Burma (Myanmar)

Photographs by Shaun O'Boyle

Pagan Temples

I was in the country in March which is the hot dry season around Burmese new year, also called the water festival. I found out why they call it the water festival the hard way.  My train pulled out of Rangoon after dark, it was stifling hot on the train and all the windows were wide open. I was sitting back enjoying the nice breeze when suddenly whoosh, I was completely drenched by a gush of water through the window, some character had been waiting along the track with a large pail of water for a stupid looking gringo to show his face.
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All the Burmese in the car had a good laugh and to be honest it felt good and I was  relieved of the heat spell for a bit. Apparently throwing of water is quite common during the water festival and I didn't feel to bad for being singled out, I just didn't want to spend much time thinking of where the water had come from having seen a fair number of rail side canals in Asia, they are usually pretty much open sewers.
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The overnight trip up to Thazi was long and agonizing, I hate staying up all night anyway but there was no sleeping on this train, bright lights, no place to stretch out and the train rumbled and screeched along making frequent stops for no apparent reason. Besides I didn't want my pack and camera gear to get ripped off. I had heard of a few stories of apparently friendly locals making friends, chatting for a while and then offering food which would be heavily spiked with barbiturates. 

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While you lay in a near coma they make off with all your gear and you wake up with the worse hang over you ever had. It is unfortunate that you have to travel and judge everyone with that much caution because there are certainly many sincerely friendly people I met along the way, but to error on the side of caution is the best working policy I have found yet. So I sat up all night nodding off occasionally and then staring out through the gaping window shivering because I was still damp.

Thatbinu Temple
We arrived in Thazi in the early morning. No bus was there but that was to be expected.   I ended up catching a ride with a whole group of Burmese on the back of a pickup truck, about twenty of us hanging onto the truck anyway we could. I stood on the bumper hanging onto the rack, a rather precarious place considering the condition of the roads and the many very rough dry river beds we crossed. It was a much longer trip to Pagan than I expected, probably about 80 miles, and on those roads it took us about 5 hours. We did stop once at a tea stand in Myingyan (see the photos above) for a break.
View out Temple Door




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