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.
The chill of the early morning wind was really pleasant in Bagan this time of the year. Yes, I got up early and got out of the hotel just in time when Mime and Chune just arrived at the front gate exactly 5am. We started our ride again to the direction of Old Bagan while I survey the surroundings, now familiar even under the sheaths of darkness ready to wake up any moment. I have no idea which temple Mime plans to take me for the sunrise except that it’s somewhere between Old Bagan and Myinkaba, the next village. He has proven to be very reliable and knowledgeable as a guide aside from being just a horse cart driver so I’ll trust his recommendation this time.
My sleep was so deep. It felt like only a second passed since my eyes closed until the moment I woke up. My senses were getting accustomed to the living world when I wondered why my alarm didn’t go off. I reached for my watch and was shocked to see it was already 4:30pm! I jumped off the bed and grabbed my things like there’s no tomorrow. I asked Mime to fetch me at the hotel at 3:30pm for out afternoon expedition at the Central plains including a sunset at Pyathada Paya, but an hour had already passed. So much for the planned itinerary for the afternoon, I haven’t even had my lunch yet.
There is one temple in Bagan which is highly recommended by guides and people there, it is Ananda Pahto, and there are good reasons why – it’s one of the largest, finest and most importantly, the most-preserved temple in Bagan. Coming from the road on the north plain this was the main temple on the east, outside the walls of Old Bagan. It’s very popular so the presence of the vendor stands leading to the Pahto’s main entrance is expected. Beyond them I marvelled at the beautiful white-washed temple with a golden corn-like stupa glimmering at the mid-day sun.
“Where are you from?” asked a pagoda watchman at Upali Thein. “I’m from the Philippines!” I replied slightly exasperated already from answering this question just on the third day in Myanmar or is it because I haven’t slept yet. “Oh Philip-Pines!” most people would pronounce it with the last syllable sounding similar to a “Pine” Tree. I proceeded to admire the beautiful frescoes inside this small ordination hall then suddenly the watchman spoke “My friend, maybe you can help me change this money, I can’t use them here” I looked back and saw in his hand a few peso bills amounting to 850 pesos. Surprised, I asked “Where did you get those?”
There are more than 4400 temples in Bagan. Even staying here for more than a week, there’s a slim chance to see all of them. While there are must-see temples and charming unpopular ones, for me the memorable ones are those where I encountered interesting people that adds character to the payas. And early on my first day in Nyaung U, Shwezigon Paya was one of those memorable payas I visited in Bagan.
Do I try to sleep or do I go out explore? Its 5am in the morning and somehow doing some chores has dampened the sleepiness I was feeling earlier. I just arrived from my Bus ride from Yangon and checked in at May Kha Lar Guest House in Nyaung U, Bagan and the first thing I did was do the laundry so it would dry out for the day. I lay for a few minutes on the bed but I couldn’t sleep so I took my camera bag and tripod and went out in the early morning blue.