Saturday, January 13, 2018

Bagan Day 1

Having arrived late in the afternoon by riverboat to Bagan two days ago, we settled in to our lovely hotel Tharabar Gate and spent a leisurely couple of hours sitting in the bar, enjoying cocktails and free wifi. We will be here for 4 nights, before flying to Inle Lake where we'll spend another 4 nights. 

I'm still feeling the effects of my cold in that I'm going through about a box of Kleenex a day and doing some coughing, but I feel great and my appetite has only improved. The food is good and so is the beer!

This area is known for having lots of temples. In fact, there are over 2,000 within just a 39 square mile area.  Yesterday it felt like we might have seen 500 of them......we saw a very healthy handful. The most well known one is Ananda but honestly, to me it was a disappointment. There is a striking standing Buddha image inside but I didn't care for the temple because as part of its restoration they are adding things to it, like wooden carved doors made to look very old. The original temple never had doors. So why add them I ask? Just one example. 

After lunch we visited a lacquer workshop. Bagan is well known for its beautiful lacquer work and goods. I was impressed by how much effort goes into making this product. The resin, which turns black upon oxidation, comes as sap from a tree. It's then stirred and painted onto trays and bowls and other items and then set to dry over a 7 day period. Then it is painted again, dried again, and repeated for a total of 9 times. Somewhere in the middle of this, cotton is added and lacquer applied over it which gives the item its incredible strength. 

After the last coat of resin is applied, it is polished to smoothness and then etching and design work begins. All of these steps, mind you, are done manually. They even have a trade school here in Bagan that teaches this skill. Once the etchings are done, be they simple or incredibly detailed, it's then time to paint color on. They use powders from plants - yellow, red, green, blue. The more color you want means that you do one at a time, then after drying, some of the color is scratched off and then a new color is added. It builds from there. Whew!!

In the late afternoon we took a sunset boat ride on the Irrawaddy which ended up being very relaxing. 

Today we have a cooking class and tomorrow is a big surprise - to you, not me. I already know it!

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