One of my favorite perks of Southeast Asia hostels and hotel is the inclusion of breakfast in the room cost. I don’t mean like continental breakfasts common in American motels, I mean legit full on breakfast with fresh eggs and fruit and coffee. It’s saved our bacon numerous times, especially when the place we’re staying is a ways out of town. Emerald Hotel in Bagan was one of these cases and we even had a skillet-wielding omelet chef at our disposal.
After a cold dip in the pool–which was already necessary at 9 am–we headed off to Old Bagan for more exploring before returning to Phyo’s home for lunch. Geez louise, what a spread. It was by far the most authentic meal we’ve had in Myanmar to date: beans in a delicious tamarind peanut sauce, fried vegetables, pumpkin curry… there had to be at least seven dishes in all, served with rice.
Meanwhile, a few pesky mosquitos were having their own feast on my right leg. When I showed Phyo’s father the welts, he thankfully brought out a fan. After lunch, we were treated to the native tree paste that doubles as sunscreen and a beauty enhancement technique. Then, it was off to the temples.
We explored pagoda after pagoda, each with a unique entrance and climbing strategies. After about seven or eight we were pretty much pagoda-ed out. My one lament is the lack of historical information available for the less celebrated temples. Was this one built in the 10th or 11th century? No one really knows, each building having been added to slowly over time, dating is nearly impossible and certain facts have faded away into stories and legends.
It was interesting to watch Pyou ride her bike through the fields, with over a thousand years of history right in her own backyard. I wondered which one held the most memories for her and what those memories were. She was eighteen when Myanmar opened its boarders to tourism. What kinds of visitors did she encounter as a kid wandering through this enchanting collection of ruins?
We said our goodbyes sheltered from the heat in a quiet courtyard of one of the small southern pagodas. Tiffanie and I headed to New Bagan, with “new” being a relative term. At sundown, we were strategically seated at Sunset Restaurant with a spectacular view of an impossibly red-orange sun setting behind misty blue mountains.
After a delicious dinner at The Moon II, we rode our tired eBikes slowly along a dark dirt road, the moon rising in the distance and a thick blanket of stars above.