February 15, 2014
Today we're up at 4:30 am for our balloon ride!! This was something we arranged through ONE STOP. We chose to do the premium service at $360 pp. I know it's pricey but after it was over I didn't regret spending all that $$ and surprise-neither did my husband who is the frugal one and thought $360 was for both of us! He almost had a heart attack when I put him straight. Premium service means there will only be us, the pilot, and 4 others in the gondola basket. We also get a champagne breakfast and video/pictures of our flight. And surprise-2 baseball type BOB hats! A nice way to celebrate Valentine's Day albeit a day late. BALLOONS OVER BAGAN picks us up at 5:30 am. In our van is another couple and a single lady. We pick up another couple at the Hotel @ Tharabar Gate and we're off to where we will lift off. There's a crowd of people here. Names are called as to who goes with which pilot, etc. Our pilot is British and there are 6 of us. He explains very thoroughly the procedure, safety rules, etc. We have coffee and/or tea. Our group is led around up close to the balloon area where we can watch them being inflated. It was interesting. Then it's time! Up, up, and away we go soaring as the sun rises over the Bagan plain. It is so cool! I don't like heights but I don't feel afraid as I stare in wonder at dozens upon dozens of temples. Some are large and imposing, others are tiny. We soar by the river. It's magical, beautiful. I really recommend this as words don't even describe the feelings I had. Our flight lasts about 1 hr. Opps-we land on the other side of the river on a sand bar. Landing is very smooth but we had to remain inside the basket and wait for the ground crew to reach us via boat. Some of the balloons land on this side of the river with us and others land on the other side of the river. Soon we are out of the basket and it's time to break out several bottles of champagne! There's also banana bread, croissants, lots of fruit. It was delicious. We have a nice short boat ride where the BOB buses are waiting to take us back to our hotels. I leave a tip for the crew of 10000k. We get back on the "bus" and are dropped off at our hotel. It's now 10:00 am and we have to hurry as I arranged with a driver from the hotel area to take us sightseeing today. I have a hard time choosing the pictures for this as I took so many. I hope by seeing the pictures you can decide for yourself if this is worth the high price tag. It was for us.
|Our voucher letter for BOB|
|Dawn and the rising mist|
|A few of us are up when the sun rises-beautiful sight!|
|Some on the ground still|
|Have to remain in the balloon until crew arrives|
|Boat pick up|
|Even the kids get in the action|
|Lots more people in the basket/gondola for regular service-about 12-15|
|Can even make purchases after your balloon flight!|
|Folding up the balloon|
|Returning via boat|
|Road to Mandalay boat|
|BOB buses waiting|
LAWKANANDA PAGODA A small, very pretty pagoda. Built during the reign of King Anawrahta in 1059 and has a distinct, elongated zedi. On the bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River. This pagoda marks the spot where traders from as far as Sri Lanka used to unload their goods. It is still an active place of worship and has a lovely view over the river.
|The pagoda enshrines one of the tooth relics of Buddha.|
DAMMAYAZIKA Built in 1196 during reign of King Narapati Sithu. One of 16 pentagonal monuments, possibly the oldest surviving 5 sided building in the world. Garden, 5 small temples housing images of the 4 last Buddhas and the future Buddha. 3 receding terraces ornamented with glazed Jataka plaques. On each side of the pagoda there is a small temple housing an image of Buddha. 4 images facing directional points representing 4 Buddhas of the present world cycle who have already attained enlightenment. But here the 5th temple is for the future Buddha. Names Kakusandha, Konagamana, Kassapa, Gotma, and Metteyya. Views from highest terrace.
|Sign says no climbing|
SEIN NYET Temple and pagoda. Square with 4 entrances through projecting porches-main one faces west.
NAGAYON PAYA Near Myinkaba, this elegant and well preserved temple was built by King Kyanzittha. Legend says it was here that he was sheltered by a serpent while running from his angry brother Salu Min. Name means sheltered by serpent. Main Buddha image shelters under the hood of a huge naga/serpent. Niches in the dark corridors. Paintings on the walls Central shrine has 2 small standing Buddhas and 1 large one.
|Some areas off limits due to restoration work|
|Standing Buddha images with center one under the serpent's hood.|
NAPAYA TEMPLE Close to Manuha Paoda. Made of sandstone masonry block facings integrated over a brick core. Perforated stone windows and interesting arches over the windows. In the central sanctuary 4 stone pillars have fine carved bas relief figures of four-faced Brahma. Holding lotus flowers. Sides of pillars-ogre like heads with open mouths with flowers.
|Ogre with flowers coming from mouth|
|4 faced Brahma|
|Holding lotus flowers|
|King Manuha and his wife Queen Ningala Devi to Nagayone|
Shopping stop JASMINE FAMILY LACQUERWARE Located in Myin Kaba Village. A family run business as almost all are family members working to make a quality product. Win explained the process of making lacquerware. It was very interesting and informative. In the small shop there was so much beautiful ware on display. Wish I had room in my luggage for more. I buy a plate for $45 and a stacking container that I will use for earrings or rings for $28. Thanks to Maneki-neko for posting about this place. The quality is beyond compare.
|Win in the shop|
|It really is a family run business|
Lunch-BE KIND TO ANIMALS, THE MOON. Lots eating here so it must be good. We have papaya salad, gazpacho soup. It's all excellent. Cost 4500k.
|Sitting Buddha image and inner passages leading around the whole temple|
|Standing Buddha image|
|Small Buddha images embedded on the walls|
SULAMANI A majestic red brick temple built during the reign of King N. Sithu around 1181. Crowning jewel. Receding terraces pyramid effect topped by a gilded sikhara. Fine brickwork and ornamentation. Even a needle can't penetrate between 2 bricks. Buddha images located at each cardinal point and the base interior is painted with frescoes dating from 18th century.
|Sitting golden Buddha image|
DAMMANYANGYI Huge temple built during reign of King Narathu. Legend-King instructed it be built to atone for his sins of assassinating his father, brother, and wife. Finely set brickwork. If the masonry gaps were too wide the bricklayer would be punished-hand cut off and supposedly a story has the King executing one bricklayer for his masonry gaps being too wide. Wouldn't like to work for this King! It's unfinished as the King himself was assassinated. and the temple was believed to be haunted by ghosts!
|Buddha image inside|
We return to our hotel at 6:30 pm. It's been a very long day but I don't feel tired! We decide to venture out for dinner.
|Just a few people here for the sunset|
|Ham sandwich and fries|