Myanmar > Bagan
25 March 2011
After overnighting in Yangon, we are ready for our Myanmar adventure as I lay our plane tickets on the table. I haven’t seen such coupon tickets for ages, thanks to e-tickets. Over the next three days we have to do three daily flights: Yangon-Bagan (RGN-NYU), Bagan-Mandalay (NYU-MDY) and Mandalay-Yangon (MDY-RGN). The painful bit is, the flights are all very early in the mornings … a tad too early!
Our flight to Bagan leaves at 6.15am, so we have to check-out at an unearthly time of 4.30am. However the hotel has kindly packed breakfast for us. Thanks, Summit Parkview.
This is our ride to Nyaung U (NYU), the airport serving Bagan — Asian Wings ATR72-500 operating as flight AW891, 0615h-0730h. Myanmar’s latest airline, it started operations just two months ago, with two ATR72-500 planes.
Soon a nice lady starts talking over the PA, but I have no clue what she was saying as I am thoroughly distracted.
Cool white interior with brand new leather seats. Recently refurbished, this plane. I am expecting an ancient ATR42, so I’m indeed pleasantly surprised.
A nice, simple brekky to boot as well.
Out the window, my first sight of Bagan — in the hot season, a parched, dusty plain littered with 3,100 thousand-year-old temples, ranging from car-shed size to pyramidal, the subject of my mission.
Landed on schedule, and it’s a short stroll to the small-ish terminal. Baggage is handled manually.
Our guide and driver greet us, lead us to the seats, while they retrieve our bags. Thanks, guys, excellent start.
Very pertinent notice, to check looting of antiquities. It’s pretty bad in Cambodia and Indonesia.
It’s quite a nice, simple passenger terminal, and a couple of hours in the morning is peak period of the day. Then idle for the rest of the time, save for a few flights in the late afternoon.
In the car-park, the morning sun is still low in the sky — 7.30am and it’s gonna be a long day for me. Being a traveller can be tough.
Out of the airport, and I better get used to this.
This is considered a major road in Bagan, the ‘highway’ linking the airport to our hotel in Old Bagan.
We pass by Nyaung U. The area has three townships — Nyaung U (where the airport NYU is), Old Bagan, New Bagan.
And things tend to get interesting … this bus could be older than me, because I can’t ever recall seeing this model when I was a kid.
A similar model, but with better make-up.
And yes, I’m starting to see temples by the roadside, but we need to check-in first.
Twenty minutes from the airport, and we are checked in. It’s another surprise — am I in a Thai hotel again?
We are booked into the Aye Yar Riverview, on the bank of the famed Irrawaddy river. It’s an oasis of cool, green luxury in an otherwise hot, dusty Bagan. The temperature today is in the high 30Cs, but in summer it can hit the high 40Cs. On the other hand, in winter the nights can be as cold as 2C. Such is the extreme weather in Bagan.
We are soon back on the road for the first stop of the day — the market at Nyaung U.
Well, the facade is nothing to shout about. The heat and the swirling dust irritable.
But once inside, it’s a hive of activities, and a riot of colours.
Vegies everywhere, mainly planted on fertile lots along the Irrawaddy river. I love the yellow face powder worn by almost everybody — it’s called the thanaka. They say it’s cooling while making their cheek skin soft and supple.
And this is where thanaka comes from — grind the wood and make a paste before applying it to face. Kids and ladies wear it everywhere, sometimes even men too. I even spot tough-looking youths with bleached, spiky hair wearing the thanaka.
Ah yes, the local fish paste, similar to our ‘belacan’. I notice the odour is not as strong as our ‘belacan’.
A young lady, with the mandatory thanaka on her cute little cheeks, minds the shop. She’s selling stuff to be munched with betel leaves (in basket bottom-left), still a favourite with the Burmese.
Myanmar is a major rice producer, and high quality rice at that — pleasant to the touch with nice scent too.
Sacks of pearly white rice.
Novice nuns from a monastery nearby do their alms-collection round. A daily routine, this is their sustenance for the day. Reminds me of Puteri Umno, hahaha!
Stacks of very fresh butter-fish, caught in the Irrawaddy river nearby. Tastes very much like our popular catfish — ‘ikan patin’. I like it.
And finally the textile portion of the market with the ubiquitous stacks of their sarong (called the ‘longyi’), commonly worn by men and women alike everywhere.
And here, we make a long stop, for obvious reason.