Bagan

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Having boarded the ferry at 5.30am for our day long trip to Bagan, our departure was delayed a few hours until the mist lifted.  Visibility improved and the sun broke through as we sailed majestically past the hills of Sagaing 

Three years later Tony and I departed on time and were rewarded for getting up at 4 am with a stunning sunrise

Our Spartan vessel was built in China in 1996 but looked much older due to wear and tear and lack of maintenance.  All passengers had assigned seats on the packed lower deck.   Once underway people scattered between the decks and it was much more comfortable.  There was a restaurant, lounge and an outdoor sundeck.  A day of relaxation in the sunshine was most welcome
We read, slept and wandered between decks all day. The Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) river spread around us, wide and serene. The banks were lush and green with palm trees silhouetted against the  skyline.   There was not a lot to see,  with little other river traffic and banks too far away to observe much of the activity on shore
At the occasional stop to pick up crew and supplies, young women swarmed into the water calling to us to buy fruit and treats  

When we saw a local ferry taking on passengers we realised just what Spartan and badly maintained meant in Burma!

The barbers pole came out often to check the depth
All uphill to the waiting taxis
No, it is not acceptable to wear shorts and halter tops in the temples of Myanmar they also request you not to wear your ugly dresses  though I am not sure why you would

Ahead everyone was lining up to purchase the mandatory $10 Archeological Zone Pass with which we could enter almost all the temples without further payment  

Any temple that is kept locked will require a tip to the key holder to gain access

The Thande Hotel Old Bagan

Our little bit of paradise was built in 1922 for a visit from the then Prince Of Wales.   They certainly chose the prime location on the river as I suppose you would  at the beginning of the 20th century.  The waterfront bungalows and grounds were lovely. That said, parts were sadly run down but being renovated in Dec '02.  They were in the process of building a pool   It was overpriced for Bagan at the time.  The food and service were abysmal but fortunately right next door is the Hotel Bagan, where the German management served a very good buffet dinner in a beautiful lantern lit setting but sadly, without the riverfront location of the Hotel Thande

Hotel Bagan

The $7 per person buffet was the most expensive meal we had on the trip.  Drinks were extra and had to be paid for in Kyat. The music was perfect for the setting "Tai Chi" by Oliver Shanti and Friends 

We enjoyed wonderful sunsets

And awoke to beautiful dawns

Our sleepy tonga driver

Mingala Zedi

     Completed in 1290 Mingala was the last to be built before the decline of Bagan.  It is known for it's beautiful glazed Jataka tiles.   They were expensive to produce and although often included in temple plans rarely materialized.  Mingala and Dhammayazika are the only temples to have had a full set.  Many are missing or damaged but a considerable number remain, set into the terrace walls around the base

 

The steps are daunting but the view at dawn divine, well worth the early morning wake up call and steep climb
Balloons adding to the magic of dawn over the Bagan Plain

The view from atop Mingala is equally spectacular by day

Bagan formerly know as Pagan was established around 850 AD and was ruled by King Anawrahta from 1044

Before setting out for the monuments we were advised to visit the newly built government museum. The scale models gave an overview of the changing styles of architecture but we had most fun with the 100 male and female busts showing changing hairstyles over the centuries 

Architectural Museum

King Pyusawhti with an eagle, a mountain lion, a boar and a rat

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