This morning I was awoken by the alarm clock from a very macabre dream, where I was about to be macheted by one of my clients! (I'm obviously missing work).
It was 4am but for us operating on a jet lag that is 6 and a half hours behind it felt like 'OMG! Really?! O'clock'. There was a packed breakfast waiting for us downstairs in the lobby which consisted of a half a cheese and mayo sandwich (with the crusts cut off just like royalty have - or people with bad teeth), a boiled egg, a banana, a slice of sponge cake and an apple the size of my head! Ok a slight exaggeration but either way I was concerned it may tip me over my weight allowance at the airport.
Our flight was at 6:15, by which time TC had eaten all her breakfast and I'd had just enough energy to manage the sandwich and banana! We all climbed on board ready for our one hour flight to Bagan and settled into our seats. We'd known each other for a couple of days now so were still on the trying to remember everyone's name and polite conversation phase. But I think it was the tuna sandwich that was the final part of our bonding process: the flight had taken off and breakfast was served (yes, our second one), it was a light breakfast which consisted off a yoghurt, a slab of clear jelly with fruit inside that resembled a soap bar from Lush and then there was the tuna sandwich - two slices of bread stuck together by around ten flakes of tuna?!? As TC pointed out; there was probably one tin of tuna shared between all the 100 odd passengers on the flight (and maybe even the ground crew). We all laughed at the sad sandwich, luckily I wasn't hungry at all and suffice it to say the ever reliable TC still managed to eat both hers AND mine in one fell swoop.
A short while later we landed in Bagan.
Bagan is found in the centre of Myanmar. Found on the eastern banks of the Ayeyarwady river, it is an ancient city with over two thousand temples scattered around a 25 square mile radius and that doesn't include the numerous stupas and statues of Buddha! In fact for me, it was very reminiscent of my trip to Angkor Wat in Cambodia (you'll have to scroll back four years in my blog to find out why).
Our hotel room at The Yarkin Tha Hotel was big enough for three single beds as well as an ensuite bathroom that had a walk under shower plus a bath. So we were reasonably impressed, apart from the dodgy looking electrics, low wattage lighting and the fact that the rooms were bloody cold! The swimming pool found in the middle of the courtyard that all our rooms surrounded was inviting looking until you stepped closer and realised it looked a bit too much on the green side.
Kay took us on our orientation walk for about an hour which involved pointing out all the restaurants that were clean enough to eat in (including the salads and ice cubes) of which there were plenty, as tourism is rapidly starting to pick up in this country, the various eateries are all getting prepared for our delicate stomachs.
Whilst we walked and talked our tour leader stopped and was rather abrupt with us, thinking we weren't taking enough interest (she'd reprimanded us numerous times over the previous few days already). Suddenly, TC stepped forward and politely yet sternly told her off for speaking to us that way. Explaining that we were not children and didn't appreciate being spoken to like that. The rest of us remained very British (even the Canadian Bob and Chen the Chinese/American) and said nothing whilst looking slightly embarrassed and silently agreeing with her. But in fact Kay took it all on board for the time being and thanked TC for letting her know.
We set off for the Thanakha museum (remember I told you this was the paste made from the trunk/branch of the Thanakha tree which was then smeared over the face.) To the untrained eye it looked just like a museum stacked with glass cases filled with various bits of tree, but it's not ... well it is, but as all the explanation is in Myanamese it was hard to understand the importance of each encased tree branch.
The rest of the afternoon was free-time, so TC, Jon, Sal, Nicole, Chen and myself headed off to the market for a bit of shopping. Stopping off for a quick drink and a 'scooby snack' at a little restaurant, where TC finally got her opportunity to tell Nicole (a lawyer) all about her bruised foot from her treacherous DMs and get some legal advice. Later on she noted that there were no medical practitioners in our group this year, I smiled with relief!
We lasted about half an hour in the market (I bought a hat) before all agreeing that it was enough, (there's only so long one can stand the smell of fly covered fresh meat, fish and offal lying out In the heat of the day) whilst being bombarded by other traders trying to sell you longies, scarves, lacquered goods and bags.
Nicole (who Sal accidentally called Monica and now that seems to have stuck?!) and Sal headed back to the hotel, leaving myself, Jon, TC and Chen to head down to a restaurant by the River. Jon had the map and led the way along the dusty back streets. We reached the river, but there was no restaurant in sight, just a few passenger boats floated on the quiet water while some of the locals did their laundry further down the shore. It was a lovely sight, only ruined by the amount of rubbish washed up into the sand. Taking in the peace and quiet we headed back to the hotel hitching a ride off a couple of horse and carts to take us the last stretch of the way.
With a couple of hours to go before our afternoon visit to the first of many pagodas, I wanted to sit in the room and type up my blog while my trusty travel companion wanted a nap, with no lights on and no noise - that included the sound of my fingers tapping on the keys of my iPad.
And so I sat in the dark, reading my notes by the light of my torch (which incidentally I'm doing now!) whilst trying not to let the tips of my nails tap too loudly on the glass as I type.
That evening we joined the rest of the group and set off to visit the Schwedagon Pagoda where both a Buddhist Temple and Nat Shrine (the ancient Myanmar religion) share the same compound.
At one point I was sat on a low wall listening to Kay explain about the specifics to the group when a Myanamese woman walked over to me, smiled, sat down next to me on the wall, put her arm around my shoulders and posed for her friend who immediately took a photo of us. Then she nodded politely and hurried away! I wasn't too bothered but for the fact that we had all been informed by Kay and the book of rules for tourists in Myanmar, that it was extremely ride to just take a photo of a local without asking permission first! Hmmmm, go figure?!
That evening TC, Sal and I opted out of going to see the local puppet show and went for a wonderful dinner at a restaurant called The Black Bamboo. It was delicious, so much so I think I might have eaten as much as TC that night!