Four days of relaxation, lots of laughing, bicycling through ancient pagodas, spurts of torrential rain and thousands of stupas. I just returned from a fantastic trip to the ancient city of Bagan, Myanmar. Founded in the 9th century, Bagan has gone through many metamorphoses leaving it full of rich architecture and stunning panoramas.
As we pedaled out of the city of Nyaung U, we entered into a mystical world of primordial brick structures that numbered over 2000. Originally perhaps a cairn, the stupa soon acquired cosmic symbolism of “Buddhahood.” Many temples also were built to honor a notable person, or even bring lasting remembrance to an important family. There are also much larger multi-storied buildings that were/are places of worship that include frescoed corridors and Buddhist shrines. The larger Bagan temples included a variety of other buildings such as living quarters for monks and ordination and assembly halls. These temples have massively built square or oblong bases with outer terraces representing Mount Meru, the symbolic home of the gods, and surrounded by a thick wall to separate its realm of the sacred from the outside world.
But let me back up. The trip began on an early morning in the rain. We launched our trip with a leisurely trip down the Irrawaddy river on a three story boat. Our ten hour trip was relaxing with intermittent rain and sun, a warm breeze and moments of interest.
We also found my two favorite Buddha images so far. The gilded one was inside a 2000 year old pagoda that still had one of the original carved lintels in one of the archways. The non-adorned Buddha below, I just loved as it felt more ‘real,’ more accessible.
The next day, my friend went off to play a round of golf, so I hoped on a bike and went out to wander. The sun was shining a bit more and it got hot fast. My first stop was a the Shwezigon Pagoda – massive and gilded. Reminded me of the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
Then I pedaled through more pagodas, zedis and stupas and came across this wonderful scene. Don’t you just love her ashtray?
We biked through puddles, dashed out of the pouring rain into small cafes for ice-cream and lassi’s, ate fantastic Tibetan, Indian and Italian food and generally felt relaxed and happy. I highly suggest everyone visit Bagan!
Have a great week. Gretchen