Having organised with the ebike rental place to pick up the bike at 5am to watch the sunrise, we both slept through the first alarm and drowsily awoke for the second (with the first still ringing and buzzing in the background – thank goodness the guest house is empty and there is no one in the rooms either side of us!). Picked up our bright pink ebike and, as Jayne navigated the dark streets like a pro, I was concentrating on avoiding the potholes using the poor illumination from the headlights. Arrived at the … (the last one we did yesterday) and climbed up to the roof terrace. It was blissfully quiet as we looked out over the cloudy horizon and we were able to look over at the … which seemed ridiculously busy, especially since the one we were in was only a couple hundred metres away with an equally good view. Unfortunately, the clouds didn’t lift in time to see the sun rise but it was really nice just to sit watching the sky and scenery change colour. Headed to the Dhammayangyi Pahto next door which is the largest temple in Bagan. The 12th-century temple is famous for its mysterious bricked-up inner passages and it’s gruesome history. It’s said that King Narathu built the temple to atone for his sins: he smothered his father and brother to death and executed one of his wives (an Indian princess) for practising Hindu rituals. Demanding that the brickwork be so perfect and tight that a pin couldn’t fit between any two bricks, the King ordered arms of any builders who failed in this task to be amputated… Only the outer passage is accessible now – the inner one is filled up (either as ‘payback’ after the King was assassinated or as a crude way to stop it falling down!). The outer passageway contains the only statue of two Buddhas sitting side by side in Bagan. Walking around the corridors listening to the thousands of bats overhead, it was nice to see how preserved it was especially since it is one of the only temples not to be restored (due to the ‘bad karma’ surrounding it). Walked around the outside of the temple, looking for the arm shaped grooves where the builders amputations supposedly took place and watching the women sweep up on the pagodas walkway. Started making our way back to the guest house for breakfast, stopping at the Htilominio Payto en-route before it got too busy. Built in 1218, it marks the spot where King Nantaungmya was chosen to be King over his five brother (chosen by a leaning umbrella!!). The 45m high temple has upper and lower floors although no one is permitted to visit the upper level. Was nice to visit early as we had the temple to ourselves and the vendors had yet to set up so we weren’t hassled by them ‘just to look’. Again, the wall murals were missing and faded in parts but being able to see the original plaster paintings was phenomenal. Looked up the exact day of the week when we were born so we could buy the appropriate Buddhist prayer beads.
Got back to the guest house just as it started to drizzle with rain. Sat on the terrace munching through toast, egg, fruit and pancakes as the rain got heavier and heavier. Before long, it was a complete deluge of water with the road becoming more and more flooded as we watched. Decided, obviously, to wait until the rain had stopped before heading back out on the ebike so we watched a couple of ‘Friends’ episodes as we listened to the rain pelt down on the roof.
The rain slowed down considerably after a couple of hours so we headed to the shop and, with a warning to be careful of the slippery roads, we were back out and about, driving around the massive puddles… And then it down poured! Absolutely soaked within less than a minute (even penetrating our rain jackets) we decided there was no point in going back and carried on to visit the last of the recommended temples – the … Arrived and parked the ebike under a canopy (to stop the seat getting wet… The most pointless exercise ever!!) we were treated to an architectural feat of engineering. As the rain came down, at several points on each level there was a mini spout of water pouring out – almost like a water fountain – it was totally worth being soaked to the bone to see it, especially as we would never have known they existed otherwise. Having done all the ‘most important’ temples in Bagan, we decided to spend the rest of the day driving around, stopping at any temple that took our fancy. Each one was absolutely deserted, meaning that we got to splash around in big puddles, have a ‘shower’ in another drain pipe waterfall and pretend we were Harry Potter with a broomstick we found lying around. Reaching saturation point(!) on temples, we started making our way back to the guest house, stoping at the archeological palace excavation site to see the ruins of the palace ‘extension’. Lots of pots and stone wear, there also seemed to be evidence of waterways and toilets although the lack of signs (English or otherwise) meant we used our knowledge of what we’ve seen in other places to make educated guesses!!
Back at the guest house to dry off and wring out our clothing before heading out for dinner. Went to a nearby restaurant that was recommended to us and serves Japanese food. Decided, since we were a little cold and we had had no lunch, to order a vegetable noodle soup as a starter… It was absolutely massive and I could barely move after we ate that and our main course – huge Japanese food baby!!
Friday 20th May 2016