An Update from Bagan
Our time spent in Bagan the last few days has been very profitable. We were able to get great footage of a number of the significant landmarks in the area. There were nearly 3000 pagodas within a few miles so it was quite easy to find places to shoot interviews.
While Yangon is beautiful in its own way, I personally enjoy the sights, sounds and smells much more out here in the countryside around Bagan. The large number of once beautiful temples and pagodas now lying in ruins was a compelling aspect of the landscape. It was a testimony to us of how temporary the things of man are and how the only thing that will last is the true and living God and his word.
One of the pagodas we visited is one of the oldest known today. It is 170 feet tall and filled with hundreds of statues and 900 year old paintings on the walls. Some of the buildings had incredible histories; for instance a brick building we visited standing alone and decrepit in the middle of a field. It was once a library housing manuscripts and relics for King Anawrhata who conquered King Manuha of Thailand to obtain them.
In these rural areas, we also noticed how courteous the people were, from their improved driving to table service. In the bigger cities we met a constant bombardment of people of all ages hawking all kinds of goods. Rather than accepting no for an answer they follow you around offering lower prices loudly insisting they will give a good price "just for you". Out here on the plains there are still people selling their wares but when they get the inevitable "no" they take it well and smile.
One of our most memorable experiences while in Bagan was climbing Mt. Popa, a volcano reaching nearly 5000 feet into the sky. We took our time on the ascent, hiking for nearly four hours. The descent was much faster; partly due to the fact that it was downhill but mostly because we were hit bya full fledged monsoon just as we started down the mountain. Because we had been blessed with incredible weather since the beginning of the trip we left all of our rain gear at our hotel, not expecting this day to be any different from the rest.
The trail we took on the way up was a sort of water way or natural groove that had been deepened by previous rains. By the time we got halfway down the slope our path became a trough of muddy water. There was no way around as the forest was thick on both sides. It was treacherously slippery and more than one of us took a fall. Charlie had the most epic wipeout. He went head over heels and rolled down a steep bank only to come up covered in mud and smiling. Even though we were soaked to the skin we were having the time of our lives as we slogged through the mud. We reached the bottom at around 6:00 and headed back to Bagan for supper. I hope we forget our rain gear next time it rains.
I think the whole team could say that we are sad to leave Bagan and hope someday to return to the rolling plains of Burma. We are now back in Yangon taking on the last few days of our trip with a renewed vigor.
—Benjamin Lenz, Team Historiographer