The temples of Bagan
Not that long ago we were able to cross out another one of our wishes that we added to our “bucket list”. Bagan stood high on that list. But to be fair, all of Myanmar is on that list. What we read and knew about Bagan was pretty much what everyone knows. There are about 2200 temples left standing out of over 10,000 temples and religious statues that were built between the 11th and he 13th century. The temples of Bagan are often compared with those in neighboring Thailand or even with Angkor in Cambodia. To us, Bagan was a very different experience. Away from the crowds, in all peace and by bicycle. The sight of Bagan impressed. The temples rising out of the plains like mountains, surrounded by palm trees and connected by sandy paths.
The Bagan Experience
It is always good in Asia to get started early. At the break of dawn we saddled up and got on our bicycles. The guide was instructed clearly what we wanted to see and do: stay away from the crowds. And so he did. We followed several paths and trails and passed by one after another temple. Some of them were grand in size, others were beautifully decorated and some were just breathtaking. Exploring the temples was easy as none of the temples is so large that it takes hours to get through. If you bring your own lunch like we did, you get to sit down and enjoy your meal amidst the temples. That is an experience on its own.
Cycling makes it relaxing. Stop at any time and sit down under a palm tree to enjoy a coconut. The art was to find the places to really take in the atmosphere, or experience Bagan rather. When you sit on top of a temple that is easily 800 years old and enjoy a view of a landscape that is literally dotted with temples, you can only marvel. The experience is like being part of a fairytale. All you can do is take it in, while the sun sets over the river and the sky slowly changes from blue to orange. As far as the eye can see you identify the peaks of temples, slowly being swallowed by the horizon.