Sarena, Becky, and myself got off the boat in Bagan and headed to the hotel; Yun Myo Thu. Tip if you take the boat into Bagan you are required to pay a $20 USD entrance fee and there are no ATMs in that area. We pulled everything we had left to cover all three of us but it was a panic moment so come prepared.
Once we got to the hotel it was about 7 pm so we showered and got ready for dinner. We walked a street over and had dinner at a restaurant called Green Elephant and that took all the energy we had left after our overnight and day time adventure so we headed to bed straight to bed.
The next day we woke up so refreshed and ready for our day exploring all the pagodas. In Bagan they only have electric bikes instead of motorbikes and are less powerful and we all had to rent one—Becky had to face her fears and finally drive herself. She did great but for sure had the slowest bikes.
What is the deal with all the Pagodas in Bagan? First lets discuss pagodas. A pagoda is a Hindu or Buddhist temple that has multiple tiers and normally a Buddha statue located in the center. Bagan was the capital of the Pagan Empire from the 11th to the 13th century and over 10,000 religious monuments were built by the kings. All of these monuments were constructed in about 104 square kilometers. With all of the religious monuments the city had a very strong religious culture attracting monk students from surrounding countries. The empire collapsed in 1287 after a Mongol invasion. Since Bagan is located in an active earthquake zone and because of this and invasions only about 2,200 temples and pagodas remain.
We talked to the receptionist at our hotel and had him point out which pagodas we had to see. He kept using the term “popular” and “touristy” so we figured they would be easily recognizable by all the people; we learned this wasn’t always true. Some pagodas were obviously a tourist stop but others had one to two people. Tourism hasn’t ruined Bagan yet and it was amazing to be in the city and experience it before it does; even though it made navigating more difficult. At one Pagoda there were wall mural paintings and frescoes still partially intact and there was a lady who sat with a lamp plugged in with an extension cord and walked around with us so we could see. It was also hard to not stop at all of them. To us all of them were magnificent, big or small; but there was a pagoda almost every 100 feet it felt like so we had to be selective.
That day we met a kid who helped us climb the pagodas who was on lunch from school and was selling post cards. We learned that you bow three times in front of the Buddhas, and also that most restaurants don’t have liquor licenses. We ate at a restaurant call Be Kind to Animals, The Moon (Thanks for the suggestion Phil) for lunch and they didn’t have a liquor license so they went out and bought beer and brought it back. We thought the name was hilarious but soon realized that the “Be Kind to Animals” portion just meant it was a vegetarian. After lunch we decided we wanted one more beer and went to a another restaurant that looked like they would have beer and the same thing happened. This was how it went the rest of our time in Myanmar—so we felt like alcoholics in Myanmar.