I had moments of total bliss in nature when I was camping in the Kimberley’s bush in Australia and I often wondered if I would get to more places like this in the world, where I would feel in awe and deep pure silence again. A big part of me knew that there are many parts of the world that are untouched (or mostly) and one of them is the archeological site of Bagan.
My friend and I arrived early morning in this small town and I expected a little town with a few temples erected across a small area. But the temples 'were not part of it', Bagan itself is a land of more than 4000 temples everywhere, built by the Burmans in the 9th century before losing control and having various invaders wanting a piece of this connecting land between India and China. The wealthy families of Burma built their own temples as a sign of wealth and their devotion to Buddha. Prior to the 1962 coup d’état, Myanmar has been one of the wealthiest nations in Asia and it supplied 90% of rubies in the world. Now that it’s reopened its doors, so much of it still remains under explored.
We hired 2 bikes and went off on kilometres of dirt roads and rocky paths, we got lost, spent 5 hours under the scorching sun in the jungle and bush, passing by the thousands of temples. Along the way, we saw a handful of tourists on horse carts or bikes and the land is so immense and so quiet, it was meditative in its own way.
It’s true that a temple is a temple and however different and meaningful each of them is, they all resemble each other somehow. More so, after seeing Angkor Wat in its extravagant and rugged beauty, I thought it would be an exploration of just a different architecture. Bagan temples are not as majestic but its beauty lies at the top of the highest temples. Bush and jungle land with domes popping everywhere …. It is breathtakingly beautiful and I would not do it justice explaining what my eyes captured at that moment. I can however attempt at explaining how it feels when you reach the top of one of these sacred buildings (the one I climbed is Phya That Gyi), sweating from riding through the tough paths where it often felt like quick sand. Our bikes would get stuck in the sand and the efforts to ride kilometres through them required the brain to switch off from everything and not falling once more off the bike and struggling to get it back on track.
Reaching a temple, seeing it, sensing its pure power and climbing to the top to see all the others in their unique simplicity in a vast land, is a unique force that does make you feel part of an old world, full of wonders and humility. I felt inexplicably peaceful and deeply silent.
Tears rolled off my cheeks from joy, serenity and above all, from immense gratitude. The gratitude to be there, in the middle of a land with no one in sight but the keeper of a big temple and the gratitude for being on a quest that only my spirit and soul could take me on. Not the brain and not the heart but only the soul’s search for meaning.
During that time perched up high, I thought of my apartment. Leaving where I called ‘home’ was bittersweet. It was harder than I expected. It was harder because nothing can prepare anyone from leaving their cocoon for freedom…even the best adventure in the world. We spend years creating routines and patterns consciously and unconsciously that we refer to as ‘our world’ and when we decide to break it off, it’s letting go of a big part of ourselves. May be temporarily, may be permanently …
So get on the plane soon to get lost in its vast jungle and do climb up to the top of one of its vast temples for deep pure silence.