We left China at the end of January 2020, as they closed one by one the borders that we were crossing. Until we finally got to Myanmar (Burma). We touched down in Mandalay and, after a few moments of traveling, we entered Bagan, the city of temples and a World Heritage Site.
We paid our entrance fee and slept our first night in a warmer weather than the one we left in Beijing. We signed up for the next day’s activities that included motorcycles and temples. Because that is what’s up in Bagan, temples and Buddhas in all their forms everywhere.
We took a tour with a guide who had the patience to answer questions from people from all over the eastern world and us, the only ones from South America. With data that was lost in translation, we learned that Bagan had more than 10,000 Buddhist temples, of which a little more than 2,200 remain.
Many temples and pagodas and stupas were destroyed in a great earthquake in ’85. This is why, despite being restored, tourists are now asked not to climb them. This we learned after climbing one up to see our first sunset on top of a temple. The rest of sunrises and sunsets we go up tempting fate and structures. The view of the sun descending on thousands of old buildings and trees that compete in height, is unique and it is impossible to get tired of these moments, none were the same. Chasing the sun was the best time spent on this trip.
This city, which lives entirely from tourism, maintains respectful practices. But visiting it as a tourist does not bring you closer to the history of the wars, dictatorships, famines, military abuses and genocides they have lived as recently as 2017. And the attacks against Rohingya Muslims continue, whom they have displaced, raped, burned, and killed. The death toll is 25,000.
That sad side of history hides in the smiles of the locals and disappears, too, in the silence that reigns at night and on walks through sacred sites.
To resume the story: more days of temples and delicious foods. We went to the Popa Taung Kalat Temple, on top of a volcanic neck. It takes you a little more than 20 minutes to climb and you are accompanied by monkeys, their screams and their filth. It has a great view, but it was not my favorite experience.
Bagan is the perfect city to get lost on a motorcycle, to follow the temples, the Irrawaddy River path and the sun. It has corners where you can rest surrounded by trees, markets to stock up on fresh fruit, landscapes full of light and balloons to celebrate your birthday, and people, like D’Coco who teach you to write your name in Burmese, engraving in the sand. It is a place to feel peace, despite the history of its country, and to fill your eyes and the camera with incredible views 😉
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