With a palm full of stars
I throw them like dice
On the table
I shake them like dice
And throw them on the table
Until the desired constellation appears*
I promised myself this year to be a year of trust, communication and awareness. It’s been just two weeks and I already broke that promise. Self-discipline was never my strong side. Alike Björk with her stars, I was shaking my values and beliefs, throwing them on the table wishing for desired constellation to appear. Tough luck, it didn’t. Now both of us have to wonder: How am I going to make it right? Luckily, I still have time and strong motivation to figure it out and I decided to do it in style.
I’ve been very busy at work last couple of months. In my profession, they teach us to take care of yourself first, and then to help others: Should emergency oxygen be required during the flight, oxygen masks will drop down from the panel above you. Pull the mask down, place over your nose and mouth, secure the strap around your head, and breathe normally. When your mask is fitted correctly, you may proceed to assist others. Voilà. I took that piece of advice very close to my heart and this time, instead of rescuing others, I decided to rescue myself first. For me, personally, nothing works better than travel therapy, in other words, some quality time getting lost in unknown. One of my favourite quotes says: Getting lost will help you find yourself. I couldn’t agree more. This time I decided to get lost in a temple paradise, cycling through the Burmese fairytale. Oh life, thank you for that!
There are nine million bicycles in Bagan
Experts (aka backpackers) say that the best way to explore Bagan is by e-scooter. Last time I had a pleasure of using one, I ended up slipping on a coconut shell, which left me with a black eye for more than a week. Although there weren’t many dangerous, life-threatening coconuts in Myanmar, I was still scared. I decided not to provoke the destiny again and put my faith in a normal bike instead. Cycling is always fun and I had no problem with a noon heat wave (30-40°C). With the map in my hand and tripod in a bike rack I happily started exploring the neighbourhood. Of course I got lost very quickly, met tout who talked me into buying some nonsense souvenirs and almost had a sun stroke. But believe me, I didn’t mind that at all. In a joyful state of mind I was passing temple by temple getting to know all their secrets and stories. I wasn’t alone for long. First, I met a long-neck lady, who spent reasonable amount of time demonstrating me her knitting technique. I was very impressed and couldn’t have taken my eyes of her. Shortly after we said good bye and soon after 9th temple (yes, I was counting them), I accidentally run into Adam, my one-day partner in crime, who brightened my tour significantly. Adam, dziekuje!
Madly in love with the temple
The ridiculous number of temples (over 2,000 in total) gives headache even to the most experienced travellers. Obviously, I knew it was impossible to visit them all, that’s an indisputable fact, but still the omnipresent greediness that tenaciously sat inside me, managed to trick my common sense. I pushed boundaries and kept cycling in madness craving for more and more. After around 27(!) temples I was so tired that it was virtually unimaginable to digest, distinguish nor admire any temple anymore. But guess what, I kept going for one more and then just one more temple— exactly like a drug addict, who is up there for his last shot. Those temples are addictive and you can feel it in your blood, in your veins, in your heart.
What is it all about? Why is everyone so crazy about this place? Is it about the balloons dancing frivolously over the temples? Or is it that magical sunset hour turning all pagodas into carrot-coloured cupcakes? The architecture is so lovely that you just want to crunch it deliciously and beg your memory to keep that magnificent view in its storage for a very long time. You want to be able to remember that moment in the age you won’t even remember your name.
That powerful it is.
Magic never gets boring
Bagan is an ancient city that can easily compete with Angkor Wat or Machu Picchu. It’s a temple-dotted sacred landscape, which is not polluted by mass tourism yet. Bagan is a paradise destination for art lovers, Buddhism lovers and aesthetically sensitive travellers. I just felt like at home. The city provides an ultimate and intimate feast of the senses. Truly unforgettable experience.
During its Golden Age, between XI and XIII century, over 10,000 temples, pagodas and monasteries were built. Monks and scholars from India, Ceylon and the Khmer Empire were visiting Bagan to study astrology, alchemy, medicine and law. I do understand why, even today the place encourages travellers to go deeper into history lesson to understand the mysterious message behind each and every temple. Bagan was glowing and basking in glory, but soon was attacked and destroyed by Mongols thefts, natural disasters (earthquake) and the biggest killer in the history of art: time.
Interestingly, Bagan has never gained UNESCO World Heritage status due to improper renovation techniques used in the early 1990s— mainly by failing to retain the original architecture style and using modern materials. Nevertheless, it is a magnificent place that never gets boring, no matter the label.
Coming back to Björk and her question. How am I going to make it right? I don’t know yet, but I’m not worried, I know life prepared an interesting lesson for me, and the answers are all there, just around the corner of my comfort zone. So let’s go and explore! Do you wanna join me?
Do you perhaps plan a trip to Bagan? I have some useful tips prepared for you, they’ll come here soon! So stay tuned, visit me often and stay safe! Bon chic, bon voyage x