Saturday, 22 March 2008

Day 304 - Bagan

Bagan, WOW!

Heading from Mandalay to Meiktila was a bit of a drag as it was retracing my steps, but at least I had the advantage of knowing exactly how far I had to go, unfortunately it was 152k, about 52 of them unwanted. Once again early afternoon was red hot and as usually happens in extreme heat my toes were really hurting, so I had to resort to wearing socks with sandals. They have a double advantage though becuase as well as covering my feet and reflecting some of the heat I can also soak them in water which keeps them nice and cool for about an hour. Thankfully every so often along the roads here there are earthenware pots with water for drinking in them, so I stop every now and then to top up my socks and pour some over my head, it's lovely and cool, bliss! By the time I reached Meiktila I was nicely cooked and I had turned an alarming shade of red, that's despite being browner than the locals here. The red on my legs seems to be a heat rash.

I made an early start for Bagan the following morning and I was somewhat surprised to see 5 touring bike in the large reception area of the hotel when I went down. They were 3 Czechs and 2 Germans and not very sociable, I had trouble getting the time of day out of them. I don't think they even talked to each other as they all left separately. I had hoped the route to Bagan would be a bit shorter than the previous day, it wasn't. To make it worse it was a very slow road, narrow, very rough and hilly, though it brought the first real change in scenery since I have been here. Gone was the farming to be replaced by scrub and deforestation, but it was nice to be amongst the hills. I was very frustrating to have to go downhill so slowly because of all the potholes, but I was getting there slowly. It was a bit cooler than the previous day too and only made 42. I seem to be able to cope pretty well up until 40 degrees, then I really begin to struggle. At lunchtime I had reached a town and decided to stop a while to sit out the worst of the heat, so found a nice comfy little cafe and had 4 different types if drink and plenty of food. Once I finished eating people would come in and order food that I hadn't seen and looked really good, so each time I asked for the same. Sat in the shade stuffing my face was so much more fun than cycling. When I eventually got going again it was another 40 odd k down a dead end road to Bagan. Amazingly the surface was pretty good, it was gently downhill a lot of the way and I raced along surrounded by palm trees and hills to my left and I felt great again. Given my long lunch stop I arrived earlier than expected feeling remarkably good, much better than when I finished the previous day. I had turned to the west then northwest, so I was slowly cooked at a different angle which came as a relief. I spotted Eva from Belgium and Francisco from Germany, who I had met in Mnadalay, in a restaurant so we spent the evening together.

Well Bagan has about 4400 temples spread over quite a few square kilometres and I had one day to do it justice, it just wasn't going to happen. I chose 14 of the best temples that were spread over quite an area so that I would get a bit of a taster of the whole. The problem with many of the temples in Myanmar is that they are all a bit sameish so you get templed out pretty quickly, but not so in Bagan. All the temples are quite different, in achitecture and even in what there is to see there, Budda images, frescoes, the architecture itself and some with great views from the top. The first one I climbed for a view had incredibly steep steps so there was a need to use both hands going up and down, but the views of the surrounding area and temples were well worth it, but sadly photos never do it justice. I chose a small town to stop in for lunch, but it was too small and all I could find were a couple of little pre packed cakes, one of which turned out to be a bit moldy. Still I picked it off and ate the rest, beggars can't be choosers. Later in the afternoon I began to think I had done the wrong thing as I started belching with the taste of rotten eggs. I had a rough idea of what would come next. Unfortunately some of the temples that had frescoes in were very dark and I could see little having left my torch behind. As I bumped across the sandy tracks I suddenly gained a very noisey rattle which turned out to be a broken rear mudguard, split in two, so the curse of Myanmar continues. Added to that I have also had a virus on my camera memory card and now can't transfer them, hence the lack of photos recently. Once back at the hotel I taped up the memory stick and managed to burn off the mudguard to a CD, something like that anyway. Well I have loved Bagan, but I would also have loved about 3 days here, though I did get a good taster on my one day even it was a bit of a rush.

During the night the cake came back to haunt me in the form of the trots requiring hourly visits. I was really thirsty but it was just passing straight through me. Given the fact that on a days cycling here I get through 5-6 litres of water I guessed that if I left I would spend most of the time behind a bush and get very dehydrated into the bargain. I think I made the right decision as my visits continued until midday when I took a couple of immodium, botty blockers, and that seems have done the trick. I didn't dare leave the hotel room this morning, but I have become a little braver this afternoon. All being well I should set off tomorrow morning, but what would have been a hard 5 day ride to Yangon has now turned into a very hard 4 day trip. If I end up being stuck here for another day I shall not even attempt it.

Thanks to Mr Larrington for putting me out of my misery concerning 'The Road to Mandalay', but no thanks at all to Aoiffe for putting me in even more misery as I now have 'Nellie the Bloody Elephant' stuck in my head.