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.
The tranquil face of a gigantic Buddha filled my vision as I enter a large open shed with metal roof. He seemed contented there, reclining on the floor with his crown adorned with diamonds and precious stones glittering for everyone to see. This is Chaukhtatgyi Paya, home of this gigantic Buddha, uncommonly known but is considered one of the most beautiful reclining Buddha in Myanmar.
“Where are you from?” is the usual ice-breaker question people here would ask. “I’m from the Phillippines” I replied with a smile as I bite into my toasted slice of bread with a healthy layer of butter and strawberry jam while having breakfast. Young adults here like to engage in a conversation to practice their English. “Where are you going today?” I told him that I’d be leaving tonight for Bagan but this morning I’ll hit the streets of Downtown Yangon first to do some sightseeing.
Surprisingly, the endless stream of people didn’t bother me at all. My sight was fixated at the cone-shaped stupa piercing the sky. The afternoon light strikes its slab of gold layers making it shimmer magnificently under the sun. I am humbled by the towering presence of the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred, the most ancient and the 2nd oldest Buddhist pagoda not only in Burma but all over the world. Surrounding the main stupa are numerous mini stupas, shrines, pavilions and prayer halls that it’s easy to get lost on the platform on a hill and be overwhelmed by the many details.
Maps are my best friend when I’m exploring a new place. Starting from where I am, the Motherland Inn 2, I asked the girl at the reception for the location of the Thian Phyu Money Changer Center on the map and found out it was about 3 blocks south west. Since I don’t have any kyat yet, I just decided to walk. Besides, exploring on-foot is the usual way for me to get to know the city. Botataung Paya is on the way so it might be a good place for a side trip.