Thursday, February 19, 2015

Asia Trip - Day 8 - Bagan, Burma

Mon 16
Optional Hot-Air Balloon Ride • Optional Lives Behind Bagan’s Ancient Pagodas
You may wish to rise early this morning for an optional hot-air balloon ride, a memorable opportunity to enjoy a bird's-eye view of the sun rising over the ancient temples of Bagan. Afterwards, enjoy a Champagne toast and return to the hotel for breakfast.
Then we gain another unique perspective of Bagan by traveling by horse-drawn carriage ride through the archaeological zone. Witnessing the morning sun illuminating the ancient temples of Bagan is an unforgettable experience. We'll see Damayangyi Temple and visit Khayminga Temple for a panoramic view of our surroundings. We'll also make a diversion to a local village to see how palm sugar is made. Then we'll return to the hotel for lunch on our own. After a busy morning, enjoy time at leisure this afternoon and dinner on your own. Or, perhaps you'll join our optional tour to discover the lives Behind Bagan's Ancient Pagodas. First, we'll visit the Nanmyint Observatory Tower for a breathtaking view of Bagan's pagoda studded plains. Afterward, we'll visit a nearby village to learn more
about local life before enjoying dinner and a classical Burmese dance performance at a nearby restaurant, all included with the tour.

Nobody from our group had signed up for the optional balloon ride. When we went to breakfast I could see a couple fly overhead though. Since we didn't have to wait for anybody to come back from that we could start our tour 1/2 hour earlier.

Our program started with a horse-drawn carriage ride through the archaeological zone. Our guide said that they wanted us to experience another form of transportation. It was pretty unique.

Besides the usual packages of single wet-wipes for our feet after a temple visit we also got masks because it gets pretty dusty. And yes, I had to use mine a couple of times briefly.
When we had climbed in the driver had suggested for the photo-taking person to be in front (which was me). I wanted to change half way through but James said he was very happy where he was.

It was really a very nice experience and our driver spoke English quite well. He volunteered a lot of information.

All the temples and stupas originally had been clad with stucco and gold leaf. This is one of the few temples where you can see the stucco.

This is a monastery totally built with teak wood and has survived.

Here we were supposed to get out and walk around and discover for ourselves. First thing was this ox-drawn cart. We saw quite a few but before you get the camera ready the moment has gone. This has happened to me a lot of course. That's how it always goes. Some things you just have to commit to memory.
Really, it is so difficult to catch all that we experience including the smell, the sound ...

There was also a wedding couple with there photographers. The couple looked beautiful and was only too happy to let us take photos too.

Only a part of the thousands of buildings have survived. This is also an earthquake area. Some have been restored ... unfortunately not the right way and because of that "World Heritage Site Privileges" have not been given. But signs have been put up with names etc of the donors if something has been restored.

Back into the carriages and, of course, everybody took some pictures. Yes, William, there is Omi!

A selfie-style picture = over the shoulder.

As I said, our driver volunteered a lot of info. Here are the remnants of the last crop in this field. Squash. It's the dry season now. Farmers can get permission to grow crops in the fields between the historic buildings.
We even saw cotton but it looks different then ours.

This temple also shows how the buildings used to be on the outside. It is also important because of the frescoes inside.

Frescoes from the 1100s and 1200s had been white-washed when they were not so nice anymore and painted partially anew in about the 1500s.

This is the temple of the "crazy king" who had murdered his father and brother (and his wife and who knows whom else). This one too has a Buddha on each of the inside 4 walls. But actually one of the sides has two next to each other. Very unusual. It's supposed to be because he felt remorse for murdering father and brother (wife probably didn't count that much).

In the surrounding courtyard were of course vendors. Here this tree is hung full of marionettes.

Kind of think the monk is cute.

Back in the bus we stop to see how palm sugar is made. Somebody has to climb a tree twice a day, in the morning and in the afternoon ... with two containers. He cuts off the end of a shoot and hangs containers to catch the drips.
Yes, there is a VIDEO!

We are invited to taste the "harvest". The afternoon one is always slightly fermented. We tasted reluctantly (Ronald said it was safe for us to do) but didn't really like either.

Then we tasted the sugar (candy) which is served with sesame seeds and crushed peanuts. Quite good.

Back to the hotel for lunch (on our own). We are not really hungry so just have a snack. Next to the pool. I take a couple of pictures on the way to our room.

An optional tour in the afternoon. First we drive to an incredible fancy (but very empty looking) hotel.
Weavers in the lobby which of course is nice.

A lift takes us up to the restaurant where we are offered a refreshing drink and then we climb some stairs to the top.
A really very nice view.

Sonyeon likes to see this too because it helps you understand the history better. He thinks it is just incredible.

View onto the hotel grounds. Ronald points out the houses with the different dollar amounts per night ... in the thousands?

It's very hazy but you can see the Irrawaddy River.

Down in the hotel lobby I spy this tree stump with its roots and incredible carvings.

This is the tower we had been up.

Next we visit a village. We are very much impressed how clean it is compared to everything else. The people are very friendly and we talk to a good number. Well, sometimes only with gestures or Ronald translates.
The first we see is a group of young men playing an interesting ballgame. They are very good at it.
A couple of our people join in for a short while. Ronald asks Janie to present an envelope from OAT as a gift from the Grand Circle Foundation about which they seem to be pleased (of course).

Ronald explains that these people are pretty self-sufficient and we see a lot of their work.

These are wild plums which are drying. Ronald explains that the Japanese pay a lot for just the pits (Japanese traditional medicine).

We learned in the lacquer-ware factory how some of the containers are made with bamboo and horsehair. This lady is weaving those containers (cottage industry). I like one which is lacquered on the inside but you still can see the weaving on the outside and we buy it.

Homemade walker for the baby.

We eat dinner outside while we watch a puppet show.
You can get a "taste" from this VIDEO!

Not terribly impressed but the dancing elephant was quite cute.

Another great day and we fall tired into bed.


  1. Magnificent! I'm glad that you got to go into the village and actually meet people. Funny to see you all in short sleeves and shorts when we are freezing here! I haven't done laundry in days because our drain pipe is frozen solid. Went to my mom's and did some important stuff (undies!)!

  2. I'm going to have to learn more about the lacquerware factory. William will like all the pictures when he wakes up.

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