burmese daze

bagan was insanely beautiful. one climb up the shwesandaw paya was all it took for the eyes to shatter every imagination of the land the mind ever had.

stupa after stupa after stupa. soaring like needles towards the sky. big ones. tiny ones with a single sitting buddha image. brown ones. ones with golden crowns. clusters of them. singular ones. all coming together to create an utterly breathtaking landscape.

this is my oh-my-god moment. right here. right up in front of me. i’m just sorry that the sunset is a little cloudy, but even then, the panoramic view of this place is incredible.

at the foot of the paya, a horde of people mob me, trying to sell me t-shirts, longis and sand paintings. “you buy blouse from me, miss?” a sweet girl lifts a dark blue see through garment in front of me, “i have your size!” she tells me. i politely smiled as i shake my head.

“where you from?” one child peddling postcards ask me.

“malaysia,” i replied.

“you buy postcard, malaysia?”

“no, thank you.”

“you very beautiful, malaysia,” he chirps with shining eyes.

“thank you.”

“now you buy postcard, malaysia?”

“no, thank you.”

i left the child at the child at the entrance of a paya as i explored the temple compound. when i returned, the kid was still there. he stood up automatically. with a wide smile plastered on his face, he calls out to me.

“malaysia! you buy postcard?”

“no, thank you.”

“cheap, cheap. lucky money.”

“no, thank you.”

“please buy postcard.”

“no, thank you.”

“you don’t buy postcard, i cry.”

and the boy promptly covers his eyes with his hands and wails. other tourists stop in their tracks and see this asian looking traveller and a wailing child in front of her. the boy screams and wails.

i slung my bag across my shoulders, put my bicycle keys in my pocket and catching the kid by surprise, i lifted him up in the air and tickled his sides. he must be just six of seven years old, and even though he’s selling postcards, he’s still a child.

the boy laughs. i put him down. smiled, got my bicycle and peddled off.

i came back the next day.

“malaysia!” he remembers me, “today you buy postcard?”

“no, today i have present.”

“present for me?” he was surprised.

i gave the boy a box of colour pencils. the boy smiled widely.

“i don’t buy postcard, okay?”

“okay!!!”

i think that too many people tend to compare bagan to angkor. they usually go the angkor before bagan and the expectations are set from there. for me, both these places are incomparable, and mystifyingly glorious in their own way.

it rained all day in bagan on my second day there and i found myself in the intellectual circle of a german, an italian and an israeli discussing about everything from regional travel to orwellian ideologies, to gastronomical methodologies – then walking in the rain for dinner – and then back to our guesthouse breakfast deck which was on the third floor overlooking nyaung oo, to continue our spectrum of topics.

this must be one of the best things about backpacking. you meet people all the time. people from different countries and cultures – and you get along, and you wonder why the world fight wars when we could all be exchanging local stories and jokes over turkish coffee and malaysian peanut butter biscuits.

we talk about travelling a lot. about backpacking. about local customs. the places they have been. the places i have. i tell them stories about cryptic bus rides between vietnam and laos. they tell me about traversing the himalayas and dancing all night long in the latin region of the world. all of a sudden, all things are possible. the world is not all that evil. and all things are possible.

two days later, i was on a bus to bago, where everything is BIGGER. ad i do mean everything. giant reclining buddha. giant sitting buddha. giant standing buddha. giant paya.

i met chriss again, quite by accident in bago and shared breakfast with a swiss woman at a briyani shop here. we contemplated our next destination. chriss is going back to yangon. swiss woman will be taking a bus down south. me, i am hunting down the golden rock.

early next morning, i hitch hike onto an overflowing truck heading to kyaitiyo. first it was packed with school children. then, ladies going to market. finally, those heading out of town.

i cannot imagine how people can doze off under burmese road conditions!

finally, i am in kyaikto to climb the mountain to see the golden rock. steep gila suit!!! i swear, if i tripped on my way down, i’d just roll all the way to the bottom! it is possible to climb all the way up but that would take a good five hours, minimum. so i took the most insane truck ride halfway up the mountain. dude, it’s a mountain leh, not a bukit! so there i was, with about fifty other people jammed at the back of a giant, roofless truck, screaming as the vehicle took sharp corners at top speed.

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the final hike up took 45 minutes. view from the top was mind blowing. a shiny, panoramic pavillion of the mountainside. the golden rock itself was pretty amazing.

two days later, and i am back in yangon. i’ll be browsing about the outskirts of the city for the next two days before my flight to bangkok. my camera battery charger has been diagnosed with voltage overload so i’m cameraless dah. *cries!*

malam ni i will be looking for shan noodles. my guidebook kata there is one backlane kedai makan here that’s the city’s secret. mmm… shan noodles…

on a literary note, i’ve sourced two more books somehow, and have finished reading those also. now i’ve got three read dead weight books in my backpack and hello! i’ve just acquired one more just two hours ago. am seriously looking forward to the bangkok book exchanges!

2 thoughts on “burmese daze

  1. geeee,,,we were all looking forward for the pictures ! just hope the camera worked while in myanmer-lah.
    o.k. next trip ?,,,,mana pula.
    explore possibility of outer space, 1st malaysian lady he he hee.

  2. kena kumpul modal la, nak pegi jauh jauh sikit. unless ada sponsor… heheh…

    i think outer space kena reject la… what to do, got four eyes… heheh…

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