No rest for the wicked. The way to enjoy Bagan is from the air, and at dawn. So despite it being a day off we were up at 04:30am for an 05:30 departure on rickety ‘vintage’ buses for the launch site.
The site of 18 huge hot air ballon being inflated simultaneously was awe inspiring. We had the safety briefing, and the obligatory loo stop as the facilities onboard are limited!
Each balloon takes 16 passengers with just enough room to turn around. The flight itself lasted 45 minutes and involved several changes of height to catch wind moving in different directions. This is the only “steering” possible with a balloon, but it worked amazingly well. The maximum height allowed is 2000 metres, as there is an airport nearby, but that was quite enough to give us panoramic views of sunrise over the whole area. The river Ayerawadi provided a backdrop in the distance with a golden towered roof prominent on the horizon.
Survivors celebrated afterwards with a glass of Champagne and a certificate of survival!
The historical temple complex of Bagan has been preserved by the simple device of moving the whole indigenous population to a new town, so the archaeological site is now a preserved monument. The act of building temples was a privilege of the rich, to give them credit in the afterlife. Each has at least one Buddha statue inside and they are revered by the Myanmar people who make a pilgrimage here to see something of their own history.
There is also a prodigious number of Stupa, the tall conical towered edifices which contain the remains of the person, or more usually the family, that built it.
For some, the day continued with a tour of old Bagan, the market to take in some street food cooked right in front of us,
And of course we had to visit the Ananda Temple. One of the first to be built in Bagan and considered to be sacred by the people of Myanmar. They say if you do not visited Ananda then you have not truly seen Bagan.
Others took advantage of the horse drawn carriages available at the hotel. For others it was a relaxing day, topped off with a bit of light fettling and a car wash.
Some made the most of being able to lie beside a pool with a view of the temples too, a rest day is enjoyed in many ways and it feels as though we have earned it.
And now an apology. In the excitement of Stuart’s stressful day, we forgot to mention that he has had a change of personnel in the Healey with a farewell to Chris, who has navigated Stuart impeccably, and we welcome Helen, who joins Stuart for the rest of our journey. Welcome Helen and thanks Chris for your company.