I went out for drink the other night with my friend and we started chatting about Burma, specifically my time in Bagan. I spent most of my time in Bagan while I was in Burma so a lot more happened than just visiting some temples like I wrote in my post. I was telling him about it and laughing. He said I should write about it, so here you go!
It all started at the airport. It’s a rather small, nondescript airport, but they had free wifi. This might not seem like a big deal to you, but getting any internet to work in Burma is like surfing a porn site on a 14.4 baud modem—it doesn’t work! I managed to login into Google Latitude and tried to check into “Bagan.” Unfortunately, Google doesn’t seem to know that Bagan exists or where it is. But, before I could do anything else, I was wisked away to my waiting taxi.
By taxi, I mean horse-drawn carriage! This was a bit of a surprise at a first. I mean, it’s a horse and carriage. I thought, well maybe this will be charming. After all, people spend stupid amounts of money in Central Park and Paris to be pulled around in an uncomfortable wooden box with a horse shitting in their face. I thought it might also mean that the hotel wasn’t too far away.
Wrong! It was a ridiculously long ride. And it was in a horse-drawn carriage!
If that wasn’t bad enough, it was literally 105 degrees or more outside. Cars are passing us as we are trotting along, or rather plodding along. I’m sure the horse hated the situation as much as I did. I’m baking in the heat and wondering if I’ll ever get to the hotel when it started. Yes, I am one of THOSE people. I’m allergic to everything, especially farm animals (that’s why I pre-booked a taxi, not a horse!). I start sneezing, my eyes started watering and the snot started flowing. I was not happy.
By the time we finally got to the hotel I was drenched in my own sweat, eyes bloodshot and watering, snot was dripping from nose, and I was sneezing every five seconds. Nice.
This went on for pretty much the entire time I was in Bagan. My friend was patient and nice about it, but the amount of snotting and tissue couldn’t have been much fun to deal with. She gave me some cold medicine, which helped a bit, but I needed to bomb this with some real stuff like 10 Benadryls.
Oh, but I’m in Burma!
I went around to the drug stores and pharmacies asking for antihistamines, Benadryl—anything that would help. I would have mimed sneezing if it weren’t for the fact I was sneezing every moment. One “pharmacist”—and I use the term lightly—asked what was wrong and what I needed the medicine for. I was like, really? Look at me dip shit! I am dying here!
Finally I managed to find some cold and sinus medicine. I spent most of the day in my room, which wasn’t so bad. I mean, it was really hot and dusty outside, and I felt like crap. The room had air-conditioning, except when the power went out which was fairly regular. Welcome to Burma! They have the ability to follow you and imprison you, but not to get the power to stay on.
After resting for most of the day, I needed a beer. It’s hard lying around, and it was after all, a thousand degrees outside. Besides, nothing goes better with antihistamines than beer.
I drank 5 bottles. Yeah, no big deal to you lushes, but a bottle is actually the same as 2 and half or even three regular bottles of beer. Mix that with antihistamines and I was lit up and flying higher than a kite. I managed to get Burmese makeup put on my friend’s face (that was fun for me, if not for her) and made friends with the cute servers (alas, nothing came of that other than repeated questioning if I wanted more beer the next day).
Throughout this whole ordeal I still had 2200 temples to see. In my infinite wisdom I thought we would ride bikes to the temples. Thank god my friend can’t ride a bike. She practically killed herself trying one out in the driveway of the hotel. That meant taking a jeep. The driver was nice, but didn’t speak any English and didn’t know his way around the temples. Seriously? You are a tour guide in Bagan where there is one single thing to do—see temples—and you don’t know where they are?
That didn’t go over so well. Aside from paying roughly $25 which was way too much, we actually missed out on a good sunset one night. Yeah, I know, $25 doesn’t seem like much. But would you like it if you walked into McDonald’s and they told you a hamburger was $25? You know what the price should be, so getting jacked, and jacked by an idiot no less, doesn’t make you feel good.
While all this is going on, I’m in the back of a jeep dying from my constant allergy attacks and massive hangover as dust is flying up around us while we search for the right temple. Oh yeah, I neglected to mention. These aren’t jeeps like in America. No, they are fully open pieces of crap that let every bit of dust kicked up by the tires surround you and cover every part of your body—even places you thought were sufficiently covered. How the hell does dust get THERE?!?! Really, I want to know!
Fortunately, all this BS gets us back to the bar a lot quicker because we never did find the temple. I was secretly thankful. I needed to douse my sinuses in copious amounts of alcohol. And it was as hot as balls outside, so a cold beer was a god send. I think my friend was happy too. She was saying she could barely breathe because she felt like she was in an oven. Everyone knows you can breathe better with a beer attached to your lips, so we were both happy.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I saw Bagan and the people are great (even the hotel keeper that is always charging you triple what you should have to pay). I’m just not sure it worth spending more than a couple of days there. More than three and you are seriously pushing the limits. No doubt there are some travelers that will find the dust and horses charming. I’m not one of them.
The roads suck, there are tour buses running through town every 10 minutes and for whatever god damn reason they feel the need to blast their horns. The temples are nice, but after you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. After 4 or 5 days, I was ready to move on.