Living in Bagan

Everyone we meet asks us to compare Bagan with Angkor Wat. But they are totally different. Firstly Bagan is on a flat plain. Secondly the scale is so different. Here the buildings are on a much smaller scale, but there are thousands of them. Angkor Wat is all about scale, huge buildings with decaying stucco covered with carvings and statues. Bagan was originally similar, but the stucco was made of mud and over the centuries was worn away by the elements. What remained of the stucco was mostly shaken loose by the 1975 earthquake. So now all the buildings are red brick, which gives them a totally different feel.

The town of Bagan is divided into Old Bagan and New Bagan. The centre of Old Bagan is a one square mile lot that is surrounded by a City Wall and Moat built in the 9th century.

There are 75 stuppas within the city wall, and until recently several small villages.

The family of a Boy named Sue lived in one of these villages. In 1990 the generals told everyone living within the City Wall that they had five days to tear down their house and move to an area the generals would provide. On the 5th day the Generals sent a large truck to each house and the family was ordered to load everything they owned including as much of the structure of their old house as possible, onto the truck. They were then taken to a plot of land in New Bagan, where all their belongings were dumped. They were told that this was their new home. They were given no help or monetary aid to build their new house.

A Boy named Sue is much more reticent about discussing the Generals than our previous guide, but he did tell us that story, as well as telling us that all the guides hate the present Government. However, when we told him that we had heard that all of Myanmar only got electricity for 3 days a week, he looked totally shocked that we knew this and refused to discuss it. This, despite the fact that Bagan is plagued by electricity cuts all the time. We are staying in one of Bagan’s five star Hotels, which is lovely. However the power shuts off several times each evening and everything goes pitch black for a few moments before the generators kick in. The same happens in the restaurants we eat in at night. When the power is on, it is totally erratic with the lights dimming and brightening again all the time. We have a television in the room which, because of the power supply, only produces a picture intermittently, although the sound works all the time.

This is also the first hotel we have stayed in that has Internet. However whenever we try to use it, we are told that it is down and that it will probably be switched on tomorrow. But tomorrow never comes. It is never available for our use during our stay.

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