Leaving a piece of me in Bagan

Bagan was hot, like “I-wanna-buy-an-air-ticket-and-leave-right-now” kind of hot. I arrived at 5am from Yangon, and was swamped by taxi drivers the moment I stepped out of the bus.

“10,000 kyat,” they shouted. After some bargaining, we settled at 8,000 for the ride to my hostel. Early check-in was possible, but only at 9am. Recharged and energised from my sleep (I slept throughout the 9-hour bus journey heh), I decided to use the free bicycle that the property provided to visit the neighbouring temples. On the map, Ananda Pagoda, one of the finest and most venerated temples in Bagan, was just a mere 10-min ride away.

Boy, it was a terrible decision. 2 minutes in and I was already feeling the heat – it was only 6.30am then. To add on to the pain, I had already caught a cold in Thailand and was now starting to feel my body heating up.

There were a couple of smaller temples along the way, and many were unfrequented and empty.

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By the time I reached Ananda temple, I could feel a fever creeping at the back of my head (yeah I even forgot to take photos at this beautiful temple). After a quick breakfast, I returned to my hostel. Thankfully, the bed was ready by then and I drifted to sleep, as my Spanish roommates went on and on about their travels (at least that’s my guess, I can’t speak Spanish ha).

There was an e-bike sunset tour arranged by the hostel at 5pm. I’ve only rode on the e-bike once (I have no driving license too), but after the bicycle ride, I figured I had to use the e-bike to get around (regardless of how inexperienced I was). Didn’t take me long to get into the groove of it, so I waited at the lobby 15 minutes before the tour.

But it turned out that the tour was cancelled as there were less than 5 people who had signed up.

I noticed a guy in the lobby, and he had, too, turned up for the sunset tour. We decided we were gonna ride out to explore. Right outside our hostel, there was another girl and she brought us to the viewpoint.

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When we were driving back, I was feeling all good and thinking, “hey, you’re pretty good on the bike” and the next moment… *cues dramatic music* I fell. I can still remember every moment leading to the fall. The weather was dry and the sand made the ground pretty uneven. There was a part where the sand were thicker as I tried coursing through it, but what followed was me skidding and falling.

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Battle scars (by leaving a piece of me, I meant my skin)

Turns out I wasn’t the only one who fell that evening. Another girl from my hostel had also fell from her e-bike and there were many more instances the next day where we almost re-enacted the accident.

Thankfully, Nok and Lee were right beside me when I fell and they were really worried that I was hurt. Lee even threw his bike aside immediately (literally!) and ran over to help me up as he saw the whole incident unfold before him.

Later that night at dinner, we were joined by two others – Mai and Lin and we enjoyed a night of good conversations over Burmese skewers (best grilled squid I’ve ever had in my life!).

Call time was 5am the next day, this time round for sunrise. Nok was unwell so the four of us went ahead with our plan. Lin and I lost our way as Lee sped away with Mai behind him. By the time we arrived, the sun was already hanging high up in the sky.

Still, we managed to get some good shots, as we wrestled with the Chinese tourists for the best spot.

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Sleepy eyes in Bagan
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With my Asian squad: Lin (Taiwan), Lee (Malaysia) and Mai (Japan) (Sorry Mai!)

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We parted after breakfast that day – four of us were headed for Mandalay (I was on a different bus) and Lin was staying for another night.

Fate has a strange effect on people. Later that day, I found out that the two ladies were staying in the same hostel as me in Mandalay and we bumped into Lee again on U-Bein bridge the next day.

Looking back, I don’t think Bagan’s sunrise or sunset particularly appealed to me (but again, it could be the heat that had put me off), but this 2D1N trip was made so much better because of the kindness of the people I met. Strangers we were, but these lovely people reminded me the good side of humanity.

Love,

Olivia L.

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