Soundtrack (listen to this while reading to live the scene): Carla Bruni Quelqu'un m'a dit (slow and pleasant, and French)

Hot, sticky, and fantastic
I didn't quite know what to expect from Bagan. I've been lucky to see some pretty amazing ancient ruins and I mostly just hoped that these would not disappoint (if that's not a pathetic world weary traveler, I don't know what is). The ruins themselves are just great but what really sells them is the setting. Before we even set out for the day a creepy old man with Betel Nut (red, blood colored) teeth stains came up to our screened windwon "hello good morning..." until I noticed. 'uh. hellow. yes' (uh, awkward? yes a little) "you have horse?" "Uh, not yet." So we finished getting settled an boarded the best way to get around Bagan- hourse carriage. We clip clopped the miles from pagoda to chedi in no hurry at all. Everyone kept saying how many tourists there were ("It's the high season here!" but I think we literally saw about 50 people the whole day, in passing. For the most part we were entirely alone to explore the ruins. Hot, dusty and fantastic.

He looks terrifying and kind of was... especially all the Betel Nut spittle that stained my pants from sitting next to him
Of course, at every turn were trinkets and paintings. Some tempting, some ridiculous (i.e. an intricately designed laquerware motorcycle helmet) and randoms just walking around to practice their english. One stud muffin 13-year-old boy had currency from a good twenty countries (from Uzbekistan to Triniada and Tobago). None from the US (filthy stingy Americans) so we competed his deck as a tip for showing us around Ananda- the King of Bagan - 30+ foot tall Buddhas and a blinding gold pagoda (especially in afternoon sun). We topped off the day with a sparkling sunset and an overpriced inner at this loverly restaurant with a new French friend.

Day two, we rounded up the frenchies for Mt. Popa, a day trip out of central Bagan through surrounding countryside. Sidenote: I have a special weakness for urban poverty. I think it is often overlooked. People think that just because one lives in a city, they have access to the food, healthcare, housing and clean water there. Not true. It is often urbanites who lack the most, plus they deal with a host of other problems stemming from separation from family and lack of land. That being said, life outside the city just plain blows. Hot, long and heavy. It doesn't help when tourists drive by and you have to do a ridiculous song and dance about how you climb trees to get palm oil, distill it to makes wine and liquor and grind peanuts for hours to make a half cup of oil.

Giving in to the song and dance

The drive to Mt. Popa just depressed the heart out of me. I. am. a. bum. I can never complain about my life because no matter what goes wrong in my life, I will never have to carry hundreds of pounds of something on sticks over my shoulder tens of miles or more in blazing heat just to make enough for my family to survive.

Still depressed on top

Mt. Popa brought the wind back into me. A buddhist/local animist mix (a report deal they struck when the religions came to a clash) overlooking a fertile valley from a mountain 777 steps high. Quite the climb, rounda and round til the top. Unfortunately, there were monkeys all up the way - jumping loudly, ogling creepily and hissing/barring teeth at Lisa and one of the frenchies when a three day old dead baby looked under attack. Blech. I hate monkeys.

Frenchies and a monkey

The view was good, but beat by another killer sunset at a lonely temple near our new hostel and that was trumped yet again by a sunrise that makes all the world right again.
The highlight of my night was a trade- my mp3 player and a tube of lip gloss for some quality souvenirs I wouldn't otherwise be able to afford. Looks like I have a little Mark Knudson in me :)

Asia Prince got my mp3 player- I got his paintings

No comments: