn’t that big really but there are paintings about the Buddha reaching enlightenment that’s worth a look. What people would really come here for are the views of temples dotting the verdant hills of Sagaing. About 500 of them are here plus the monasteries. Nearby towns of Inwa and Mingun can be seen as well as the two bridge,the age-old Ava Bridge (1934) and the newly built one, Sagaing Bridge (2005).
Tubo was already waiting when I got down. We rode to our next stop and I asked him ”why so many stupa?”, he just told me ”for us, the more the better”. I felt the wind on my face as we rode on Sagaing Bridge. At the banks of the river I see some trees and wonder if they were the same ”Sagaing” trees the place was named from.
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.