Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Visiting the Temples of Bagan

The ancient city of Bagan in the country of Myanmar had fascinated me with its sea of temples doting the landscape.

After seeing breathtaking pictures of Bagan's temples in magazines and on the internet, I made it a point to make a trip there one day. 

The trip materialised in July last year during the long Hari Raya Aidilfitri holidays (cheers to long weekend public holidays!) and here's an account of my experience there.

All visitors entering the ancient city must purchase a Bagan Archaeological Zone ticket:

You can opt to pay USD 15 or Euro 15 or even in Burmese Kyat. I paid in US Dollar because it had the best exchange rate against the Malaysian Ringgit at that time.

We stayed in New Bagan where the cheaper accommodations are located.

Since New Bagan is located approximately 5km from the temples which are located in Old Bagan, we chartered an air-conditioned van to take us around the temples.

We could have opted to rent a bicycle instead to explore the temples. But the area was huge and we were too lazy to navigate our way around. Moreover it was too hot to cycle in the heat.

(Note: We visited the cities of Yangon and Bagan in July which is the rainy season in Myanmar. However we encountered heavy rain in Yangon only. Bagan had a dry and humid weather in July)

The temples in Bagan come in different shapes and sizes:

We visited between 7 - 8 temples that day. I can't remember the exact number because by the time we hit the third temple, everything began to look the same, if you know what I mean.

No footwear is allowed inside the temples. So we had to leave them at the entrance. You may wear your socks, though. The temple floors had animal faeces, mud and dirt. So be prepared to get your feet icky and dirty.

Since you'll be visiting a few temples in a day, better to wear slippers/sandals for easy removal.

Leave your expensive footwear at home in case they get stolen when you leave them outside the temples.

The pink slippers were mine :-) I was glad I had a different coloured pair because I could spot them easily in a pile of dark coloured slippers.

There were water containers outside each temple like this: 

Anyone in need of a drink could dip the steel mug into the clay vessel, drink the water and put the mug back for the next person to use. Not hygienic in my opinion ...

Some of the temples had narrow stairs like this:

You may not want to squeeze your way into small, tight stairs like this if you're horizontally challenged or even claustrophobic. Climbing up the stairs is also another tiring affair for the unfit.

Most of the temples were built like a box with 4 sides. There were statues of Buddha on each side.

We met a young artist in one of temple:

The poor boy painted in the temple to support his family. 

We bought a painting each to support his efforts. He was delighted as we were his first customers for the day.

I like the energy of the 5 dancers depicted in this painting. The young artist had skillfully captured their beauty with gold paint on a piece of white, cotton cloth. I got the glittering painting framed when I got back to Kuala Lumpur. The frame was more expensive than the painting. And this photo cannot do justice to its beauty. You have to see the painting with your own eyes. 

Towards late evening the driver brought us to the final temple for the day to view the sunset, i.e. Shwesandaw Temple.

(That's the convenience of having a driver as he will be able to bring us to the right temple for the sunset and at the appropriate time. If we had gone gallivanting on our own on bicycles, we would have to do sufficient research beforehand and navigate ourselves around the huge place. We would also need the luxury of time which we didn't have.)

We arrived early at the temple and climbed to the top of the temple to 'chop' a strategic spot to view the sunset.

Not long after, other tour buses and more tourists started arriving in droves.

This is the view from top of the Shwesandaw Temple:
Temples of various shapes and sizes dot the landscape as far as the eye can see. I like to think that it were aliens from outer space who built these temples as co-ordinates to guide their way to Planet Earth. 

The sunset was relatively dramatic that day:

Photo could have been better if I had a better camera.

People climbing down after the sunset has gone. The climb up was not easy as each step was steep and higher than a normal step. Many travellers had to stop half way to catch their breath before continuing their climb to the top.

Our trip to Bagan was about temple, temples and more temples. I call it a 'temple fix'.

Now that I can finally tick Bagan off my list, we vowed not to visit another temple again for a long time.

1 comment:

juphelia said...

Nice painting!! And the view looks magnificent too!!

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