July/August 2013 – Bagan, Myanmar


There are a lot of overused hyperbolic adjectives in the English language, and their overuse is a problem that has been greatly exacerbated by the advent of online media and the blurred lines between some random guy in an internet cafe in Thailand (Hello from Hua Hin!) and professional writers .  More specifically, the internet offers a platform to people who know only how to describe emotion in hyperbole and perhaps do not have a grasp of more descriptive adjectives that can provide a more accurate and nuanced description of the subject matter.  Because of this, the use of some words  are like nails on a blackboard to me and I sometimes react by under-using these terms – terms like awesome, amazing, life-changing, breathtaking, stunning, etc.

The problem is that then we go to a place like Bagan and all those other more descriptive and nuanced adjectives just don’t seem to do the place justice and I’m left sounding like an over-awed idiot when I can come up with only words like awesome, amazing, life-changing, breathtaking and stunning.  And I disappoint myself.  But really Bagan is to blame.  I swear.

So we’ll start with Breathtaking, because while I hate myself for it, that’s really the most appropriate term I can come up with for how I felt when I climbed the steps of that first pagoda and took my first look out over the thousands of brick pagodas and temples that dot this valley.  And that’s also how I felt each time I climbed another pagoda and another pagoda.

In all we spent four days in Bagan, seeing the place via taxi one day, bikes two days and by foot one day.  Biking out on the dirt trails between groups of pagodas, in those still abundant places where you can find a moment to yourself among these well-touristed stupas, its truly relaxing but more specifically its Awesome and Humbling (ooh – I forgot to list humbling up top.  Humbling is definitely another one of those words that are overused by most people/professional athletes).

This was written by Brett.  While Angie would probably use the same words, she actually sat down to write this, looked at our photos, and couldn’t think of anything to write at all that would do this place justice.  Reading through what I’ve just done above, I think I probably should have done the same.  Anyway, I’m sorry for using humor to deflect the fact that I’m actually incapable of using words to accurately describe the temples and pagodas of Bagan and also how they made feel when I stood on a ledge looking out over them.  I also hate when writers use humor to deflect their own inadequacies and here I’ve done that too.

On a serious note, I’m glad that Ali and Josh were there to see it with us because I clearly wouldn’t know how to explain it to them.

Here are some of the temples and pagodas we visited while in Bagan (and a few more inadequate notes):


Shwezigon Pagoda
A simple, white staircase leads into the Shwezigon Pagoda, and this 11th century golden beast is an unexpected sight to say the least.  This is based on a similar design to yangon’s famous Shwedagon Pagoda, and considering that we visited Shewdagon on an overcast day it was very lucky that the sun beat down on the day we visitied Shwezigon and its bright golden surface was allowed to shine in the sunlight.

Ananda Temple

Ananda Temple
This is perhaps the most famous of Bagan’s many temples and is the most revered by the residents.  .   Due to its age, it was currently being restored, and it was apparent that other recent restoration efforts had already been completed.

On a sidenote, Josh and Brett joked about how this temple looks like something that might have been a lair for a really scary villain in a movie like Indiana Jones.  Why is it that buildings and temples from asia and south america always fit this mould as places that are supposed to scare us?  Can it be other than a lasting remnant of the labelling of whole unknown races and cultures as ‘savage’?

Htilo Minlo Temple

Su la ma ni pahto Temple


Temple at night

Buddha mural paintings

Many of the pagodas and temples had mural paintings remaining and we are uncertain as to how old most of them were. However, the paintings were almost always images of Buddha.  The one above was strikingly similar to those on the ceiling in western China’s Bezeklik Caves.

View of pagodas

Everywhere you gazed, there was another grouping of pagodas.  It is probably possible to sit atop one of these pagodas and look out all day without failing to notice more and more pagoda.

Ali, Josh, Brett, Ange

The four of us had an magnificent time together in such a wonderful place!

click here to see more of the photos


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