I have to admit that so far Myanmar was somehow not really working well for us. We were still not quite sure whether we liked the country or not and if it wasn't bad enough we both got sick. At the beginning we though it would only be a small simple cold, but it turned out to be more stubborn than we could have expected, making us miss home more than ever before. We have spent nearly two days in bed in Inle Lake, but we were both still far from OK. Still we didn't want to stay there any longer than necessary. The region was definitely not our favorite one and we were really looking forward to our next stop, the famous Bagan. Our expectations were high, as we never heard anything bad about this particular place. Even people who were generally not very happy in Myanmar agreed, that it was an absolute highlight of the trip. We wanted to see it for ourselves.
Bagan is an extraordinary place to be sure. The city itself is quite small, but still it's home to more than 2.000 temples in all different shapes and sizes. No matter where you look you are likely to spot a few of them and it truly is a magnificent view. Of course, the place is more touristic than any other part of the country and the prices are skyrocketing at the moment. Taking a taxi actually costs more than in Germany! But there still seem to be more temples than people, so that you may get a nice spot or even a few all to yourself. Your chances get better if you rent a bike and get off the bitten track, which is exactly what we did. And we loved it, even if biking through the sand while having a bad cold is not the easiest things to do. But it was worth every drop of sweat. And this time we did some serious research and checked dozens of bike rentals until we found two bikes that were actually big enough for us and even had some gears to change! It made the whole experience much more enjoyable.
However, it was mostly the view, not the cold, that was taking our breath away all the time. It was simply amazing. I guess I was expecting all those temples to be pretty similar to one another, like two thousand copies spread over the area. But it was nothing of that kind. Each of them was unique and beautiful in its own special way, each worth a closer glance and a short visit. But it was the way they were all gathered together at this limited space that impressed me most. The view was unforgettable! It was one of the most beautiful things we have seen on our entire journey. It made us forget about coughing, the skyrocketing prices and all the other things we had on our minds. We found an abandoned temple with a terrace and just sat there enjoying the view. We could not have enough of it. We woke up early the next day and although our cold did not get much better and in addition we had some sore muscle from our first ride we jumped on the bikes without thinking and spend another lovely day visiting one temple after another. I was afraid we may find it a bit boring with time, but the view was impressive even after hours of biking and sightseeing. I guess you just can not get tired of it.
Unfortunately, we didn't have the time to visit even half of the temples. There were just too many of them and our return flight was already booked and we still had to get to Mandalay. This time we decided against the bus, since the night rides were pretty boring and the strong air conditioning was not doing us much good. We went for a more expensive, but also much more enjoyable option, the boat. It took us several long hours, but we were rewarded with lovely views all along the way and a magnificent sunset on Irrawaddy River.
Our cold must have enjoyed the ride as well as it definitely decided to stick to us for good. Mine was at least getting better, but David had some really hard times, so that we had to skip our plans for Mandalay and surroundings and focus on getting better as quickly as possible. It was a pity, as the city was quite pretty and I'm sure it had much more to offer. Well, we will have a reason to come back here one day and maybe see for ourselves the results of all changes that are bound to take place in the next couple of years in Myanmar. Whatever happens I hope the local people will still stay as open and friendly as the are now, as they were they truly were the real highlight, no matter where we went.