Myanmar, Day 14, Bagan
Today was the kind of day dreams are made of, well at least the morning was. We woke at five and began slowly waking up and getting ready, knocked on Ma’s door at six only for her to open it bleary eyed. Seems we’d had a little miscommunication about wake up time but she was soon ready and with Trish, we headed to the corner to pick up the electric bikes we’d arranged yesterday. Only to find the store closed, we chatted loudly a bit to see if it would get any response which it did not so we resorted to phoning which did the job. Bikes collected, headlights on, off we went slowly into the pitch dark down the sandy dirt road. Me driving an electric scooter IN THE DARK? Some mornings I don’t even know who I am anymore. The main road was a bit easier to drive on without the fear of hitting a deep patch of sand and falling off and as we headed further towards our goal the sky above began to lighten. I’m obviously getting a little more confident as J said I was doing twenty five miles an hour but I’m not sure that’s totally true maybe fifteen. By the time we reached the Dhamma ya za ka Zedi temple we no longer needed our headlights and bounced peacefully along the soft dirt lane past the shanty town of shops not yet open. The Ku-Tha pagoda was already covered in people with cars, bikes and mopeds lined up outside as we passed, on and around and on some more down the softly winding track, sunrise still some time away.
We reached what we think is Pagoda 854 without incident, not a person in sight. Bikes parked we walked around to enter and made our way past Buddha carefully up the now familiar tiny staircase and into the light above, our own private viewing platform for the show about to unfold. Fairytale Pagodas, temples and stupas emerging from the morning mist. Not entirely sure where the hot air balloons would come from we each took up position on a different side, searching the skyline for the first balloon to rise. I had the honour and called the others over to see the spot where behind a temple in the distance you could see the domed heads of several huge balloons slowly filling with hot air. The first lifting off a few minutes later followed by nineteen more. The sky soon filled by bulbous shapes drifting wonderfully towards us, had we really chosen a deserted temple directly in their path? OH YES WE HAD! Pretty soon all you could hear was the sound of the birds waking up and the burst of the furnace on each of the balloons as they fired up. I cried it was so wonderful, us sitting on the Temple roof waving away to the basketed travellers above waving back, massive balloon after massive balloon drifting over us. The sun peeking out between fluffy clouds. I LOVED IT! so beautiful, absolutely no interest in going up in one but what a wonderful start to the day it was!
As the balloons finished their fly by and went on their journey a little head popped up at the top of the stairwell. A fellow traveller who’d been amongst the hordes on Ku Tha, that the balloons had not flown over, who’d come in search of somewhere quieter. She wandered around for a little before leaving, contemplating extending her trip to experience the balloon fest herself tomorrow. We sat around for a little longer soaking up the magnificent views before bending ourselves in half to get down the teeny stairwell, much harder going down than coming up and with a last goodbye left this little slice of magic as empty and we’d found it.
The rest of the morning was spent pottering and packing before being collected by Mone and ferried around to a delicious lunch at the Green Elephant, the money changer, supermarket for train snacks and a last pagoda before being dropped at Bagan station for our overnight train to Yangon. The final mode of transport to be ticket off, we’ve taken the bus, car, trishaw, plane, horse and cart, boat, electric bike and now train. It only costs twenty seven dollars for an upper class sleeper and i’d have gladly paid triple for a clean one, gags. We have our own self contained compartment with luggage store cupboard and toilet, such as it is, a western loo which opens directly onto the tracks. There are four wide seats that fold into two beds with two fixed beds above and everything is covered in dirt and a hundred or so years of dust. We’d read it was a bouncy journey and that it is and other than the grubbiness I’m thoroughly enjoying it, we brought plenty of snacks and I really quite like our little band of explorers, let’s hope I feel the same way in another twelve hours. About the train not my travelling companions, pretty certain I’ll still like them Xx