Today was a day that I probably didn’t need to spend in Bagan. I saw a bunch of temples yesterday, and didn’t have a burning urge to see any more today, but I’m stuck here till 8pm, so what did I do?
I looked at temples and got drunk. Shit, it’s Bagan, it’s not like I spent the day riding rollercoasters and dancing with robots or anything. As I said yesterday, one day is enough here. There’s really nothing outside of the temples to see or do, and nobody really needs to be climbing through ruins two days in a row unless they wear a stupid had, carry a whip, and made three good movies and shit one with that fuckhead Cate Blanchett in it.
I’m talking about Indiana Jones. If you’ve done all that but aren’t Indy, please don’t be offended.
I also crab danced in one of the temples, in front of a Buddha who was trying to sleep. But it’s cool, right? Buddha ain’t one of those angry gods, he’s a pretty cool dude. If he was any cooler he would listen to John Legend and wear one of those hats with the sticker still on the brim.
Bagan has ace temples and is great to wander around, but the other highlight is the food. The local dishes aren’t anything amazing, but this is the first place I’ve been to in Asia where they’ve done western food properly. Last night I had Thai (I know, I know, it’s in Asia) and it had actual pieces of cooked chicken, rather than a bunch of legs chucked into rice, as I’ve become accustomed to. This afternoon I had a hamburger, and then a chicken burger, and they were proper burgers. Some of the burgers I’ve had over here were closer to arseholes on toast.
Oh, and after a day of walking around in 40 degree heat (in clothes that haven’t been washed in weeks) I smell like shit, which is an unfortunate situation for the poor Burmanian who has spent the last six months saving up to afford the bus trip to Yangon, only to get stuck next to me for nine hours. Guess what? I don’t think I’m going to have a happy fun time, either.
But as long as they don’t put the balding paedophile on the screen again, I just might make it through to India.
Bagan has more temples than Rebel Wilson has had meat pies. 2200 in fact (thanks, Wikipedia). And today I saw all of them… except for the 2100 I missed out on because I went to the pub. But there’s not a massive amount of variety between them, so I think I got a pretty good idea of what they’re about.
I’ve been eating well and drinking better over the last few weeks, so I decided to rent a pushie for the day rather than one of those poofy electonic bikes. And so, at 9:30, I slogged off on flat tyres into the 35 degree heat, hoping I could see some temples through the dust.
It’s a bit hard to miss ’em. They’re dotted everywhere. Small ones, big ones, pointy ones, square ones. The more famous sites are crawling with peasants trying to sell souvenirs, but the rest are basically empty, save for a few monks. Biking it (whether the Cadell way or the softcock way ) is definitely how to explore this place. I didn’t have a map, but every time I saw something interesting off in the dirt I just toddled up there and checked it out. It’s easy and relaxing, and a great way to spend a day that other people are spending working.
Things were going swell until I went to ride away from one of the temples and heard a loud crunch. At first I thought I’d ruptured a testicle, then I realised that I hadn’t taken the bike chain off before pedaling off. The chain was fucked, the wheel was bent, and I had to come up with a plan. I started coming up with plausible lies, but then I went to the pub and forgot about it, so when I took the bike back I told them that a monk did it.
A monk! No explanation, just that some rogue monk came up and damaged the bike, then sauntered away.
They apparently bought it, but I’m expecting a bald dude in a robe to stab me in the eye as soon as I step out the door.
It’s weird that Bagan receives so little recognition compared to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, because it’s every bit as interesting and far easier to explore due to how close together the temples are – sometimes there’s only a few metres between them, and from a high spot they spread out to the horizon. And, unlike Angkor Wat, I’ve managed to go a whole day without pissing or puking on the monuments. Gimme a break, when I was at Angkor I went out drinking till 3am, so I was lucky to even get out of the hotel room.
