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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bagan’s Temple of the Rising Sun


There's no way we would've missed out witnessing the daily handling of the torch by darkness to daylight. The idea was to stand somewhere atop a temple and greet the sunrise with awakened eyes. However, in rare instances where reality overtakes the expectations of imagination, what I saw was more gratifying and romantic - even without reciting a line from a damn Nicholas Sparks novel. Even If I nibble the breakfast of the most obnoxious man in the world that morning, I'd still categorize the major part of what I've experienced that day as something I should keep in my memory vault. Notwithstanding forgetting the name of the temple, that moment when the sun rose up over the vast temple-ruin-filled plains of Bagan, each moving stills commanded a concentrated stare. Moving images which are now on-call for situations when I find myself blindfolded, just so I could be reminded that a new day starts when darkness fades.

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It was still dark when we went out on our rented bicycles, while we chose to pedal our way, the others opted to ride a horse-drawn cart to Buledi Temple. The weather was colder than I expected coming from a day with high 30's Celsius temperature. Our ride was smooth over the asphalted road, with the stillness of a new day hanging around like the quietness of an empty room. I could only hear cracking sounds of scattered twigs as my bike wheels rolled over it. 

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Soon our guide, who was commandeering the horse-drawn cart turned right and unto a sandy terrain, pedaling through it became a bit harder as the thick soft sands buries our bicycle wheels by a couple of inches, leaving us no choice but to push it along until coming again over a flattened soil. Looking around I saw temples illuminated against a black sky, shining like gold from a distance while still surrounded by darkness. 

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We reached Buledi temple by the time the sky starts to turn light gray. The slowly seeping daylight exposes the vast light golden color of the Bagan plains. I saw the towering edges of the nearby temples, counting it will distract you further because of its sheer number. We climbed the stairs until we reached the third level of the temple and sat facing the direction of the rising sun. 

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As I was setting up my tripod, I looked out and saw an un-ending image of temples and pagoda of all sizes scattered around. It was a scenery similar atop Schwesandaw Pagoda, where we saw the setting sun the previous afternoon. Blinking your eyes means missing out on it by a precious few thousands of a second.

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The sky was foggy and even dusty, might be due to the desert-like terrain around Bagan. While it covers the sun, the brightness was enough to make the sun visible. As the Earth slowly turns and the fiery yellow round sun shoots up the sky, it produces a golden colored landscape. Soon the whole sky was turned into a high contrast of yellow-red, a dramatic picture which could fill an old man's eyes with drops of tear, while recollecting memories of a naked lover lying stretched over a grassy knoll. 

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I'm not that old yet, so my train of thinking was re-routed on how the towering temples silhouetted against the sun, weirdly reminded me of Gengis Khan's head. A little over a week before our trip to Myanmar, I came across many descriptions of Bagan. The word "timeless" is always mentioned. Standing atop the temple, nevermind if a heavy DSLR was hanging on my neck, shrug the existence of my lightweight tripod and the LED smart phone screens producing shutter sounds, there is this vibe of being captured in time - catapulted back hundreds or thousands of years and using your imagination, you could almost feel what it was like back in the 13th century.

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