MOUNT POPA AND THE SLEEP DEPRIVED DRIVER
MYANMAR – MARCH 2017
If you ever get a chance to visit Myanmar a flight to Bagan is well worth it. I can definitely recommend the domestic airline, Air KBZ. They run small prop planes, that are very comfortable and surprisingly enough the inflight service is as good as anywhere in the world. The airport at Bagan however is nothing to write home about, it’s basically a tin shed. However, our accommodation at Amazing Bagan Resort was far better than we had imagined. We had booked the honeymoon package which gave us entitlements that were far beyond what we expected. In the afternoon our driver took us for a tour around some of the thousands of magnificent temples, stupa’s and pagodas that grace the Bagan area. On our outing we saw the famous Shwesandaw Stupa, the Ananda Temple which is one the finest and best preserved of all the Pagan temples and the biggest of them all the Dhammayangyi Temple.
In the evening we relaxed near the pool. Over pre-dinner drinks we heard a loud humming sound around the perimeter of the property. We were also a bit concerned about the developing mist and smell that was gathering around us. We found out that this was a daily ritual that happened around dusk to ward off mosquitos. In other words, nothing to worry about.
This morning we were picked up by a different driver for our visit to Mount Popa. There are not many tar sealed roads in Bagan in fact most are just dirt tracks some more visible than thers. On the route to Mount Popa we encountered a number of villages but also came across a lot of small family groups alongside the route attempting to attract our attention. The land here is very barren, more like the African desert so it’s understandable these people will try anything to survive in this hash environment. It’s hard not to have some sympathy for their plight but if we were to have stopped to help everyone of them, we would never have got to our destination which in itself takes the best part of two hours. The sealed and pot holed road into Mount Popa was very busy the day we were there, so much so that the driver had trouble getting us close to the entrance let alone finding a half decent parking space. Mount Popa itself is spectacular but to get to the top requires a reasonable level of fitness because of the steepness of the climb. Along the way there are lots of hawkers only too willing to sell us merchandise from their stalls as well as several monkeys of all shapes and sizes also wanting to relieve us of your possessions. Only one of our group took the challenge to walk to the top. The rest of us got half way but decided that removing our shoes for the remainder of the ascent was not in our best sanitary interests.
On our way back to the Amazing Bagan Resort our driver was overcome with tiredness and started dropping off to sleep. I was sitting in the front passenger seat and offered to drive the rest of the way, but he would have none of it. The fact that he was in no fit state to drive caused us some anxiety. Fortunately, he drove very slowly which meant I was able to position myself ready to grab the steering wheel and pull on the hand brake if necessary. We got back safe and sound no thanks to him and it didn’t matter that we took twice as long to get there. It was pleasing to see that we had a different driver to take us to the cruise boat the next morning. (More about that experience in a future blog) I can’t say enough about the Amazing Bagan Resort. Apart from the fact that it was a great relief to get back there after our harrowing experience the hotel itself is quite luxurious and the staff are friendly and courteous.