Just on that night that I got drunk in Siem Reap, it was the first (and, so far, only) time I have vomited on a frog. I didn’t know it at the time, but I filmed myself spewing in the street, and when I watched the video back it was clear that my partially-digested Mexican dinner landed on a hoppity-hop. I’m not even lying.
To wrap it up, Bagan is a top place and worth a visit, with my recommendation that you check it out on your own, without bothering with a guide or tour group. They’re expensive, slow and expensive, and half the fun of this place is discovering it for yourself, and walking around seemingly abandoned ruins with little idea of why they’re here. One full day is enough, unless you’re a total history buff.
Just don’t go to the similarly-named Bogan. There, monks don’t just bend your bike’s wheel, they steal the whole fucking thing and push it into a river when they’re finished with it and wanna go smoke some bongs.
My bus trip from Yangon to Bagan, Myanmar was interesting, to say the least. After cabbing it to the outskirts of town to catch the beautiful (not really) Bagan Minn Thar Express, I was squished into a tiny seat next to an overweight man and his two children, behind a monk, and in front of a teenage boy who would, at regular intervals, reach over and caress my hair. Halfway through the journey he even leant forward and kissed me gently on the elbow. Sadly, I forgot to get his phone number.
The entertainment was just as outrageous. First I was treated to two hours of Burmese pop songs by a chubby, balding paedophile, which became even better when I chucked Cypress Hill on my iPod and pretended he was B-Real. And after that I got to watch the zaniest movie I’ve ever set eyes on. It was in another language, so I couldn’t pick up all the major twists and turns, but it seemed like a real Academy Awards contender. It had slapstick humour, bus crashes, elves, ghosts, homoeroticism, extreme violence, bad dancing and a chunky guy on a pogo stick. So that’s where Adam Sandler gets all his ideas from.
Naturally, being a bus ride through Asia, it took about three times as long as it should’ve. We broke down twice, stopped every time we saw a monk to give him water, delivered vegetables, and even took a detour so the driver could buy some chairs. Luckily, no chickens were brought onboard – they were kept underneath the bus, where a couple of peasants were riding, too. Still, more comfortable than flying Jetstar, right?
Once you get out of Yangon, Myanmar is desperately poor, brown and dusty. It reminds me a lot of Cambodia (not surprising, given how close they are), but even more povo. Where Cambodia has nice buildings in each village, Myanmar has wooden shacks that look like they’re about to fall over. Poor people lined the road we drove on, hoping someone would throw money at them. I was unable to, as I was too busy either playing on my computer, reading my Kindle or listening to my iPod. Sorry, poor people.
Unfortunately, the air con packed it in near the end, and the temperature headed northwards and settled at around 38. That was bad, but what was worse was the blokes around me, who started to spread their legs and flap their skirts to keep cool. Now, Burmese blokes don’t wear undies under their skirts, so I copped an eyeful of tiny, hair wangs wiggling about between big, meaty thighs – and the fellas were grinning their heads off while they did it! If I’d filmed it, I could’ve given it to the government to use as a public service video to stop young dudes becoming gay.
I was wrecked by the time I got into Bagan, but from what I’ve seen it’s a nice, quiet little place with a lot of backpackers riding around on bikes. Which is exactly what I’ll be doing tomorrow, when I head out to see a few of the 2000 or so temples that are bunched around this town like schoolboys around a stolen porn magazine (I’m showing my age now – I’m pretty sure the young blokes skip the mags and go straight to 30-man interracial anal gang bangs).
I was meant to be in Delhi tonight, but I’m happy to be in Bagan, and very excited to see what this joint has to offer. And how will I get back to Yangon in a few days? I don’t care, fire me out of a cannon, fold me up and put me in an envelope and post me – just don’t put me on the bloody bus again!
Yesterday I got my first taste of Yangon and found it to be pretty ace, and today I wanted to dig a little deeper and check out some of the stuff outside the central business district. In some ways it was like going to bed with a decent sort and waking up the next day to discover she’s actually a bit of a fugmo, but I still had a great time in this exotic city.
