|A DAY IN THE
I hate to
wake up early in the morning but I have to do so as I have to
meet the visitors at Nyaung U Airport. I am a licensed tour guide
stationed in Bagan, the ancient city in Central Myanmar. Unlike any
other towns, Bagan-Nyaung-U is busy with the traffic in the early
hours. Air conditioned saloon cars, microbuses & huge coaches
roam the streets fetching the tour guides, tour operators or
the hotel staff to transport them to and from the airport.
few minutes after a quick breakfast,I leave for airport as I
am among the Bagan tour guides holding the placards of the names
of the clients who are going to arrive from Yangon, in the airport
lounge. No guides know whom, they will have to meet-an inquisitive
German lady, a jolly Italian man or a joking American young man.
Who-so-ever, we, the guides, are to meet, the best we have to
do is to present Bagan history, architecture, archeology &
arts to the visitors. Why stationed in Bagan, and not in Yangon
or Mandalay? My love for Bagan, the most wonderous site in South
East Asia, is great. Imagine, the situation of nearly 3000 monuments
within 40 square kilometres of Bagan Archeological Zone!!! In
every direction you will see the ruins of all sizes different
from each other. That is why, we often refer to Bagan as "the
open-air museum". Another significant thing with Bagan is that all
the ancient monuments in South East Asia, like Bororbudor in
Indonesia or Angkor Wat in Cambodia are all built of stones while
the temples and pagodas in Bagan are made of red-bricks. Needless
to say that Bagan is the highlight of the classical tour for
a visitor to Myanmar.
visitors ready for taking
pictures of sunset in Bagan
obtaining the reserved rooms for the visitors at a luxurious,
cool and quiet hotel with a view of the Ayeyarwaddy River or
the pagodas and temples of Bagan, the first place a Bagan guide
sends his clients to is the Nyaung-U Market. This market is different
from other markets in Myanmar and one fifth of the market area
is occupied by tourists attracted by souvenirs and antiques
shops. You can get bronze statues of the ancient ladies of Bagan,
old lacquer ware, paintings copied from the original frescoes in the
Bagan temple and hand woven clothes among others.
never miss to show their visitors the four most important monuments
in Bagan. They are -Ananda Temple-the finest, Damayangyi Temple-
the biggest, Thatbyinu Temple- the tallest and Shwezigon Pagoda
– the holiest in Bagan.
Pagoda, the first monument that the Bagan guides show after Nyaung-U
Market, is the prototype of all Myanmar Stupas built after the
rule of king Anawratha. It was built as the most important reliquary
shrine in Bagan. It is believed that the Buddha’s collar bone
and a copy of the Buddha’s tooth were enshrined in this pagoda.
The visitors to Bagan should not miss to see Kyanzithab Cave
situated just near Shwezigon Pagoda. It is a narrow cave with
dark corridors which are embellished with frescos from 11th to
13th Centuries. The significance with the
paintings in this cave is the depiction of the Mongol soldiers who
occupied Bagan in the late 13th
We used to say that-if you have not been
to Ananada Temple, you can’t say that you have been to Bagan.
Indeed, Ananda Temple is one of the finest, largest, best preserved
and most revered of the Bagan Temples. The four 9.5 metres high
standing Buddhas facing outwards from the centre of the temple
is most attractive. There are altogether one thousand niches
in which the Buddha statues or the sculptures of Buddha’s life
stories are placed.
viewers of the sulggish
Ayeyarwaddy River and its environs
Lunch is normally served at a convenient
restaurant on the bank of Ayeyarwaddy River overlooking the Tantgyi
hillock. To avoid the heat of the afternoon Bagan sun and to
take some nap, one or two hours rest for the visitors is essential.
After the break and not to fed up with the temples and pagodas,
the Bagan guide takes his tourist to the farmer’s house in Minanthu
Village. The farmers of Minanthu grow maize, sesame and peanuts.
The oil press using the bullock to grind the peanuts to produce
cooking oil is highly attracted by the foreign visitors to Minanthu
Village. Another option is the visit to the lacquer ware workshop
where one can see the process of lacquer ware making stage by
stage; how the lacquer ware is kept in the underground cellar
or how the lacquer ware boxes, tables, trays and paintings are
done in detail.
Shwesandaw Pagoda built by king Anawratha
after his conquest of Thaton in the 11th Century, now become an international
rendezvous in Bagan. The tourists who spent the day visiting
the temple & pagodas use to meet at this pagodas, the reason
is that Shwesandaw became a very popular sunset viewing spot.
is a generalist and not a specialist, and the guide stationed
in Bagan must know almost everything about the history, architecture,
arts etc. of Bagan. He is jack of all trades and master of none.
He can’t tell the visitors everything he knows. It depends on
the nature and interest of the visitor. I had met Alessardro
Orlando of Switzerland who was interested only in his camera
and photography and did not want to know anything about Bagan;
on the other hand Nancy Lingley of California. She is a Ph.D
in Buddhist Architecture and I had learnt a lot from her.
dinner at the restaurants in Bagan, where they have complimentary
puppet show or variety of dances. The Bagan guide returns home
late at night. He does not want to wake up early in the morning
but he has to do so as he is to meet an other batch of visitor
at Nyaung U Airport.