13 January – Bagan temples……lots of them!

We had a marvellous nights sleep, in our separate beds, which had a mattress that wasn’t worn through, with no karaoke bars or pigeons to disturb us…… ooooh, the luxuries of travelling!
We had breakfast included, which was a Myanmar breakfast or Western breakkie. Mayanmar was sticky black rice, chickpeas, sesame seeds, there was also the option of cold noodles (seems to be available for any meal) and the accompaniment was chilli with dried fish bashed into it. I decided to stick the western cakes and fruit after trying and not particularly liking the local option.

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Then we arranged for a horse and cart to take us around the temples for the day. It was a lovely way to see the temples, slow and plodding, and we met many a hawker who would follow us around, show us a view point then we would go to their shop and buy something from them, we are slowly getting overloaded with tat, which maybe passed onto lucky family and friends on our return. But by buying this tat we are putting money back into the local economy, and not the government, so our consciences are clear!
The scenery is stunning, it is the sheer number of temples that is breathtaking, some do have great frescos, beautiful carvings, are simply massive and filled with simply massive Buddha’s, but it is the landscape which is so special, Guy took a few (!) photos for you all to enjoy!

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We had a Myanmar lunch, which again has the overpowering addition of fish to every dish, whether meat or vegetable based. I even had a can of coke to wash it down, it was that unenjoyable!

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A few more temples and we then were taken to a quiet temple to watch the sunset, it was quiet for about half and hour, then evey man and his kid decided to join is, perilously perched up steep stairs to the top. To complete the blissful feeling a helicopter seemed to fly around for about 20 mins over the whole site, marvellous!

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A quick trot back to the hotel and we found ourselves in the strange position of needing to find a tourist place to eat as the local food wasn’t doing it for us, so a plate of thai rice later I was happy, and at least I didn’t resort to pizza like the French person next to us!

12 January – boat ride to Bagan

We had a decision to make whether to take the 2 day local boat to Bagan and all of our $25 would go to the government or take the 7 hour boat journey and all our $40 goes to a local boat company. We stuck to the easy option, and at 6am had our betel nut driver pick us up to take us to the boat jetty. Unfortunately he took us to the wrong one first, but we had plenty of time so it wasn’t a problem.  The Bible, Lonely Planet, recommended getting a different company to ours, as most were unreliable, but our hotel had booked it for us so we didn’t have much choice. Just before we left, the other company’s boat sped put the jetty and off into the sunrise. That was the last we saw of it.
We got underway about 15 mins late, not bad really, and saw the sunrise over the water and stupa covered hills, nice, nice.

We ambled along, slowly, and had our first near miss with the bottom of the river bed, the captain, who was wearing a Man U tracksuit top, seemed unperturbed. The rest of the day was spent either ambling along the Ayerwaddy River or stuck on a sand bank on the bottom of the river with the driver trying to wiggle our way out of the mess he had driven us into, or driven into the river bank (I think mooring is too nice a word for it!) to ‘wait for the mist to clear’. The free breakfast was a boiled egg, dry toast, marg and a banana. The lunch was cold noodles at £1.50 a plate, and it was minging! As we had both, stupidly, believed our hotel when they said we would arrive at 2pm we hadn’t thought to take loads of biscuits, fruit or water, and were running seriously low on cash as we had assumed we would only need to pay for a taxi the other end. Therefore we had a quiet day onboard, I read most of A Prayer For Owen Meany (which if any of you haven’t read it, has the funniest childhood nativity scenes in it) Guy was attempting another Dostoevsky.
We finally docked at 10pm only 8 hours late, got into a taxi, had to pay the entrance fee to Began before we could go anywhere, thankfully we were first in that queue so we were in our hotel by 10.30pm, half an hour after the beer garden had closed.