I spent eight years catching trains to and from work and hated every bloody second of it (even if I did write a pretty good book that you should read while commuting – and you can buy it right here https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MI5VI9C. Go on, the blog will still be here when you’ve finished your purchase), but that didn’t stop me from spending the day on a rattler. There’s a service called the Yangon Circular Train, and I was really hoping it would involve riding on a round train; instead, I found myself on a 50km circuit around the outskirts of the city, and it was a real eye-opener.
After coughing up 20 cents for the ride, I hopped on at Yangon Central and found myself surrounded by chickens, people cradling bowls of fruit, monks and other strange creatures. The train rattled and rolled through the suburbs and into the outskirts of the city, where I saw a little of the rural side of Myanmar – people picking vegetables, leading cows around, fighting and swimming in filthy pools of what looked like shit by the side of the tracks. At every station we passed, more peasants (and their animals) would climb on and gawk at me. After three hours sitting on a hard wooden seat, my arse was as sore as Jesse Jane’s after an afternoon with a black man, so I got off.
After a stop in the park for a well-earned beer (lazing about on trains is tough, dude), I rocked up to the Pansodan Jetty in the south of the city to take a ferry ride over to the village of Dallah, on the other side of the river. The trip over there was pleasant enough, even if it only lasted five minutes, most of which was spent fending off hawkers and filthy homeless children who looked like they’d just crawled out of a toilet. But when I got to the other side… what a shithole!
Dallah is little more than a dirt road with a bunch of crappy shops and restaurants next to it. I couldn’t walk five metres without some idiot offering me a ride in his stupid rickshaw, and one clown just wouldn’t take no for an answer. He kept following me for a few hundred metres, asking, “What your name? Where you come from? Where you go?” I took refuge in some sort of crap temple, and the dunce even followed me in there!
Of course, the real adventure was still to come. I’m supposed to be flying to India tomorrow, so when I got back to my room I went through all my details to make sure I was prepared for the flight – and realised I’d totally fucked up my Visa application. In that, you know, I hadn’t made one. So I quickly tried to get onto the online application site, only to have the internet at my hotel/shitbox go down on me (and not in a good way).
I grabbed my stuff and trotted down the street to the closest interwebs cafe, got onto the site, and found out all applications need to be made at least four days before flying. Right, so I’m not going to Delhi tomorrow. Now I needed to make my application, and try to get a refund on my already-purchased and newly-useless plane ticket. Only the computer wouldn’t allow me to access my emails to find my booking number, so it was back up to my room to try to use the net long enough to pull my details out.
With that done, it was back to the cafe to get my refund (small mercies, hey?), before trying to put my Visa application through. All good, all good, all good… now they need a photo of me. Back up to the room, photo taken, down to the cafe, uploaded, now they want me to pay. My card’s in the room, so back up there, got the card, back down, put the payment through, and it won’t go through. Try again, try again, finally realise it’s because my account is empty due to my mortgage coming out like a gay father. So I transfer money into the account, try to process the payment again, it says I’ve had too many failed attempts, go back to the start. Fuckity fuck!
Twenty minutes later, the application’s gone through, so it’s back to the hotel to book a bus trip to Bagan, where I was originally planning to go anyway. No buses until tomorrow night. I get the bloke to call around and, finally, he lands me a spot on the crappiest bus, which takes 12 hour and requires a 6am pickup tomorrow. Yay.
So it seems that I wanted to cut back on my time in Myanmar, but that Myanmar wasn’t having any of it. I’m not too upset about it, to be honest. I won’t be out of pocket too much (maybe $100), and I’ll get a chance to explore more of this wonderful country. The seemingly endless temples of Bagan are just begging to be explored, and it will be good to get a different, quieter perspective of this country. Plus, I get two 12-hour bus rides, aren’t you fucking jealous?
No, you aren’t. Of course you aren’t. Fuck ya, then.