Saturday, August 22, 2015

Circling Myanmar: Bago

Day 3 – August 22, 2015

It didn’t go as planned. I failed to wake up and check out early to start travelling to Kyaikhteeyo to reach the Golden Rock. I got off my bed at half past 6am instead. So I skipped the morning shower and headed straight to breakfast hall.

After checking out at 8am, I was helped to a taxi by the hotel crew. The kind driver promised to assist me get the right bus at Aung Mingalar Highway Bus Terminal bound for Bago City. I badly needed a local assistance because all signboards are written in their ?characters. He advised the attendant that I am a foreigner and they both ushered me to a blue bus. I paid the taxi 8,000 kyats and the bus 3,000 kyats.

I decided to spend the day in Bago and postponed the climb to the Golden Rock on the following day. I sat beside a young monk. I noticed him studying but I dared talking to him. To my disappointment, he cannot converse in English. I was hoping he could help me determine whenever we arrived in the city. So I wished the bus line ends at Bago and every passenger would disembark, in that way I would never lose my way. After around 2 hours of bus ride, I noticed a city-like surroundings and thankfully some signage have English characters and they read Bago. I thought the bud would stop or park at a bus terminal but it went on until it passed the town proper, noticing only few transport passing and countering. The monk I sat with kept pointing outside saying, “This Bago.”So I took to mean that I need to alight. The bus dropped me off at a kiosk where some motorbikers were waiting. I later know that there was no integrated bus terminal in the city and the motorbikes are their version of local taxis. 


A young boy approached me and offered a ride with his taxi for 1,000 kyats. He is Mg Soe That, looking like a boy but already 20 years old, he later revealed. I hopped on to his bike and directed him back to the downtown to find the hotel we passed by earlier or any decent place to stay around the area. I thought he could somehow converse in English so I hired him as my driver and tourguide that afternoon. The man we approached at the waiting shed told me that my driver could not understand nor speak English. The same man brought me up the adjacent Emperor Hotel to check the accommodation. That same man helped my driver fixed his price at 6,000 kyats to drive me around but the nearby pagodas only, considering the threat of rains. I also booked my bus trip to Kinpun that following day through that same person. I did not bother getting his name.

It was actually challenging to be accompanied by non-English speaking driver and guide. I decided to teach Mg Soe That some English words. I encouraged him to go to school and learn English so that he can guide foreigners in the future. He later gained confidence in the course of our trip. He could already utter some comprehensible words like nis (next), yus (you), homs (home), aside from pagodas and hotels.  

We started the tour at the downtown pride, Shwe Maw Daw Pagoda. I took off my shoes before the first step of the stairway. I deposited my shoes for 200 kyats at the nearby counter and proceeded upstairs. I was stopped by a lady spreading a brochure across my vision, asking for 10,000 kyats and pointing to all tourist destinations. I reacted and initially refused to pay but she insisted and refused my entry as well. I clarified the purpose of paying 10,000 kyats and rephrased the message she was trying to tell me. “You mean that I have to pay to get to these spots you pointed?” She nodded. Up another step, somebody’s waiting for me to register my camera. Paying 300 kyats, the guy tied a tag on my camera strap. And we’re finally cleared to climb and move around the pagoda.

Sad to note, the Shwe Maw Daw Pagoda appeared unmaintained. It has plenty of unique shrines like though lackadaisical than Shwe Dagon Pagoda of Yangon. But once cleaned, swept, scrubbed of moss, tidied, and repaired, then all of them would be picture perfect and pagoda would be worth visiting. The unkempt surroundings however had highlighted the grandiosity of this golden pagoda which comprises the center.

Next we climbed was the Hinthagon Pagoda. At the entrance foremostly, I noticed the worse state of the supposed tourist spot. The concrete stairs are untiled, and along both sides of the stairways was crowded with shops selling everything primarily souvenirs. The topmost temple is small but the view of Shwe Maw Daw from there is stunning. What set it apart from other pagodas was its layered spires made of tin sheets, in different colors each side.

Third stop was in Shwe Tha Lyaung Pagoda. Its main attraction is the large reclining Buddha. What attracted me more were the red-bricked round temple within the temple grounds, which looked like older than the golden temple, and the floating cottage with another Buddha in its midst. 

Due to heavy rainfalls that afternoon, I decided to visit one last pagoda before heading back to the hotel. Not exactly listed in the spots identified in the paid brochure, we climbed the Shwe Aung Ywae Pagoda. There I discovered that it has elevators being perched on tip of the hill. I can tell that his was the highest pagoda in the whole of Bago. And since not flocked by tourists, it was instead flocked by lovers. When the rain heavily poured and brought in by cold breeze, the lovers hugged each other more. Sadly I didn’t witness any snuggling. Maybe the “no kissing allowed” in public places also applies here.

It was 430pm when the rain slowed, so we braved the rain unmindful of soaking our clothes, fearing the rain would intensify more. I ate my late lunch or was it early dinner? at the Five Three Restaurant. It was labelled Chinese Restaurant, so I expect to sip wanton soup and eat dimsums. But I was sorry, they only serve either fried or sweet and sour recipes, and there’s not much to choose from in the menu.

I retired early at 7pm after checking emails and updating Facebook status. Hoping to gain longer sleeping hours only to be disturbed by the deafening cry of the aircon unit, especially when you put it to High Cool. I resolved turning the A/C off and open the window, played music in my PC, and got rid of all winter bed sheet and blankets. I woke up from time to time feeling the flies, humid night, plus the noises from the outside public.

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