Myanmar Day 4: Carts

We had an early start as well today for the carriages and they arrive just as we’re walking out to them.

Our first stop was a particular temple loved for sunrise, and luckily it’s close to us. Like yesterday, a narrow tiny staircase I can barely squeeze through leads us up top, but unlike the sunset pagoda, this temple is pretty empty. As the light starts the come over the mountains it’s peaceful and relaxing. More so with it mostly to ourselves. Like yesterday though I don’t particularly feel like I need to watch the sun breach the horizon to be happy, so we leave when we have our fill.

Back to the hotel close by, we have our breakfast and grab some carrots for the horses, and a couple danishes for the drivers. We stopped in at the front desk to try to get advise on how to communicate to our drivers we mostly want to take back roads without stopping at a bunch of places on the way but preferably stopping at the gold pagoda we’ve seen the last two days. She’s skeptical at first and shows us a map showing that the route would be down the main road to New Bagan, and that this close road is only wide enough for bikes, but then we ask about one taking a further loop out and she thinks on it a bit then says she thinks that would work and marks it on the map circling the gold temple on the map.

Again Honey is the only horse wanting carrots, though they’ve clearly just eaten, their faces covered in their breakfast mash.

Our drivers understand what we’re asking, though I don’t think they understand why we want to take a more scenic route, but at least they understand the route we’ve asked to take.

Our trip out to the pagoda is really very pleasant 40 minutes, it’s not too long before we turn down a dirt road and watch pagodas and stoopas and the like float by on our horse cart cruise. Some are falling down, some covered in bamboo scaffolding, and some seemingly in mint condition. I’m surprised there isn’t more widespread damage from the earthquake just a few months ago here, but that’s I guess they most of them are still standing in some form or other some thousand years after their construction. We have the top down on the cart most of the way. Many have plant life growing on them. Part way through we’re asked if we want to visit a particular temple but wave them onward.

We finally reach our golden pagoda called Dhammayazika Pagoda. It’s gleaming in the morning sun, and the grounds are well kept with many bougainvillea of different colors. The main dome part of the pagoda though is covered in bamboo scaffolding. The scaffolding having to follow the shape of the pagoda has a very organic shape instead of being blocky and square, it almost looks like these bird nests we saw on safari in India last year. Chuck again doesn’t want to take off his shoes again, so he hung out yet again at the front. The rest of us made a tour around the pagoda.

Along the way we met a Burmese couple on vacation from Mandalay. He used to be an immigration officer. We had originally thought about flying to Mandalay from Siem Reap before heading down to Bagan, perhaps via a river boat down the Irrawaddy River. But by the time I went to book our trip, that route had been closed down, so we were going through Bangkok to Yangon instead. The couple was really nice, and seemed happy to chat for a bit.

We met up again with Chuck, but Jenn wanted to do another loop, so we walked around a bit further out as well.

From there we got into the horse carts and headed back up towards Old Bagan and our driver asked us what we wanted to see, and so we described wanting quiet dirt roads. He yelled over to the other driver, and we turned off down one of them. I think this is the way we couldn’t really go according to our hotel person, and a few miles in we turned down a road through a little village. It was nice seeing a real village where people live, this one just north of New Bagan. Someone in the other cart needed a restroom so they stopped us at a lacquer ware studio. Jenn and I waited outside, Jenn petting the horses, and it seemed like forever. Jenn went inside and they were surprised to see her, thinking she had been in the bathroom too. Apparently they’d learned a lot about lacquer ware in the meantime.

From there we had to move back onto the main road, which was busy with cars all the way back to the hotel. Not nearly as fun as the way out. We ended up back at the hotel 30 minutes early, but that turned out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise. Much of the clothes we’d washed weren’t entirely dry, and we had to use the blow dryer to get them dry enough to pack away. And even with that I took a couple items with me to the pool to dry on the chaise lounges after we checked out.

