Monday 14 August, fine, 33°
The alarm went off at 4am so we dragged ourselves out of bed, got ready and headed down to the hotel lobby. The airconditioning in the hotel was set up in such a way ( and I am not sure if this was intentional or not ) that meant the air was warmer in the corridor and warmer still in the lobby. So as we left our nice cool 16° room and stepped into the corridor it felt like it was hot in the corridor ( probably only 20° ) and then as we stepped into the lobby it felt hotter still. But of course when we stepped out the door to the outside world at 4:30am it was a lovely warm 27° and 70% humidity.
So we hired Ebikes for the sunrise ( Ky2000ea ( NZ$20 )) and headed out to a temple, that was suggested by the hotel staff, which involved riding along the main rode for about 10 minutes. When we got there we found that it was closed due to construction work, so we doubled back and headed nearly back to the hotel, then headed back to Shwesandaw Pagoda where we were the previous night. On the way we stopped to take a few photos of some of the pagoda under the stars and arrived at about 5am. Sunrise was due at 6am so we climbed up the steps of Shwesandaw and joined the 40 or so people already up there. The sunrise never came to much, with cloud blocking the eastern horizon, but it was nice to see the pagoda seem to appear out of the darkness as the sky lightened. And unfortunately there were no hot air balloons up due to the breeze blowing across the plains.
So we left at about 6:30 and rode back to our hotel for some breakfast and a rest. We headed out again at 10am this time in the hotel car to go to the Bagan Train Station to book tickets for our return journey to Mandalay. We finally found the ticket man ( he was outside having a coffee break we think ) who wrote down our booking for the 16th August on a piece of paper and put it in the appropriate file. We will pay for the tickets on the day of travel so we need to be at the station at 6:30am for the 7am train. We headed back to the hotel in the car ( after a brief stop for petrol which seems to be 781 kyats (78c NZ) per litre ).
Another rest time at the hotel for a bit. There might have been a couple of snoozes had during this time.
At 12:30 we grabbed Ebikes again ( this time for 8 hours ) for K6000, and headed through New Bagan to have a look at the town then down to the Ayewaddy River and some lunch at The King Si Tu restaurant ( Ky15000 for 3 small dishes and drinks) overlooking the river.
After lunch we rode further along the river bank to a small pagoda, which we bypassed due to the number of hawkers hanging around ( they are very polite but insistent, and won’t take no for an answer ) and we just couldn’t be bothered fighting our way through them.
So we carried on our travels back through New Bagan and then down the track to Shwesandaw again, this time we turned off at Shwesandaw and headed back to the main road between New and Old Bagan’s, then then headed north to Old Bagan. On the way we had to negiotiate our way through an major intersection that should have traffic lights, but didn’t have them working today. Maybe because it is Monday?
We stopped to have a look at Gawdapalin Temple, which again is surrounded with hawkers and trinket sellers, so we ducked into a little temple just to the south ( after negotiating the 1 hawker inside the temple ) and climbed the steps inside to get a view of Gawdapalin Temple. We headed back down again through the narrow stairs and back on the Ebikes ( the lady still wanted us to buy her paintings ), then north again through Old Bagan. The town is pretty deserted with most of the hotels are along the river and not in the town itself, but with a good scattering of temples. We stopped at the rivers edge at Bu Paya to look at the gold stupa there. Most of the temples in Bagan are exposed brick, but some are covered in white plaster and other in gold leaf. It is hard to know if all the temples were once all gold or plaster, or whether the gold and plaster is a later additional to the brick temples. Also given that a lot of the temples have been rebuilt following major earthquakes it is hard to know if any of the temples are in their original state.
Anyway we headed back to the main road and back to Shwesandaw ( which we use as a bit of a beacon to know where we are ) and then back to the hotel at 3pm. Time for a swim and a rest.
We headed out again at 5 looking for a new spot to shoot the sunset, this time we headed east on the main road and headed north through West Pwa-Saw village and along dusty sandy tracks to Pyathetgyi Pagoda for a quick look around to see if we could get access to an upper level ( we couldn’t ) and so us and a crowd of other Ebikers headed off in to the setting sun looking for a better spot. By the way Pyathetgyi Pagoda is a really nice pagoda, just not what we wanted. So we carried on looking for possible spots to photograph from.
We headed to Sulamani Temple ( which also has no upper level access ) and found an earth embankment which had been built nearby to allow access across a flood plane when it rained (very dry now ) but also provided a view across the plains towards the setting sun. So we waited for the sun to sink on top of this bank. We were the only ones up there when we arrived but slowly more and more people trickled in and it was quite busy when we left just before the sunset ( again too many clouds around ) and started our ride back to the hotel. We stopped a couple of times on the way back looking at some temples and to watch a brief fiery sunset glow, then back to the hotel at 7pm, and returned the Ebikes
After a walk to the shop to get supplies ( and by that I mainly mean bottled water and chocolate ) we had a look at the local restaurant offerings and decided we liked the hotel restaurant best and went there again.
Another earlyish night with a 4am start again tomorrow.