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Burmese Days, Part 2, BAGAN

We left Rangoon by air. We could have taken the train, but our time was limited.

It does not seem to matter which airline you book your flight on in Burma. All our domestic flights were booked on Air Mandaly.

We got to the Yangon airport early. At first it was a sea of confusion, but our guide assured us we were in the right line, although it was definitely NOT Air Mandalay. They took our bags and weighed them on an honest to god butchers scale, with a big hook and everything. They put old style tags on our luggage that read NYU. Huh?  Then they treated us nicely and gave us actual paper boarding passes that said NYU, and then they put stickers on us. Apparently we were on Air KBZ. It was too early in the morning to really care.

The stickers we were wearing were for the airline people to tell who was on their plane. There were maybe three flights leaving within the half hour. We all shared one waiting room. When it was time for our flight, a guy walked around the waiting room holding a sign like a pageboy in an old Manhattan hotel. He found people with the right sticker and pointed us to the gate. In the end, a very efficient, if 1950’s, system.

This was the breakfast served on Air KBZ. I thought it looked like fish food and I did not touch it.

When we got on the plane I read the airline magazine and it told me that Air KBZ has only two planes (ATR 72-500s). The airline is only two years old, but they must have bought this plane from the Bosnian air force. It was sort of beat up. I looked at their destinations, and nothing said they went to Bagan. I mentioned this to Mary Ann in my least possible “worried about it” voice. She gave me that look she does often that says “fool”. She pointed out that the name of the airport we were headed to was Nyaung U Airport hence the designator NYU. That was not fair because the guide had explained all that to her, not me. But OK, I’m cool now. When we arrived at NYU the plane parked  in the middle of nowhere. I of course had visions that a coup had happened, but in a few minutes we were safely in the hands of our next guide. You cannot leave the airport without paying a US$10 fee. Not an airport tax, no no. This was an entrance fee to the archeological site, which the airport sits on the edge of.

The I Am Sam club was there. They were Korean, but that is all I really understood. I just thought they were cute.

So we started our drive through Bagan. Our guide had grown up there and was very proud of his ancient city.

Every horizon is spotted with ancient stupas.

Normal life, just as it has for a thousand years continues underneath the temples and stupas, and the tourists.

I hope by now you are getting the idea that Bagan is a very special place. It was the first capital of a unified area now called Myanmar. It was very prosperous from 900 A.D. to 1300 A.D. Then the Mongolians, under Genghis Khan arrived. They laid waste to everything but the temples and stupas.

I feel incapable of describing Bagan in any form. Let me say this, I have been to Machu Pichu a couple of times, the pyramids of Giza, the Taj Mahal, the Vatican and none of them impressed me as much as Bagan. I have a few more photos to share.

This is one of the major temples in Bagan, just one. There are many. Counting temples and Stupas, there are close to three thousand archaeological sites.

Inside the temple of a thousand Buddhas. There were two layers of hallways each with these alcoves containing Buddhas.

Some of the temples have frescoes depicting the lives of Buddha.

Closely look at these next three photos of the same Buddha. This photo was taken up close to him. You can see Buddha is frowning.

Step back twenty feet or so and the same Buddha is now smiling.

Step back another 20 feet and Buddha is still smiling, only now he is glowing and his eyes take on a shine.

This Buddha is  just one example of the magic of Bagan. I have not been to Angkor Wat in Cambodia yet. I hear it too is pretty special. But…EVERYONE goes to Angkor Wat. It gets some amazingly huge amount of tourist traffic every year. Bagan is still sparsely visited, so see it now!

Thanks for reading. Please share with a friend on FB or on your porch, but share it. I crave the attention!

Next post, the beautiful Inle Lake, so stay tuned.

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3 Responses so far.

  1. like this says:

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  3. Carol Turner says:

    What a great post, Forrest. You funny! I saw a program about Bagan awhile back. Wow, what a place. That frowning/smiling Buddha is amazing…I don’t get how that works. And at least the Korean lads weren’t the “Son of Sam” club.

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