We had until 3pm until we needed to leave for the airport, so we sat at the pool. We did some book keeping since I’ve been having Pam and Chuck put more than planned on their card for me to avoid the foreign transaction fees. At this point I owe them $650, but luckily all of the rest of our accommodations are paid for. I don’t think we’ll have quite enough cash to make it through the rest of the trip in Myanmar though. We had a bit to eat too, some pizzas Jenn ordered. Not quite what I expected to be eating in Myanmar.

I tried to process some pictures with Gimp. That software really isn’t half as good as Photoshop, I’d be happy with a copy of CS2 at this point, but I don’t have that option. I’m thinking about buying a license to Photoshop for the time being and then canceling when I get home if that’s even an option. Or maybe just giving up until I get home. We’re soon going to be a week on a boat without internet so it’s not like I could even post journals if I wanted to, plan D is to get home with all of the journal text written, and then process photos and videos when I have access to Photoshop at home and post them then. Not to mention even the internet in Yangon wouldn’t allow me to upload, so it doesn’t look to matter much either way, and here in Bagan I can’t even download an ebook, or load wordpress to make a post about not having internet.

I arranged a taxi with the front desk even though their prices to the airport were worse than the price from the airport, which isn’t how that normally works out. I told them we needed to leave at 3, and they said it would take 20 minutes. At which point there was confusion over who was taking what taxi, with some bags loaded into a taxi already that our stuff was being taken to. What is with this hotel and transfers? I got a bit frustrated because now we were at the 3pm time we were advised we should be leaving at, and they’re faffing about with who gets what taxi.

Not that the Bagan Airport is all that great. It’s hot, and there are only 2 departure lounges, and ours isn’t open yet. There is no internet, so I’m reading my book and doing a bit of journaling. I’m now just 2 countries behind!

KBZ again was quite nice as puddle jumpers go. At the airport though the taxi drivers tried to talk us into a $10 taxi fare, when I knew it was 10,000 kyat which is about $7.50. I walk a little and find the set price taxi desk and get them to get us a taxi for the listed price.

In Yangon I had hoped to have a nice dinner, but Chuck says he wants street food, and I’m always game for street food. Only by the time we arrive, no one wants to go anywhere so we settle on our hotel’s rooftop restaurant. As it turns out it was a decent dinner. The food nothing to write home about, but the hotel restaurant has the best view, close up of the golden pagoda in all its glory.

We had some self-inflicted trouble with the rooms at the hotel. Apparently I double booked Pam and Chuck. When I had booked back in August there wasn’t a fee to change a room reservation, so when we weren’t sure which day Pam and Chuck were leaving for Bali, I had booked correctly for 2 nights. Only I had had the booking sent to Pam’s email. Fast forward a month or so and Pam finally decides they’re leaving the second day, and I go back through my records and don’t find a confirmation email for our second visit to Yangon, so I book them a room, well, now an extra room. The hotel seems like they’re trying to do their best to help us out, it’s not like we haven’t already stayed with them previously, and aren’t again. But they’re using words like cancel and no show, which I think means Booking.com is going to charge me for the room. At this point I think I have to accept that might happen, but if they manage to work it out so I’m not charged, then that would be awesome. I’m not so high on the idea of booking for other people after this though. I’d done it because it’s hard to communicate sometimes, and this seemed to make it easier, but I might be out $120 for my troubles.

Before we split for the night Pam and I go over the options for getting to our hotel in Taipei. A taxi should be about $35, and public transport $11. Jenn and I are going to be arriving 4+ hours ahead of them so we’re going to give the public transport a shot. They have a new rail line going in that would have taken us directly from the airport to our hotel, but sadly it doesn’t start running until March. Next time we’re in Taipei though! Chuck also wanted to know all the details he could about our cruise so I gave him the company name, and the boat we’re on. He’s worried about his daughter, but I think we’re in good hands.

Jenn and I have spotty but sort of working internet again in Yangon, so I’m finally able to post that we won’t have internet for the next week, and download some books for the sailing cruise. I’m already 40% of the way through the most recent of the books in The Expanse series, and I don’t expect that will last me 6 more days or so.

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