I guess if your world trip is a sort of a ...USA..Hawaii...New Zealand...Australia...Cook Islands...Skiing in Switzerland... sort of trip you’ll end up not having this experience.
You must be wondering why I brought up crap on this blog. This is all thanks to this Australian guy I met called John, who we have bumped into on a few occasions round Burma. John has the runs this week. And he has got it bad, so bad it leaves him at panic stations all the time, especially when he needs to take the overnight bus from Mandalay to Bagan. Thankfully Burma is one of those places where the bus driver is quite happy to stop the bus for whatever the demand, and on this occasion he had to stop the Bus quite a few times. That was until, in the middle of the night, he stopped the bus, legged it over the road into a field of grass, fell down a cliff and crapped himself.
We are in Bagan, which is simply amazing. Its an immense plain littered with some 4000 temples and Paya’s scattered over about 50 Square kilometers. Its the site of a ancient city, over 1000 years old which was abandoned c.600 years ago. What’s left are the only structures that were built from stone, the Buddhist temples. It instantly reminded me of Hampi, which still lingers in my mind as one of the Highlights of India. With that in mind, I planned to arm myself with a scooter to cruise the sites (A Scooter of the No License, No Paperwork, No Helmet, No worries variety). Unfortunately the government has recently cracked down on the use of scooters, so I settled for a push bike, which turns out to be quite hard work in the heat of the day. But it was worth it.
Wandering this incredibly immense site, involves huge temples towering some 70 meters above the plain, discovering small temples with intricate frescos decorating the walls and ceilings, walking up small dark winding staircases to reach the immense views across the plain and my favourite ... watching beautiful sunsets over the temples. Its a great place.
Of course, with it being so special, it comes with its fair share of souvenir and drink sellers. But, compared to everywhere else in Asia, the Burmese are the least pushy I’ve come across. They are fantastically hospitable, quite happy to show you the ‘secret parts’ of the temple, or even shining a light up the dark staircase to lead the way. And in return, all they expect is to be able to ask you if you want to check out their lacquerware or paintings. And they expect a polite ‘no thanks’. Its quite a contrast to India where they would expect payment! It leaves me incredible inclined to tip, something which I really enjoy doing in Burma.
Its also the place where I’ve first spotted avocado on the menu. This has been a craving of mine for about five months now and I was drooling over the menu when I asked if the restaurant had avocado and got the reply “Yes sir”! I ordered a salad and settled in for the agonising 15 minute wait for it to arrive ... 30 minutes later the waiter came across and politely apologised as the avocado was not fresh. So, take two on the following night, where I tried a different restaurant and yes ... they had avocado salad and it was available! But, alas, I got exactly the same story some 30 minutes later... its not ripe... And then to take three last night in another restaurant and ... hurrah... the avocado salad arrived, but this chef used avocado that was not ripe. It was all a rather big let down. Blue cheese has now just gone into the number #1 spot of cravings.