June 27, 2014

I Learned How To Bike in Bagan

Early morning after a small chat with Clover I grabbed a for rent Bike parked at the backyard of Pan Cherry Guest House. I wasn't sure if I can do it or if I know how to bike. I stepped on the pedal but it seems that I am not moving. A staff approached me and he unlocked the back tire of the bike. Ok! It was lock. I was excited. I pedaled on the paved road - struggling for balance. I said I will practice... till I enjoy the free smooth movement on the road. Gaining confidence on my pedal and balancing skills I went back to the hotel to get necessary stuff for a butt numbing all day bike tour around the temples of Bagan.

My bike at Thanabar Gate
I was scared.

I wasn't sure if I can survive or at least be back to my native land free from scratch. But I was determined to push my limits and do something I did not do for the past 25 years. To tell you I really don't know how to bike. Yeah laugh till you drop but I do not know how to bike until I learned how to do it properly in Bagan. Didn't had the chance to learn the best childhood experience. Two reasons: nobody was there to teach me and they don't want to buy one for me. Come high school I was with friends who like me do not know how to bike as well. Come college when I first attempted to push down the pedal and I did it. That happened once in the paved track of Quezon Memorial Circle. No vehicle was to challenge my capabilities thus come Bagan where I am not sure if I can battle with big cars and some horse cart. 

Mini Stupas at Min-Myawyaza

Bike or Horse Cart?

Equipped with a map and determination, I biked on the main road of Bagan. I noticed the demographics of tourists kind of traveling; travelers from the yellow countries were for the horse cart, most of those with white and gray or naturally blonde hair from western hemisphere were using e-bike and those age that ranges from 20-40 that includes me were for the manual bike. Here manual bikes and e-bike are good because you have the freedom to roam around as compared to horse carts. Manual bikes is faster than the e-bike and horse cart. Though both e-bike and manual bike are but numbing, e-bike saves more of your energy than the manual bike. The thing with bike (manual and electronic) is that it is hard to move on the sandy part where most temples are located. I crashed 10 times on the sandy parts to tell you. If they have a mountain bike with heavy duty tires, that would be perfect. Most bikes they rent in Bagan are pre-loved from China or maybe Japan or Taiwan.


Min-Myawyaza

Still I go and recommend the manual bike for speed, freedom and challenge.

Every single moment I exerted effort to push my feet on the pedal was like freedom. Its just like smooth walking on paved road and walking wisely on the unpaved or sandy road – there I feel the smooth speed. I learned the art of balancing while relaxing my body – that was a challenge for me actually. It was dancing with gravity feeling all the dust on my body while savoring the fresh smell of rural Bagan. I was confident! There were time I loose control over the bike but I was quick enough to save my life. 



I went to different temples along the road and on the outskirts. I went back to the stunning mini stupas of Min - Myawyaza and mingles with the air for a few minutes to an hour. I tried to act like Burmese to enter in the paid zone of Uphathein but to no avail. We went to Uphathein during our horse cart to have picture of the outside. I went back to charm the guards with my Burmese (really?) looking face but as I've said to no avail. 



Isn't ridiculous if I plan to get lost? No Maybe I just want to wander...

I turned right along the main highway on the unpaved road leading towards the place that I don't know. It was instant. I do not know what went on with me. I wanna skip the road and the major temples. I passed through a village where students were flocking on the middle of the road. I stopped a little to wipe my face and stare at them beautifully with all smile. They smiled back, I pedaled forward. 


I realized I wanted to see the river. The name of the river seems so dramatic - Ayawaddy - river. I felt some pain while reading the English characters of the signage. I saw an upscale restaurant along the brown mighty river. I knew it was alive. A lot of passenger boats passing through and a lot of dredging was going through - bad sign tsk. 



I went further to nowhere - actually - I biked on the sandy path causing me to crash hundred times. I had no choice but to move on. There was nobody there to help me but myself. I had to get up from stumbling to move on. I got a lot of bruises that now turned into scars to remind me how great the journey was.

Along the river, I saw a monastery and my eyes was glued to it. I just don't love it, I want it! Its old, dark heavy and strong! Its a living Teak Monastery! Monks were around it of course. Beside it is a modern building where I saw monks having early lunch.



Later on I found out that the monastery is called Nattan Monastery and it is situated in Taungni Village.

There was this one boy selling books of Ang Suk Yi - and other literature about Burma - together with other children who I suppose are unschooled. He kept walking where I biked then he talked to me with his little English. He asked me where I came from I said of course "Philippines" he said back "You are very handsome" I was waiting for the magic word "do you want to buy a book? - it could be his sales technique! But he continued asking me where I am going - I did not have an answer to that. 






I went on not knowing where to go. My goal was the main road. Not only but numbing it was, I felt that I have the dust all over my body. Trucks passing me was like it was laughing on me when its speed puts powder to my face and body. Thank God I have headwear and eye glasses. Gladly I hit the main road before my hair turned into dust color. 


 Thanabar Gate

I saw many temples different from the one I saw during the horse cart tour. Its almost mono-color red on one side but there will always be something different. I was bored, I wanted the trail. After passing by the Gate of Thanabar in Old Bagan, I turned left to locate the lake I saw on my inaccurate map. I pedaled on the rough road, sandy road, grass road and muddy road. On the sandy road was where I always fall. No I crashed against myself. Gladly it was sandy I did not had any bruises. It was also on the sandy road, during one of my crashes was, where I lost my inaccurate map. 




Yes on the sandy road of Myinkaha Village I lost the map, I wasn't able to locate the lake. I moved on. I saw a familiar temple when I'm nearing the road. It was the temple where we had coconut drink for refreshments. Perfect! I'll sit for a moment, grab some coconut before I proceed and look for a restaurant, shop, store, whatever available in dessertous Bagan for my lunch - that was like 3pm - I thought.



In Shwe-San-Daw-Paya I rested for a minute over my coconut. A man in shorts and long camera lenses talked to me. He asked where I came from - from the womb of my mother, joke - and I said from the Philippines. He asked me about typhoon Haiyan. He asked me stuff like, how are they doing, is it now normal? Etc etc etc... I answered the best way I could and thanked them for their (county) help. 



Later on I knew that he' s a photographer documenting Burma for the last 5 years. He's releasing a book titled "Burma Magic" He showed me on his iPad some of his works. He was at the temple to shoot for his book. It was an amazing experience, it was my first time to witness a photo shoot and I assisted him on some parts of the shoot ;) cool!



Didn't notice the time, I said I had to go because I want to catch the sunset and I have to be first in the temple. I biked again, bike, bike, bike... 


I realize that it was still early and I saw two gigantic and interesting temple on my way to Pya-Thada – they said the best sunset temple in Burma.


I did a quick scout in Phamma-yan Temple and rested for 30 minutes in Sulama-ni Pahto








Sulama-ni Pahto



There was no other people when I reached the Pya-Thada Temple. I laid down on the cobbled floor like it was my bed – hard bed. My butt was aching, my waist was in pain. I wanted to sleep and wait till the sun waive goodbye. But my tummy was shouting. Thank God there was a corn vendor outside and my tumbler was still full of water. I bought some food and went up to the temple to find my spot. 











There was no other people when I reached the Pya-Thada Temple. I laid down on the cobbled floor like it was my bed – hard bed. My butt was aching, my waist was in pain. I wanted to sleep and wait till the sun waive goodbye. But my tummy was shouting. Thank God there was a corn vendor outside and my tumbler was still full of water. I bought some food and went up to the temple to find my spot. 




Burma Series