Published on November 11th, 20150
Myanmar Memories: Part IV – Bagan
|Note: if you’re reading this, that means I managed to find some minuscule pocket of momentary wifi in Cuba, cuz… that’s where you’ll presently find me – quite possibly at this very instant – snorkeling amid the aquamarine splendor of the infamous “Bay of Pigs”. Now I ask ya – is life mighty sweet, or WHAT? 😀|
I’ve already talked about my underwhelm with the highly touted Inle Lake. Thus needless to say – after my idyllic 4 day moto-trek from Kalaw, I got outta Dodge after just 2 nts. at Inle, and headed by bus directly for the legendary temples of Bagan.
Little did I know that one of my dearest travel “souvenirs”, likewise was stepping onto that same bus that morning.
The kismet started that evening in the dark as we stepped off the bus at Bagan, weary from the (10 hour!) bus ride from Inle. A “horse & buggy” taxi pulled up, and I began my usual routine of negotiating for a spin to check out a handful of hotels in the small town of Nyaung U. As the bus pulled away, under the dim light of the street lamp I noticed a likewise solo traveling bum, and asked if he too might need a place to lay his head.
He did. And the rest is travel serendipity history.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to introduce you to a most remarkable Thai lad: Piyawit Nook Koombhongse (a.k.a. “Nook”)
Not only did we spend the next several days together (at Bagan as well as bouncing madly on the “Train-ride-from-Hell” to Mandalay) but, we’ve remained good friends ever since – despite the small matter of he living in Bangkok, and I on another continent here in Ecuador.
And oh yes, we did wearily review a few hotels that night (all pretty dismal given our backpacker budgets), and finally settled on a couple of rooms (his $15; mine $20 – I don’t recall why mine was a smidge higher, but after 10 hours on a bus, I wasn’t about to quibble).
Furthermore, before our trusty horse taxi departed, we negotiated a full day’s tour of the Bagan temple complex for the following morning – for a mere $20. Split, that came to but $10 each!
And I dare say – it gets even better. Imagine my luck to have stumbled upon a most learned travel chum with a serious penchant for ancient history. Indeed, Nook had printed out the Bagan chapter of a Lonely Planet e-book that listed the minute details of most every blessed temple in the entire Bagan complex – and knew precisely which he wanted to see. Me? Though I can appreciate (indeed, even envy) such travel research diligence, suffice I was happily content to just follow his lead, and gawk blissfully at whatever temple he fancied.
Oh I did have ONE temple that was my own personal “must see”: the one with the GEOCACHE of course!
We lucked out in another way that day too. While meandering amid the vast Bagan complex (we’re talkin’ no fewer than 2 THOUSAND temples scattered across 16 square miles) can be notoriously sweltering under the usual tropical sun, Nook and I enjoyed overcast skies, along with but a slight periodic drizzle as we clip-clopped about in our (handily canopied) horse & buggy. It also meant fewer tourists jostling at every turn, and we often had exquisite temples all to ourselves.
And though I may well have forgotten many of the details of that enchanted day, trust that my toes shall forever remember scrambling barefoot up and down the slippery steps of those magnificent temples that have stood now for more than a thousand years!
Still more Myanmar tales to come: that amazing train to Mandalay, along with a most excellent final adventure in Hsipaw.