Jogging around Burma’s ancient kingdom of Bagan

I was in Burma last week on a whirlwind tour of the country. One of our stops was in Bagan, one of Burma’s ancient cities. Over 4,000 Buddhist temples were commissioned by Bagan’s kings during a 230 year building frenzy that ended in 1287. And many of these temples still remain, strewn out across a vast dust plain the size of Manhattan.

One of the many cool temples all over Bagan.

Most tourists visit the temples via their sturdy tour bus with their local guide in tow. The Lonely Planet suggests hiring a bicycle to get around the sights. For the more romantically inclined, there were horses and carts available, though those passengers I saw bumping along on the back of them lost their romantic notions once their butts hit the dusty trails.

However I discovered the most superior way to travel across the temple dotted land that no other travel guide has figured out. I put on my shoes and turned on my GPS and went running between the ruins.

Quick break in my jog between the temples of Bagan.

Because there’s loads of villages dotted around the area, there was a network of trails that I could easily follow. So I would pick out a temple on the horizon, and run over to that. Then I’d pick out another one, and checking my GPS, make sure I was running away from where I began.

So many temples to run between - which ones to chose!

Sometimes the trails would peter out and I would end up running across someone’s field. Fortunately this year’s harvesting had already been done, so I didn’t destroy some farmers’ crop at the expense of my daily exercise. And the Burmese farmers themselves smiled as I sprinted past them. Not like Irish farmers who’d be after ye with a shot gun for the mere thought of trespassing.

One of the many tracks I followed to lead me to another temple on my tour.

There were some incredibly beautiful buildings I visited on my run. Stupas covered in golden leaf with towering Buddhas lurking inside their massive solid teak front doors. Red bricked edifices with tomb-shaped domes and wall paintings from centuries past. There were even some temples I could climb up on narrow, steep steps to see the kingdom stretching out before me.

Gold leaf stupas in Bagan

No one seemed to mind at all a white woman touring the temples this way. Only thing I bore in mind was not to go inside religious places given my shorts and t-shirt attire. And it was surprisingly cool with a gentle breeze blowing across the plain. But then again, I do live in Cambodia where the heat can at times be oppressive.

And once the mid-morning run was done, it was off for some re-fuelling. A guidebook tip led us to an Indian restaurant, Aroma 2, where curries and condiments galore were laid before us on banana leaves.

Yum! Indian lunch at Aroma 2 in Bagan.

And, at the end of the day, I refreshed myself with a cold Mynamar beer watching the sun set on the banks of the Irrawaddy River. A nice way to complete a day of fast track sight-seeing.

Sunset over the Irrawaddy River, taken from the banks of Bagan

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