Sunday, March 1, 2015

Temple Run in the Ancient City of Bagan

Upon our arrival at the new Bagan bus station, we spent 15 minutes of haggling to get a Jeep to bring us to Manisanda Hotel, the agreed rate was 8000 Kyats. This probably is the only bad experience we encounter in our trip.  Those barkers have guts to offer us high rates, and yet they are not the one who will be driving! Hope the Bagan tourism office can impose some regulation on this, perhaps a fix rate or a published pricing list, to give tourists a smooth welcome experience.

Departing the Bus station, we have to pass through a sort of checkpoint, which we paid Tourist entry fee - 15 USD/EURO. Which we only used ones during our Bagan  Temple day trip.

Arriving in the hotel at almost 3 am, we had to catch some sleep first.

It was expected that the car rentals from the Hotel is costly, so I walked 2 blocks away from our hotel, and there I found a travel company, Friends.

We book a private car for 2 days (77,000 kts) covering Bagan Temple tours with sunset for the first day, and Sunrise and Mt Popa for our second day.  This rate is a good bargain because it was low season that time.

We started the day tour at 830 am. Out of 3000+ pagodas and temples, we were only able to cover a dozen of them.  Here is the summary of those temples we visited.

(1) Shwe-Zi-Gon - completed in 1084, noted for its Golden glazed plaques depicting scenes from the Jatakas.  Its probably the only Golden Pagoda in Bagan.  

Market shops surrounding the vicinity of the temple compound.  This market hallways are almost identical among the sides of the temple, hence I got lost finding my way back to our starting point where our shoes are deposited.

(2) Gu-Pyauk-Kyi - a 13th century temple with a spire resembling that of the Maha-Bodhi Temple at Buddha Gaya in India, known for its wall-painting that depict scenes from the Jataka (stories of the lives of Buddha).

(3) Hti-lo-min-lo; built in 1211 AD and one of the largest temples, noted for its fine plaster carvings on the arch pediments and friezes.

Rain shower started to fall upon our arrival, good thing this temple is indoor, and plenty of passageways inside.

Stepping outside the temple, there are lines of souvenir shops around.

One of the shops here features the Long-Neck Women of Kayan, Burma. 

The Kayan are a subgroup of the Red Karen (Karenni) people, a Tibeto-Burman ethnic minority of Burma (Myanmar).

The Kayan residents in Mae Hong Son Province in Northern Thailand bordering with Myanmar, refer to themselves as Kayan and object to being called Padaung.

Sad to say, these ethnic people are brought in to Bagan for commercial purpose, to attract tourist flock to shop to their stores.

(4) Upali-thein
Small temple, which has intricate patterns on the interior  wall ceilings.

Lunch at Moe Moe Win . Read here for details.

Continuing our Temple tours, that afternoon we first visited -

(5) *Ananda Temple,1090AD, a master piece of early style of temple- architecture with four huge standing Buddha Images.

Don't be deceive by its simple facade at main entrance.

Being the largest among temples in Bagan, finding your way around the labyrinth of symmetrical and identical passages can be confusing, like me which often get lost finding the main entrance, only realizing that I'm lost when I cant find my shoes anymore!

There is still an ongoing renovation to the facade of Ananda temple, notice the beige facade on the left side, while on the other side's facade the walls are still black.

For the entire day's temple visit, I got lost for almost 3 times, with different big temples.

My friend have advice me to use as marker the entrances offering area often with more offerings (flowers and incense).

See these three different but almost identical buddha statues? No wonder I can't find my way out!


 The  big foot print in the main entrance -

See how well maintained the interior of the temple, the golden walls and big archway entrance,  those massive doors are also impressive.

Even the labyrinth of hallways have windows with golden linings,

Ceilings are also beautifully decorated.

(6) *That-Byin-Nyu; a mid-12th century temple, 66 meters in height,

The prominent structure of Thatbyinnyu temple from a far is the pyramid shape roof -

Inside this temple are labyrinth of white tunnels (in plain white walls, too quaint as compared to Ananda).

And off-course the Buddha sculptures and statues,

Interesting scenes are those Sand Painting sellers who positioned themselves at the windows of the labyrinth walls, which at first glance they looked like prisoners, but after a second though we are the prisoners inside the temple!

