First day in Bagan and I was off to be ‘Templed out’ like never before! A whole unbelievable day was ahead of us in Myanmar.
It really did take my breath away the first time I climbed up the stairs inside one of the 4000 temples and looked out across the plains of Bagan.
The first thing that takes your breadth away though is the heat …the heat under your feet! Sorry for going on about it but no one warns you about this crucial fact. Before you go to Bagan, practice walking on hot coals at home in your garden…and only then you might be prepared! You are not allowed to wear shoes inside or on top of the temples and some of the floors on top are burning in the 45 degrees heat.
Also the steps are mostly broken and rocks and stones greet your feet when you climb inside in the pitch black, to reach the open air top, so a torch is a must here!
The first temple we climbed, as you are not able to climb up all of them, I was stunned and a few squealing noises definitely came out!
It is just the craziest view ever…it doesn’t look real. Across the green countryside, dotted all around are hundreds of temples, all different shapes and sizes. The back drop for this scene is mountains in the distance which, when we were there, seemed to be shrouded in fog which just added to the mystic of the Bagan Plains.
Being at the top of a temple means you can walk around and get a 360 degrees view of this unbelievable landscape. It was better than I had ever imagined. And it really does have to be seen to be believed.
Photos I’d seen before I went myself, seemed to focus on the red stupas, they are a cone like shape and although there are hundreds of these, dotted between them are individual temples, each so different to the next. Each with its own wow factor, each with its own story.
Another thing which surprised me, is that in so many of temples, we were the only people there. No other tourists or travellers. Just us and maybe one painter. A few of the more popular temples were surrounded by little stalls selling postcards, crafts and cold drinks. We were attracted to the local artists though. The painters who created wonderful artwork on cotton canvas. So much so ( well it was material – therefore no extra weight to carry and rolling it up didn’t matter) we both brought about 5 each!
Many of the temples were home to hundreds of Buddha statues. Some as high as the ceilings. You would be walking around a temple, turn a corner and ‘ oh wow! Another massive statue of Buddha!’ each one with its own facial expression. Some looked female – even massive eyelashes, some male with grumpy, smug or sleepy expressions and some beautiful murals covered some walls as well.
There would be donation boxes by each statue and a lot of Burmese people would be around praying or meditating. Monks too. Many, many monks.
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before or if you have noticed, that I am slightly obsessed with taking pictures of beautiful and different doorways and windows. So basically I was in doorway heaven!
So many of the temples were a piece of art work themselves. The grand entrances, the archways within, the intricate windows up and across the walls I just loved it!
My favourite temple ( if I had to pick) was called Ananda pahto, which to me ( I’m no expert) was a mix of a variety of different types of architecture. It had the presence and stature of a grand cathedral, the point of a pyramid, the curves of a stupa and the worn effect of an ancient temple. It was simply breathtaking to be stood in front of it.
When asking our horse & cart driver about each temple, every temple seemed to have some sort of record. For example ‘ this is the highest temple, this is the largest temple, this is the oldest temple’ etc.
At the end of a long day, I’m not sure how many temples I explored, climbed up, sat in, walked around, strolled through but you could say I was suitably ‘ Templed out’ yet again. This place though… is just different. It wasn’t like being Templed out in India and it wasn’t like the sprawling complex of Angkor Wat.
Later that evening we met up again with Dave & Alan ( the two Australian guys) and joined them for dinner. We were discussing our day across the temples. They had gone on bikes and enjoyed stumbling across temples too.
I said ” I like these temples more than Angkor Wat” I heard Dave’s sigh…I looked at him and shrugged. “I can’t help it, I just do.’ And Dave couldn’t believe it. He loves the temples at Angkor Wat and has also been teaching English in Siem Reap, same time as us, so he knew them very well. For me though, his argument of how difficult it was to build such an empire as Angkor and how it took so much longer than anything in Bagan, didn’t make me shift the feeling I had. The feeling of being totally gobsmacked by a view and feeling totally inspired by the individual beauty of each temple. That topped with the clip clop sound of the horses hooves as you travel through the rural landscape searching for the next one.
For me, was just wonderful…sorry Dave – each to their own.