On our way home from a walk on dusty tracks leading to the temples, we got a chance to observe first hand how roads are constructed today, probably not only in Bagan but in all of Myanmar. I usually don't like to take pictures of people without asking, but for these shots I found a good spot where I could unobtrusively capture the scene with my zoom lens.
A Simple Meal
For lunch we went to the closest restaurant, the one right next door that we visited on our first day here. They only serve curry, to foreigners at least, although it looks like the Burmese at the other tables have different things on their plates. But four kinds of curry - beef, fish, lamb and chicken - is easily understood. The curry itself is a small dish with three modest sized pieces of meat or fish in a puddle of oily sauce. This is then accompanied by side-dishes of stewed eggplant, fermented bamboo, spicy tomato puree, dried fish fried with onions, green beans and a bowl of broth. A pot of rice is placed on the table, you help yourself. Perhaps the fermented bamboo shoots are an acquired taste and probably the smell of a stinky French cheese is just as unappetizing to a Burmese as the smell of the fermented bamboo shoots is to us. All the little dishes make a nice array to look at, perhaps not my favorite Asian food but good enough and it all seems to be very authentic.
So perhaps if we haven't seen as many temples and pagodas as we wished, I feel the lethargy imposed on us by my illness has given us time to take in the flavor of our surroundings.
Temples and Dusty Roads
For today we choose a different group of temples to investigate. We are again lucky that it is cloudy and cool for our walk. A blue sky might be nicer for pictures but being exposed to the baking sun not so nice for us.
The paths leading to the sights are a mixture of red dust and sand, sometimes loose and deep. I wouldn't want to have to ride any kind of two-wheeled vehicle here, with or without a motor. But these paths or minor roads don't just lead to the historic sites but also to villages and there is light traffic.
A Stroll to Nearby Temples
It rained all morning, strange for this time of year. In the afternoon the sky remained overcast and the air cool. It was good weather for walking. These pictures are all of scenes closeby, places we walked to and probably nothing on a tourist's itinerary.
Although we have been close to this legendary river since we arrived in Myanmar, today was the first time we saw it. That was at sundown, but let's start the narrative at the beginning of the day.
Yesterday I finished my prescribed antibiotic, but I wasn't well yet, not by a long shot. Time for a doctor. We trotted off to Bagan's Global Care International Clinic, its name grander than the building itself. But I got to see a doctor who spoke good English, took his time to listen to me and made a very competent impression altogether. I left with a bagfull of medications, including antibiotics. I don't know what's in all those little yellow, white and blue pills they gave me, but I'm taking them all, no questions asked.
Both Janos and I were relieved to have things under control and in the evening I felt up to a walk to the banks of the Irrawaddy. We got there at dusk, as the sun was setting. When the river came into view, we gasped. It was a splendid sight.
We flew out of Mandalay yesteray and now are in Bagan. This should be a highlight of our trip.
Also known as the Land of a Thousand Temples, the ancient kingdom of Bagan in Myanmar is symbol of Burmese religion, history and culture. Towering above the plains of Mandalay and cradled by the Irrawaddy River, the treasures of the ancient kingdom of Bagan have survived for centuries. Once a major power in Southeast Asia, Bagan is home to over two thousand Buddhist temples standing as symbols of Burmese history and culture.
That's a lot of temples. We'll be happy looking at a few. For our first day and to get acquainted with the lay of the land, we got in a tuktuk and had him drive us to some of the major sights. There were lots of people at the temeples we visited, mostly locals it seemed, we didn't see a lot of foreigners. They livened up the scenes of old stones.
Niether Janos nor I has ever been to Myanmar. There would be so much to discover and explore, and we have so little time. Our decision was to limit ourselves to Mandalay and Bagan for the time we have left.
To quote W. Somerset Maugham: "Mandalay has its name; the falling cadence of the lovely word has gathered about itself the chiaroscuro of romance." The same would apply to the Irrawaddy. The names have drawn us here.
To make a long story short, when we arrived I was fighting a severe respiratory infection which the flight here hadn't helped. Since our arrival I have been confined to our room for the most part, fortunately in a comfortable hotel. I went out with Janos twice for meals, otherwise I have rested in bed. And since my health is even more important to me than all the pagodas of Mandalay, I shall not do much sightseeing here, if any at all.
Our flight to Bagan is tomorrow and I am hoping to be in good enough shape for the continuing journey.
The two times I went out I snapped a few pictures.
Another Day at the Temples of Angkor
There will be no history, no background information on the temples of Angkor here, just a few pictures from the many that I took this morning. The visual impact of these temple ruins is powerful and that's what I tried to capture. Of course the history is fascinating as well, but I would have only been able to scratch the surface.
What my blog doesn't show from my experience of the temples are the many tourists taking selfies at every photo-worthy spot, nor do you feel the heat or the fatigue from the bone rattling one-hour tuktuk ride to the more distant temple in the last two pictures. We thought that the distance would keep the mass of visitors away, but when we arrived we saw many big buses in the parking lot...
We often hear ourselves saying, glad we were here eleven years ago.
Next Stop Siem Reap
It's been eleven years since Janos and I rode our bicycles here. In 2008 we started the Cambodia leg of our trip at the border in Sisophon, before the road to Siem Reap was paved. It was a washboard buried in red dust. After a day of that we got a bus. I'm glad we were that adventurous, I certainly wouldn't do it now. I can no longer imagine it.
This time we flew to Siem Reap from Bangkok. In the past decade Siem Reap has changed - as was to be expected. More tourists, more motorized vehicles, more noise. We are glad not to be here by bike.
We are taking a tuktuk to the temple ruins, which are what we came here for. I have a weakness for these vestiges of the past, I don't get tired of them. Some say if you've seen one, you've seen them all. I could wander all day - if it weren't so hot.
I'm keeping the blog posts short. I don't like processing my pictures or writing on the small laptop that Janos and I are sharing. So here are just a few random shots from our time here so far.
First Stop Bangkok
Returning to Bangkok where I have been several times: The first time was in 1965, with two toddlers, when my husband was teaching at Chulalongkorn University. Those two years made an indellible impression on me. Above all the sensory memories have hardly faded. Like a time machine, the heat, the smells of the street, the melody of the language, the flavors of the food - everything that the eyes, ears, nose, and tongue perceive - transport me back in time.
Years later I returned alone as a backpacker, and many years after that Janos and I came and toured in Thailand by bike.
Here we are again in Bangkok, Janos and me, without our bikes. We'll spend a few days here, just walking around, adjusting to the heat and the time change, absorbing the atmosphere and wielding our cameras or smart phones. (For my blog my smart phone will be more convenient.)
Now for some pictures
... is up and running again. It is a space for notes on my daily doings - walks, bike rides, photo outings, travel. Thanks for reading.