(7) Shwe-Gu-Gyi,  a temple built in 1131AD, standing on a high brick plinth,

while climbing the entrance, you will notice some excavation beside, which shows more temple compound area yet to be unearthed, 

The main entrance, with arch-pediments and decorated with fine stucco carvings

Inside, is the only distinct Buddha statue,

Climbing the tunnel stairs up to an open viewing ledge,

towering above all other monuments and presenting visitors with a magnificent panorama of Bagan plain.

Climbing the upper part of this temple is where we saw panoramic view of Bagan plains.

This is like the viewing point to summarize those temples that we have visited, the Ananda temple is that golden pagoda,

the That Bin Nyu Temple, 

and other more pagodas,

After going back down, at the foyer opposite the entrance, there are several sand paintings for sale, 

for the tourist who are art lovers, this is where you can choose from several paintings made from Bagan Sands, be prepare to haggle to get a bargain price.

(8) Dahmmayan Gyi Phaya - is the widest temple in Bagan, and is built in a plan similar to that of Ananda Temple.

Burmese Chronicles state that while the construction of the temple was in the process, the king was assassinated by some Indians and thus the temple was not completed.

Sinhalese sources however indicate that the king was killed by Sinhalese invaders.

The temple's interior is bricked up for unknown reasons, thus only the four porches and the outer corridors are accessible


Inside are full of Bat poos, since we all are in barefoot, we have no choice but to step on those Bat poo. 

Last glance of the wide temple before leaving,

(9) Sulamani Temple - 

This is where I reach my exhaustion point, I just want to seat under the shade and glance this Disneyland Castle looking temple.

"In order that men might follow the Path and reach fruition in Nibbana, he built a great work of merit with two hollow stories and called it Sulamani." Thus do the chronicles record this act of merit by King Narapatisithu (1174- 1211). 

 The name chosen — Culamcini in Pali, meaning "Crowning Jewel"- was a particularly sacred one, being the name of the reliquary monument in the celestial abode of Tavatimsa in which was enshrined the holy hair of the Buddha when, as Prince Siddhattha, he cut it off to renounce the world and set out on a life of asceticism. The chronicles also record how Narapatisithu settled on a site for the temple. It is said that once, when Narapatisithu was returning from climbing Mount Tuywin, he chancedupon a ruby shining radiantly in a hollow.

(10) Bu Paya, is standing at the edge of the Ayeyawady River, an ancient landmark for travelers along the river.

Having a bulbous shape resembling that of the gourd fruit, it is a favorite spot for visitors to watch the sun-set over the Irrawaddy River.

(11) Nan Paya and Manuha Paya

The unique feature of Nan Paya Pagoda is the decorative artworks which adorn the four pillars of the interior chamber.

On each of these four pillars are two stone reliefs of Brahma skillfully executed on stone and stone reliefs of ogres holding in their mouths bunches of intricate floral designs, done by master craftsmen. 

The Manuha Paya, is few meters beside Nan Paya, its facade is under renovation during our visit, the decorative roofs were covered by the woven mats.

It is a Buddhist temple built in Myinkaba (located near Bagan), by captive Mon King Manuha in 1067, according to King Manuha's inscriptions. 

At the main entrance, there is an altar with beautiful fruit  carvings (Water Melon), and a huge urn to collect donations (in cash or in kind).

The building contains three images of seated Buddhas and an image of Buddha entering Nirvana. Manuha Temple is one of the oldest temples in Bagan.

Distinctive characteristic of this temple is the claustrophobic view of the large Buddha statues, enclose in a tight walls of the temples. 

This is said to represent the stress and lack of comfort the 'captive king' had to endure

After seeing Manuha Paya, we requested from our driver to have 1.5 hr rest stop in out hotel, so that we can freshen up and charge our camera batteries.

(12) The last stop for the day, is too catch sunset from the Shwe San Daw Pagoda.

We have to climb the very steep stairs,

and tourists have already positioned themselves on top - to capture the magnificent plain of Bagan,

Although the sunset was block by cloudy sky, the experience is still surreal,

 Seeing Dahmmayan Gyi Phaya from the top,

Read more of our sunrise and sunset experience in the next article.

 Even baby knows where's the best spot to sleep -

That night, we had dinner at Marlar Thein Gyi. Click here for more details.

This concludes our first day in Bagan, read the next post for the tips on where to capture the best Panoramic view of Bagan temples during sunrise and sunset.  In it, there were two other Pagodas/Temple (Buledi and Thitsawati) which we visited during our second day.

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