Our guide in Bagan immediately reminds us of Lawrence, but without the star quality. He is twenty two, tall and lean with a terrible complexion and very trendy black framed glasses. Like many of the young Myanmar men his shiny black hair has dyed brown highlights. He has on a baby blue sweater over a white shirt and dark longyi, which he wears slung very low over his hips. He carries a mobile phone in his hand, and hanging from it is a small, terminally cute, white and pink teddy bear with a heart emblazoned on its chest. The overall effect leads one to question his sexuality. When he walks, the question is answered by a delicate swaying of the hips. He flashes a 200 megawatt smile that transforms his acne scared face into a very attractive one. What he has been unable to do with his complexion, he has made up for with many trips to the dentist. His teeth sparkle and gleam in the sunlight. He introduces himself by his Myanmar name, which is, he acknowledges, too difficult for foreigners to pronounce, so he suggests we call him Soe. Well that gets us off to a good start, and from this point on we refer to him as a Boy named Sue. He is charming and far easier company than Lawrence, plus he is an intelligent and knowledgeable guide.
We spend the next two days touring Bagan. Until today, we have been unsure about how well Mynamar compares to our previous trip to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Today, Myanmar comes into its own. Bagan is breathtaking; a large plain of around 42 square kilometers on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River, that is home to a few small villages and over 4000 temples and stuppas. Most of them were built between the 11th and 13th centuries, although the earliest date back to the 3rd century, and we see several from the 9th century.
It all came to an end with the Mongolian Invasion in 1287. Fortunately the Mongols were also Buddhists and left the Pagodas intact. At one point there were 5000 of them, but the ravages of time reduced that number considerably. Then a huge earthquake in 1975 damaged many more. Now there are around 4,000 but many are just piles of rubble. There are maybe 2,000 that are worth a visit. We only have two days, and manage to see about 15!