Memories of Myanmar – Part 3

February 2018

It took me a solid 8-10 minutes of focus to maneuver the rented electric bike out of tan colored silt-like sand. The sand covered my shoes and ankles, making my newly purchased knock-off Nike runners completely hidden from view. This was the first time I’ve experienced a material beneath my feet that resembled quicksand!

I had chosen a random side path for a bit of an off-road adventure to get some adrenaline pumping through my veins. As a result, the bike now hesitated as I twisted the throttle and my senses were alert – perfect to take in my surroundings…

400 or so miles upcountry from Yangon, (read my previous post) I was now deep in the UNESCO World Heritage Site in old Bagan. The landmass is considered sacred by many and contains more then 3500 Buddhist monuments in about a 13×8 kilometer (8×5 mile) area.

Honestly, I had no clue where I was within the grounds of the amazing site and didn’t care to look at any map. My only mission was to go deep and explore.

The truth is, is that I needed this electric bike’s 60 volt battery to last. Otherwise I’d be loading it onto an ox cart of a local farmer passing by and both it and I would have to endure a bumpy ride back into town. Actually, that wouldn’t be such a bad experience I thought as I continued along some random dusty road…

Would I be able to fit the e-bike in the back?
Maybe on this one…

Being lost in a once thriving ancient kingdom surrounded by pagodas, temples, stupas, thin short trees, random palm trees, shrubbery, random plots of land that farmers cultivated, flowers of different shades of purple, pink and red…and a seemingly random outlay of dirt roads and paths to choose from felt exciting. I had the whole day to explore, provided the battery would last. An ‘out of this world’ feeling overwhelmed my senses as I ventured deep into this magical land. Time didn’t exist for me that whole day…

Around 5:00 the next morning, after charging the e-bikes’ battery all night, a friend and I drove out onto a different area of the ancient land of the archeological site. We were on a mission.

Arriving on the grounds of one particular ancient site surrounded by pagoda temples, we attempt to locate the perfect temple to view sunrise.

We relied on GPS coordinates that we found online that stated we could indeed climb a specific pagoda and get a nice view of the rising sun while on top. Our cellphone flashlights guided our every step under the moonless sky as we searched…

Without my phone, I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. The only way to see a temple at this hour was if we literally walked right up to one with our lights illuminating the off red brick layers of the outer walls.

The temples in the area did not seem to have steps and were not ‘climber friendly’. Even though I didn’t want to break the dead silence, I recommended that we drive out to our ‘plan B’ site – only after a moment of soaking in the eerie dead silence…

This spot felt ancient, sacred and even of a different dimension. We had no clue of the exact date this particular pagoda was built. We just knew that most in the general area were constructed between the 11th-13th centuries.

I let my imagination wonder and attempted to imagine what life was like during that period in time on this magical land. At this same time of day before sunrise about 900 years ago, maybe a monk would have been arriving to this very pagoda we stood next to for an early morning meditation. I’m sure he would have entered the temple by walking on the same uneven brick path we stood on. I wondered if even the tiny seeds that had created the nearby trees which hovered over this path had even sprouted back then…

I imagined an orange robed shoe-less monk passing us as the breeze picked up and swayed the silhouetted tree branches above us. The sound of Buddhist monks chanting together came to mind.

We finally left the location to find the other temple to view the fast approaching sunrise. Our hope was that it would have solid steps that led to the highest point of the structure so we wouldn’t have to climb the structure like ninjas. We had about 45 minutes to get there…

Back on the dark narrow dirt path we see two sets of electric bike headlights approaching us. I approached them cautiously… the drivers finally become visible from my electric bike’s weak headlight. All of us stopped side by side and studied each other momentarily. One Burmese, three Chinese and an American on a random dark path in the middle of nowhere…

On one bike there were two Chinese tourists and on the other was a Burmese local. My friend (who was also Chinese) soon discovered they were following the local guy along the maze of dirt paths to the same temple that we were looking for! All the local guy asked for was that we would be careful climbing the structure (which he assured had steps) and that we give him pocket money for his assistance. Agreed, we followed along to view one of the most memorable sunrises of my life.


A few more photos…

Local Burmese style breakfast
Chicken, carrots and greens with a tasty Burmese style sauce
Orange chicken with rice

4 Thoughts

  1. Absolutely stunning! How can you ever re-enter normal dreary life? You have had the most incredible experiences because you dare to adventure and appreciate people, culture, history and the mysterious! Thank you for sharing this! I held my breath..The scenes pose so many questions????? Lillian

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    1. Thanks for your comment Lillian. The curiosity comes natural and yes, it is hard to re-enter normal life after such experiences. Now, I’m an addict with a hunger to experience the world evermore. Keep up to see what I write about next….

      Like

  2. Thank you son for the virtual field trip you guided us through! The architecture is admirable, and the night experiences spark the imagination. The sunrise colors and food are quite a contrast from South Louisiana. Keep sharing photos and travel experiences. Love and God bless you son!

    Liked by 1 person

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