Category Archives: Bagan

cycling in Bagan , Ancient city of Burma

Yesterday, I read a post named “ Silly things I made during my travel “ by a blogger whom I follow.

Then , I was thinking about the silly things I made during my wanderlust years. There are countless number of events  including

Riding a motor bike, unskillfully and had a fall paired with  a fracture of my arm in Thailand,

Going to Komodo national park when I was having period ( Do you know komodo dragons can smell the blood from a few kilometers away and can bite  you straight away as they are forever hungry carnivores. )

Swimming in river of jungle ( Taman Negara ) in Malaysia ( without knowing how to swim ) and almost drowned.

Before you get irritated with my silliness, or should I call it more like stupidity, I would like to write about Amazing Bagan.

Bagan is situated in central part of Burma, standing on the Eastern part of Ayeyarwady River. Bagan Era existed from 107 until 13th century and reined by 55 kings, there are lots of stories behind. For example, there was the time, people left pretty ladies for the human sacrifice at the area of big bird who only wishes to eat beautiful girls.  It makes more sense to think that giant bird cannot be defeated by villages and instead of letting it come to village again and again , runing everything randomly, the villagers decided to choose girls to feed the bird. I was making joke with my best friend that I would not be eaten even if I was born in Bagan that time. Haha. According to the legend, the bird ate 4300 girls until it was killed by a hero. There is a display of the statue of bird as well as the tunnel area where girls used to hide from the bird.

the statue of giant bird
the cave where the bird used to live, the place was transformed into a building with tunnel inside
the entrance of the cave

 

Some pagodas were built by a dedicated hero whose spirit still linger around the pagoda. For example, near Dama Yazaka pagoda, the tourists was taking photos and later he could see the image of a man wearing an ancient attire in his photos. Creepy! Isn’t it?

Damayazaka Pagoda

Some pagodas were built to compensate for the sins of the kings or to show the remorse. For example, King A Laun Si Thu made the mistake of vowing “ I am the most powerful King ever in Bagan” although there are 44 kings previously. He became blind because of his inappropriate statement, punished by the spirits of the previous Kings. To counteract his mistake, he made the statues of 44 Kings in gold and worshipped in the pagoda called “ Kadot Palin “.

Kadot Palin pagoda
Kadot Palin pagoda

Another example is Dhammangyan Gyi pagoda which was built by crule King “ Narya Thu” ruled AD 1163-1165. He killed his father and brother as he wanted to get the power. After the cruel killings, his guilt haunted him and had continuous nightmares. He asked National Counsellor, a monk for the advice to get rid of nightmares. The monk asked him to build the pagoda. To outdo his predecessor, he recruited the best architects from the country and made a statement that “ all the bricks should be strong and should align to adjacent bricks without any gap in between. If a pin can be inserted between two adjacent bricks, the hand of the bricklayer responsible will be chopped off”. The pagoda could withstand the earthquakes even though there is some dark stories behind. ( Bear in mind that, whatever the Kings did, was not reflection of real Buddhism and Buddhism would never allow anyone to kill for any kind of compensation. The building of pagoda cannot compensate for the sins too. It was just a cultural belief of that time )

Dhammanyan Gyi pagoda

Some pagodas have happy stories as they were built by good Kings who ruled the country with rule of Laws and justice.

Mural painting painted AD1183
Thatbyinnyu Pagoda, the tallest pagoda in Bagan with stunning archaeology

I think I am getting lost in the stories of pagoda which can be very long. Really, Bagan has many stories, many types of buildings built in different Eras. When Myanmar Government ordered the residents to move out of area of ancient buildings, the place became deserted at night. It has been a good decision ever as people can destroy our archaeological value.

bagan

When I visited Bagan in 2014, me and my friend decided to cycle in the ancient city as it will give us access to a small lanes and hidden areas. As it was in February, it was not so hot . However, Bagan is always a bit more hotter than other parts of Burma. We hired battery bike and cycled them to various temples. We cycled across the river banks, near pagodas and remnants of unknown buildings, etc. We felt like we were back in the past, exactly 2500 years ago, lost in all old buildings.

me and my best friend
resting before continuing our cycling
me with archaeological remnants

 

 

beautiful Ayeyarwady river
river bank where you can see life style of people
boats are the main transport for some villagers
Htilogminlo pagoda, AD1218( it was built with the wish to get the throne )
we found people getting on hot air balloon,

 

remnants of building
sunset of Ayeyarwady , taken from Bu Phayar

 

But we didn’t notice the battery bike need to be charged. So in the end, the battery ran out and we were stranded in Middle of Nowhere in Bagan. It was quite far from the town and very deserted. As it was getting dark, I recalled stories my friends told me. There are still lots of spirts around Bagan and they decided to come out at night to have a stroll around pagodas. Some are pretty ladies wearing ancient Attire and they like to hire the horse wheel cart. The drivers of these horse wheel cart are used to the spirits and usually allow them to get on the carriage. Upon getting off, the ladies would offer them gold coins in return of gratitude. Some drivers were freaked out and ran away as soon as they see that sort of girls on the road.

horse wheel cart , transport for Bagan
Sulamuni pagoda where you can see the giant heads in each corner of pagoda, it was meant to protect the pagoda

Back to our story, while we were alone on the highway at twilight, I was more concerned about spirits and ghosts than the robbery. As usual, I am full of imagination and I would not know how to react if the spirits came out and talked to us . So we tried to get a lift from passing vehicles. Unfortunately, the road was rarely used by travelers and for a long time, we couldn’t see anyone. Then some private cars passed by us without offering us any lift. Finally, a motor bike stopped for us and offered one of us a lift to go back to town. It means one of us would be left behind with two bikes without battery. None of us wanted to be left alone. So we declined the offer. Then the biker said “ it is getting dark. I am worried for your safety. I will wait until we get another bike. However, who will take care of the bikes? If the bikes are unattended , someone will steal them. You should call to owner”.

So we desperately tried to contact the owner of the bikes. We were worried we would miss the bus as it was only one hour away from the departure time. We were supposed to go back to Yangon on the same day. Finally, the owners of bikes came to rescue us. They took back the bikes so that we could safely go to the bus station with the gentle men who gave us the lift.

 

Next time, I would charge the bike every 4 hours. Don’t worry.

Note: These photos were taken in 2014 before the earthquake of 2016. So some buildings were damaged due to earthquake and you might not find the original pagodas anymore.

 

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