Your eyes lock and it’s too late. You’re hooked. I get caught once in a while. Taxi drivers bickered and pushed each other to get the first customers just as the bus doors opened at Bagan bus station. Over the heads, I made the mistake of looking one in the eye. That was it. I knew he wasn’t going to let me go. With no hotel reservations, I negotiated a price with him to show me some rooms in my budget.
I suppose at 5.30am it was the last thing he wanted to do but I made him take me to 5 places before I chose one. It was hard to explain that while I wanted a cheap place, I didn’t want a dump. ‘But it cheapppp??’ Couple of years ago, I would have been all for dirt-cheap places. But now I look for places with little bit more character. Somewhere that has outside seatings, tea and coffee available on premises at the least and just general ambience you can chill. With me constantly on the laptop writing, the last thing I want to do is be hogged in a room with no windows.
Woke up again at 10.30am realizing I had told them I was coming down for breakfast at 7. Throwing open the windows, felt like looking outside Suruj’s compound. Neem trees, ripe custard apples hanging off and the smell of freshly washed clothes.
Downstairs they fixed me a plate of eggs and some coffee. The cool morning breeze flowing through the lace curtain, the lovely waitress signalled me to remain seated and have another cup of coffee.
There is something about Burma. There is content in seeing other people content and it’s something I haven’t come across anywhere else. Being friendly and helpful is one thing; just truly seeing some else at ease makes the Burmese feel at ease.
With horse drawn carts, Bagan is old school. With temples ruins skewered over a 41km2 area, it is a place back in time. Walked into a travel agent to inquire about tickets to my next destination where the young bloke pointed me to the old bus station ticket booth. Started walking when a bicycle bell tinkled behind me. The young blokes 75-old grandfather had come to take me to the booth. It’s the least they could do for a visitor, he said. See what I mean. He got off his bike and walked along. He used be a schoolteacher and drilled me all the way to the bus station about Fiji; area, root crop, weather, oceans…masterji stuff. With tickets sorted, I hired a horse cart to explore the temples.
They say you need at least 2 days to get around all the temples in Bagan but only with an afternoon on hand; I wasn’t going to miss the sunset over the temples.
The cart driver dropped me off to a Myanmar joint as requested and trotted off. Good to his word, the food that came out was authentic as Burma can get. In my defence, it was a set menu! A girl with thick husky voice served me while practicing her English. She was 27, graduated with geography and unmarried. (She thought she had problems!) I was well into ploughing through the spread when she said, ‘ahhh miss? I think you like the food but you must stop eating that sesame chutney if you are catching a bus tomorrow…” …..fine. Stuffed as, I couldn’t make it down the street and stopped in front of a hotel to asked them to drop me off to my hotel. Yeah I do things like that sometimes. Stirs things up 😀
The night ended on such a beautiful note. I was about to doze off when I heard some singing. Out on the balcony, the moon was shining and a Burmese folk song was in the air. In that moment, all this, whatever I am doing made sense. The desire to travel, connect, breath… I took a video – you can’t see much but you can definitely hear the music.
Out in the open air under Bagan stars, this is what it’s simply all about.