Monday, 23 January 2017

Bagan and bagone.

Ok, I take back my first comment from my previous post! Last night was definitely the worst nights sleep of the trip so far! Yet again, it was cold and yet again the pre- recording of the Buddhist monk and his chanting followers was played again and again and again and again and (I think you get the picture?). TC reckons what they were actually chanting was: "Wake up all you tourists, we won't let you sleep". There could be some substance to that?

Today was going to be another day of Pagodas, well just the morning anyway, but even so the enthusiasm from each and every one of us in the group was starting to wain; which to be honest made me feel a bit better about being 'Pagodard out' so early into the trip. But next up on the list was The Manuha Paya and the Nana Paya (Paya meaning Pagoda).

By the way, the Myanmar script is very unusual to that of the western eye. It used to be quite square in shape but finally changed to a much rounded one. The reason being is that centuries ago before paper, scripts were written on giant leaves, or rather cut into them and if the letters were rounded, the leaf was less likely to tear. Though nowadays, with the development of the internet, I'm surprised many of us even remember how to write at all. As my cousin pointed out to his eighteen year old son, when I was writing an arrangement in my diary one day: "See this Joel, this is called paper and this is called pencil. It's what we used in the olden days".

Anyway, I digress, apologies, I know you are dying to know more about the temples we visited today. But I'm slightly embarrassed to say, that I'm actually finding it hard to concentrate on what we are told with each visit. You see there is a lot of information to grasp and Kay's accent I sometimes find quite hard to understand, so I will try to fill you in on a few points but for the rest, I would highly recommend you come out and visit this fantastic developing country and soon before it becomes over run with tourists and certain infamous coffee houses and burger bars.

Even John said that at one point he looked round at each of us to see who was listening and who wasn't. He had to laugh to himself because he said that he could tell those that weren't were either fiddling with their phones, looking around, or generally looking slightly glazed - most of us. I on the other hand kept my sunglasses on so it wasn't noticed that I was actually having a little nap whilst leaning against a wall - well I hadn't had much sleep!

The final temple of the day was the thirteenth century Wetkyi-In-Gubyaukgyi, (sounds like a something out of Star Wars), inside of which can be found an array of stunning frescos - well remains of them. It is important to know that this country has been hit with numerous large earthquakes - the last one being in August - so many temples have been either permanently damaged or under repair.

The mornings sightseeing culminated in going to visit a traditional lacquer artisan. This is a traditional Burmese craft that has been used for centuries; even today lacquered bowls, plates, cups and even furniture are found in many homes both near and far. The work conditions are however horrific by Western standards. All the workers sit crossed legged working away at their specific job, be it making the 'vessel' either from bamboo or horse hair, then the item is lacquered from as little as five times to as many as twenty if not more. Between each layer of lacquer the item is then placed in a warm cellar to dry.

Once all the lacquering has been completed there are the skilled artists engraving patterns and then the colour is applied all over and washed off, leaving it only remaining within the pattern and this process repeated with each new colour.

The lighting is basic fluorescent strip lighting, so it is no wonder most of the workers end up having to wear glasses. And all of this is done in silence, no one talks and no one listens to the radio. Now surely this would then be the best time to start playing the recordings of the Buddhist Monk and his followers chanting, rather than during unsociable hours of the night/morning?

Finally it was lunch time and so TC and I joined John, Sal, Nicole and Tieme at The Weatheroons for lunch! Nothing like the traditional Weatherspoons pubs we have back home, but just as cheap and without the colourful patterned carpets. (And far nicer food).

After lunch I spent a few hours by the pool, catching a few rays of sunshine, hoping that I could store the heat to keep me warm throughout the evening and praying that the nighttime entertainment was finally going to be over.

It was. After a relaxing afternoon, we all went over the road to 'A little bit of Bagan' for dinner, where TC was able to discuss the implications of her foot injuries with Nicole - again, while I sat at the other end of the table smiling as I chatted with John and Tieme about nothing to do with feet, mosquito bites or the dreaded influenza.

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