It never rains in Bagan during December. Well…
Well we can’t always have good luck with the weather, but being in Bagan with 2.200 old buildings and not have any view from above due to the pouring rain is hard. Rain all day today and tomorrow. No sunrise or sunset that would bask this beautiful landscape into magical light and make all those temples and pagodas emerge from the morning mist to transform the landscape into a fairy land.
To make up for it we were fortunate to be here during the Ananda Pagoda festival. Villagers from all over the region send small delegations with beautifully decorated ox carts and donations to Ananda temple once a year.
Ananda temple is the largest and best preserved of all the old temples in Bagan.
Donations for the festival consist of food or other useful items as well as money. The many donations are lined up on huge high tables. Each monastery is being called through a megaphone and their monks then are being given the donations, walking in single file with big plastic bags to carry their items. Over 2.000 monks today collected donations for their monastery from the villages around. The villagers pray and worship at Ananda temple and then they shop and party (especially the young crowd).
Improvised tents have been put up all over the place, due to the rain and people who did not have a dry place outside simply camped inside the temple and the corridors. Some stay up to a week some only come for two days.
Today the big donation ceremony marked the end of the festival for many. It was a very memorable sight and Chris was in seventh heaven whizzing about with his tele lens as there were so many beautiful pictures to be taken ;o))
Did we mention shopping and party? Just outside the Ananda temple a huge temporary market has sprung up for four weeks. As many villagers only get to go to Bagan once a year this is a big deal for them. Besides worshiping it is also the best occasion to shop and eat out. The market caters to any item anybody can think of and the variety of street food is amazing. We will reserve the foodie details for our Myanmar food blog post soon!
As for the atmosphere, it was bustling with energy and an overflow of smells, sounds and visuals. Chris just wanted to camp out here for the day.
Sit in a street stall, sample all the different foods (which we nearly did) and just let the camera run.
After the market we visited other important sites such as the Shwezigon Paya with its shiny golden dome, and the Dhammayatzika Pagoda with its unusual hexagonal base. Unfortunately, the two earthquakes have left Bagan’s ancient buildings severely damaged and repair is slow but visible everywhere. Many stupas are wrapped in scaffolding some freshly renovated. It is said that only 2% of the archeological permit fee actually goes to the conservation effort, 98% land in the government’s coffers… sad.
Last stop for the day was a lacquering workshop. Lacquerware is one of Bagan’s oldest handicrafts. It is a tedious process that for a simple bowl takes 6 months to produce. A base shape of either bamboo, horse hair or teak wood is formed and then lacquered and sanded down nine times. Each drying step takes a full week. Then the engraving and coloring starts which takes several weeks as well. An amazing but complex process, that produces beautiful pieces of art in the end. Now we just need to find the right one to bring a piece home.
While we still hope for nicer weather on Wednesday, we nevertheless think it was worth coming to Bagan for the festival and the market in any case.