Saturday, 13 June 2015

Myanmar: Bagan

Once we boarded the train to Bagan, we were greeted by some young girls who were going through the carriages trying to sell snacks to people before we set off. They were all fascinated by us and asked endless questions about Sam's blonde hair, our country and why we were in Myanmar. When the train finally left after a 30 minute wait at the station, we were all surprisingly comfortable in the spacious cabin that we had all to ourselves. It had two bunk beds on either side of the cabin, with plenty of room underneath to stow our rucksacks away, so we all sat back and enjoyed the views of the Myanmar countryside as the sunset. A few hours into the trip and after many rounds of ' Would You Rather', Sam and Rebecca decided to hunt down some hot water to make a cup of tea (how British!). They soon arrived with news of an Australian guy called Samuel who they found in the lower class carriage who they invited to join us. Apparently he had been squished on a bench with his legs hanging out of the window where they could have been ripped off by a lamppost, because he was too tall to get comfy any other way! Soon after, he came staggering into our cabin and it didn't take us long to realised how drunk and hilarious he was. Little did we know, we would bump into Samuel a few more times during our time in Asia and Australia. After telling us many stories about his travels and hitch-hiking experiences around the world, the conductor came demanding that he leave and go back to his seat, but he soon left after we lied and said he was our family and begged him to let Samuel stay, haha! It wasn't long before we were all exhausted and decided to go to bed. However, in the middle of the night, Sarah had to ask Rebecca to sleep on the top bunk instead because she woke up having a bit of a panic attack due to the lack of space up there and how bumpy the ride had become was making her feel ill!

After 17 hours of being stuck on the train, we finally arrived at Bagan and were picked up by someone from our hostel which was the Eden Motel. However, upon arrival we were told that we had to pay for the pick-up service although when we booked, they said it was complimentary, so after a brief argument with the taxi driver, he finally accepted that he wasn't going to win haha.. Wanderers 1 - 0 Taxi Driver! Once we settled into our room and had a quick freshen up, we headed out into the town for a walk and find somewhere to have dinner that evening where we were swiftly directed to Restaurant Row, anything you wanted, they had it! Italian, Indian, Burmese, Chinese, they even had a small cafe called 'Wetherspoons' that sold a lot of British meals which entertained us. Eventually, we split way with half of us going for Italian and half going for Indian.. both were really, really tasty with Rebecca even keeping some of her curry and rotis for breakfast, well done Bagan! 

The next day Rebecca, Sophie and Sarah decided to head to Mount Popa which is an extinct volcano with the Popa Taungkalat Monastery (meaning 'Pedestal Hill) built at the base. They were picked up from the motel and put into the back of a pick up truck with lots of cushions and a roof as extra comfort for the hour long drive. The monastery is famous for being home to 37 nats (spirits), which are represented by statues at the base of the volcano. To get to the top, they had to climb the 777 steps and battle with the Macaque monkeys where they were greeted by a 360 degree panorama, many shrines and fantastic views of Mount Popa. The monastery is often confused with Mount Popa, which looms over it and is sometimes called Taung Ma Gyi (Burmese for 'Mother Hill'). 

Sam wasn't interested in going to Mount Popa and the monastery, and found a day trip to do instead where 3 local boys take a group of tourists on their boat to show them their favourite places in their local area. She was taken to a secluded beach, a village and a local children's school where she met some of the sweetest kids! She managed to book this through the motel we stayed at as an American man who lives in Bagan came up with the idea, and gathered the boys together to give them work. However they're currently struggling to get enough publicity to get a page on TripAdvisor and other tourism websites which is a shame as Sam only had amazing things to say about her day! 

On our final day Rebecca, Sam and Sophie decided to hire some bicycles and ride to the many pagodas that surround the grounds of Bagan. Sarah decided to wait at the motel because Myanmar has soooo many pagodas that she felt they all start to look the same after a while, plus she was coming to the end of the Hunger Games book and couldn't get her head out of it! After a few hours, the girls were back from their bike ride and our pick up had arrived to take us to the bus station where we would move onto Kalaw. We weren't too keen to arrive there though as it's high up in the mountains and we heard it gets VERY cold!

Here are some photos from our time in Bagan:

Sarah on the train to Bagan!
Thoroughly enjoying the views :)
Local children playing football and waving to us 
The amazing sunset on the way to Bagan

On the way to Mount Popa
The view from Taung Kalat (Pedestal Hill)

The steps to the top

Mount Popa

Plaques to honour the people who give donations to the monastery
Taung Kalat from a distance

The typical tourist shot haha!
Pagoda opposite Taung Kalat

Action shot of Sarah and Rebecca skipping around haha!
Rebecca joining the monastery LOL!


The Happy Wanderers

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