There was still time when I got down from Sagaing Hill. I asked my motorbike driver Tubo, if we got time to visit this one temple I was eyeing. He insists it wasn’t included on what Olsen advised him so he cannot. Insisting further that it’s just a few minutes away, he stood his ground. I wasn’t in the mood to argue so I just asked his suggestion on where we could kill time before going to our sunset spot. He told me we could visit Tupayon Paya just a few yards from Ava Bridge. So off we went.
From Mandalay Hill, we continued on our “US$10 Combo Ticket Free” route in Mandalay. The US$10 Combo Ticket is a government fee that can give access to several tourist sites in Mandalay. I wasn’t keen on spending on it as I’ll use it to pay for my driver instead. There are alternative sites in Mandalay that are equally good but doesn’t need that combo ticket. Like the Sandamuni Paya which is an alternative to the nearby Kuthodaw Paya. Mandalay Hill sometimes has ticket inspectors but an alternative hill is Yankin Paya. Now we’re off to two more impressive sites – a beautiful ‘teak monastery’ and the most important religious site in Mandalay.
I arrived at the familiarly busy, Highway Bus Station in Mandalay by 6am. I was wide awake, having been able to sleep during the bus ride due to exhaustion. I waded through the crowd of touts by the bus entrance and immediately tried to look for motorbike ride to town. A guy with cleanly pressed white long-sleeved shirt wearing a red longyi hailed if I needed a ride. He seemed decent enough and his English quite good so I hired him to take me to downtown. I’m glad I’m back in Mandalay.
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.
“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?”