Monday, January 4, 2010

Bagan

The airport was abuzz for our 630am departure. Apparently this is what happens in a country in which you have a limited number of carriers and a limited number of airplanes. Start with first daylight, do your round, then repeat the circuit until it gets dark.
Our tickets didn't have our names or the time of departure on them, just a flight number. So, we waited patiently as men would come around with hand drawn cardboard signs indicating which flight was boarding. Rather informal, which is why we were not entirely surprised when Iris's luggage failed to make it off the plane with us. A detail that caused a bit of concern since it wasn't obvious that there was a system in place to i) locate, or ii) return the luggage.
We carried on with the tour of Bagan anyway. Our first stop was a monks graduation/celebration procession. The procession is accomplanied by music, which is played from an gigantic oldschool loud speaker.Essentially a three hour parade in which young children who have just finished the first stage of their monks studies are dressed up in fancy clothing and shown off to the town.
At first the costumes seem over the top. That is, until you see the temple. Apparently, gold is pretty popular here.
Next stop was the market, since we needed to pick up some ammenities for Iris in case her luggage didn't show up - and also since we were hungry. We found what we needed for Iris, and our appetites were taken care of (rather unconventionally) by walking through the meat market. If last nights experience at the market was shocking, today really put that into perspective. Look closely and you will see dead fish baking in the sun, next to red meat covered in flies, next to dead chickens baking in the sun.
The winner was the dead rats covered in flies. I bent down to take a closer look, thinking that my eyes might be deceiving me. When I got in nice and close a swarm of flies flew off the carcass, causing me to panic (to everyone's amusement).
The market is full of neat things to see. Like this old lady smoking a stogie.
Walking around, we eventually bumped into a guy (seemingly randomly) who advised us that Iris's luggage had been found - in Mandalay. I have no idea how he found us - our decision to stop at the market was spontaneous. It did make us feel a bit as though our activities were being monitored. Or at least it was not difficult to find us, if someone wanted to.
Our hotel on a river that is lined on either side with beautiful sandy beaches. Where the sand ends, agriculture begins. It's stunning. The place will be ruined in a matter of years as the tourism industry expands and destroys the landscape.
No tour is complete without a trip to a temple.
And there are plenty around here to see. There are literally thousands of temples, pagodas and other religious structures here. It's crazy.These two little monks aren't as cute as they look. They asked me to take a picture, then insisted that I pay them. It kind of took away from the 'innocent and holy' image that I like to associate with monks.

We visited a Lacquerware workshop, which was interesting. Lacquerware is an extremely labour intensive process that turns bamboo-based structures into something that is more durable (but not as durable as, say, plastic) and attractive. Interesting to look at; however, it doesn't strike me as the type of industry that will get this country into the next stage of development. Too many superior substitutes are available. We climbed up one of the highest pagodas for a view of the sunset. I think I might have taken about 50 pictures, it was so incredible. But I will share just one. Afterward, we went to the night market. It was too far to walk, so we took a taxi. In Bagan that means a horse cart. Seriously. A place stuck in time.

2 Comments:

Blogger Emma said...

First: Wow.

Second: Okay, there's an information gap here, Tori. You say you sated your hunger at the meat market...then you show us a picture of the rats...so...conclusion to be made is...oh, oh my.

February 14, 2010 at 7:18:00 AM MST  
Blogger tori said...

I said that our appetites were 'taken care of' in the market. I didn't say that our hunger was satiated.

I am tempted to say that it made me want to be a vegetarian. The issue is that I wasn't even happy about how the vegetables were treated.

February 14, 2010 at 8:16:00 PM MST  

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