Day 187 – 16.01.2016
Bagan by e-bikes
Bagan is just so big, that the previous day I didn’t get a feel for it at all. So we decided to adventure out into the sandy back roads by e-bikes. There is something strange in Bagan, foreigners are not allowed to rent a bike in this place so clever business people found a loop hole and now one can rend an e-bike, which looks pretty much like a bike but runs on battery. Driving one of them was scary because it make no noise whatsoever.
How do you prepare to visit Bagan? I have no idea. All the other sites we have visited so far – even Angkor – was nothing in comparison to the vastness of this place. So we read a bit in the Lonely Planet and in the Rough Guide, we looked at some photos on google and we decided on a travel itinerary.
This 150ft-high temple (built in 1218) marks the spot where King Nantaungmya was chosen (by a leaning umbrella, that timeless decider), among five brothers, to be the crown prince. (Lonely Planet)
What I will remember from this temple will be the sand paintings that I saw there for the first time. We found one that we really really liked and we did some price negotiations. And we did buy one. After that we saw countless other places selling similar sand paintings and I kept being strong not to ask for the price. I do want to believe that we payed a fair price. I do want to believe that I am not a complete idiot. But whatever the price, I love the painting and we had our birthday animals drawn on our hands, which made a nice souvenir for one day.
About 1300ft south of Manuha Paya, this 11th-century temple with a Sinhalese-style stupa was supposedly built by Kyanzittha’s Bengali wife Abeyadana, who waited for him here as he hid for his life from his predecessor King Sawlu. It’s famed for its original frescoes, which were cleaned in 1987 by Unesco staff. (Lonely Planet)
I liked this one and I would have loved it if I had brought a torch. I had forgotten that one, which was a shame, since the inside is very dark and hardly anything is visible. Luckily some Americans arrived just as we intended to leave. And they seemed to know a great deal more about the images than us, so we walked with them a second time around the temple profiting from their torches and their knowledge – until Alina came in to tell us she was desperate for a loo. Well, culture has to wait when ones daughter needs a loo.
Bagan’s most famous sunset-viewing spot, the Shwesandaw is a graceful white pyramid-style pagoda with steps leading past five terraces to the circular stupa top, with good 360-degree views. Shwesandaw means ‘golden holy hair’: legend has it that the stupa enshrines a Buddha hair relic presented to King Anawrahta by the King of Ussa Bago (Pegu) in thanks for his assistance in repelling an invasion by the Khmers. The terraces once bore terracotta plaques showing scenes from the Jataka but traces of these, and of other sculptures, were covered by rather heavy-handed renovations. The now-gilded zedi bell rises from two octagonal bases, which top the five square terraces. This was the first Bagan monument to feature stairways leading from the square terraces to the round base of the stupa. (Lonely Planet)
For me personally, Shwesandaw was nice for the view from the top. For the very first time I got an idea of what Bagan really is: a hug field of stupas and pagodas. As far as one can see there are monuments. It would take weeks even months to visit all of them.
Going up and down those five terraces is not easy and nothing for people with fear of highs and balance problems 🙂
Visible from all parts of Bagan, this massive, walled, 12th-century temple is infamous for its mysterious, bricked-up inner passageways and cruel history. It’s said that King Narathu built the temple to atone for his sins: he smothered his father and brother to death and executed one of his wives, an Indian princess, for practising Hindu rituals. Narathu is also said to have mandated that the mortarless brickwork fit together so tightly that even a pin couldn’t pass between any two bricks. Workers who failed in this task had their arms chopped off: just inside the west entrance, note the stones with arm-sized grooves where these amputations allegedly happened. After Narathu died – by assassination in 1170 – the inner encircling ambulatory was filled with brick rubble, as ‘payback’. Others quietly argue the temple dates from the earlier reign of Alaungsithu, which would refute all this fun legend behind it. It’s also likely that this bricking up of the passages was a crude way of ensuring the massive structure didn’t collapse. Three out of the four
buddha sanctums were also filled with bricks. The remaining western shrine features two original side-by-side images of Gautama and Maitreya, the historical and future buddhas (it’s the only Bagan site with two side-by-side buddhas). The temple’s bad karma may be the reason it remains one of the few temples not to have undergone major restoration. Perhaps in time, one of the great architectural mysteries of Bagan will be solved. (Lonely Planet)
Yes, this temple is spucky. The ceilings are really that high that you can’t see it. And we did find the two stones that might have been used to amputate the arms of the unskilled workers. When I told Lara the story of that king, she kept repeating that he was not a nice guy at all.
With its shimmering gold, 170ft-high, corncob hti shimmering across the plains, Ananda is one of the finest, largest, best preserved and most revered of all Bagan temples. Thought to have been built between 1090 and 1105 by King Kyanzittha, this perfectly proportioned temple heralds the stylistic end of the early Bagan period and the beginning of the middle period.
Facing outward from the centre of the cube are four 31ft standing buddha statues. Only the Bagan-style images facing north and south are original; both display the dhammachakka mudra (a hand position symbolising the Buddha teaching his first sermon). The other two images are replacements for figures destroyed by fire in the 1600s. The western and eastern standing buddha images are done in the later Konbaung, or Mandalay, style. A small, nut-like sphere held between the thumb and middle finger of the east-facing image is said to resemble a herbal pill, and may represent the Buddha offering dhamma (Buddhist teachings) as a cure for suffering. Both arms hang at the image’s sides with hands outstretched, a mudra (hand position) unknown to traditional Buddhist sculpture outside this temple. The west-facing buddha features the abhaya mudra (the hands outstretched, in the gesture of no fear).
In 1990, on its 900th anniversary, the temple spires were gilded. The remainder of the temple exterior is whitewashed from time to time. (Lonely Planet)
This is really a beautiful temple and one can’t tell that it is that old. The white washed outside walls look brand new. What was special in this one, that for the very first time we saw that women where allowed to go really close to the Buddha sculpture and even put some gold leaf paper on it. In all the other places (Golden Rock, Mahamuni … ) women were not allowed to approach that closely.
Great for its views, this steep-stepped, pyramid-style stupa looks ho-hum from afar, but the narrow terrace has become something of an alternative sunset spot. It’s also known as ‘Temple 394’. (Lonely Planet)
And as a sunset spot we used it as our very last stop for the day. We arrived just 16:50 and were not the first ones up the stupa. Patiently we waited for the sun to say “Goodnight” over Bagan.
Since I had not felt ok all day long, I had not eaten anything after breakfast, I fell exhausted into my bed just around 7 pm and was fast asleep shortly afterwards.