Exploring on hourse cart and bicycle
A good way to explore the town and visit the pagodas is to hire a horse cart. It costs about US$10-30. Each of these carts can take 2 persons (not including the driver). Most of the driver can speak English. It is good to have your first day on horse cart to familiarise with the place and second day on a bicycle.
There are various trips organised, which will inevitably involve you ending up jostling with busloads of camera wielding tourists. You can either just pick a temple yourself or get some of the locals to take you to a less frequented place. There is something quite magical about watching the sun setting over the vast expanse of the plain with it's myriad temples. It's very relaxing, almost totally silent, and the colours are amazing. Treat yourself. Be aware that there are some temples you are not allowed to climb on for conservation reasons. Notable amongst these is Minglazedi which used to be a very popular place for sunset watching.
Balloon Trips, Bagan
A great way to start the early morning is either watching or being in a hot air balloon. It is a popular pastime. So popular, in fact, that there’s a new year’s eve version of the activity where fireworks are loaded onto a balloon and drop down over an open field.
Monks and Monkettes
If you haven't get your fill of the early morning monks alms begging and blessing when you were in Luang Prabang, get out to the street exactly 7:00 am and see the monks, this time wearing their vests in burgundy (not in orange). There is even a herd of little monks as young as 3 or 5 to 10-year olds parading bare foot with the tallest down to the smallest toeing the line and with the eldest and the shepherd of them all brotherly escorting the last and the youngest (a heartwarming sight to see). By the way, the first in the parade is the announcer carrying his little bell and beater. Other spectacles are the also bald-headed female monks or monkettes with their pink robes, orange skirts, and beige-ochre shoulder-to-armpit wrapped towels. Their way of begging is different. They use woven cane trays carried over their head and receive only one spoonful of uncook rice from each donor. These spectacles are best seen along the Nyaung Oo road from Thante Hotel to the Shwezigon Pagoda.
Night Market + Carnival
There is a small night market cum carnival in the middle of the small town. While there isn't much to buy or play compared to night markets in more developed countries, it is a good way to see first hand how the locals entertain themselves. There is an indoor stage where concerts are held (free), and an especially eye-popping Ferris Wheel, which is amazing for the fact that it runs not on electricity or gas, but on human strength. Young men clamber up and down the Ferris wheel with no protection or safety equipment of any sort, and use their own body weight to rotate the wheel. One wrong move and they could be fatally injured. This would be unthinkable in most countries, but it's just another night at the carnival for the Burmese. Quite an eye-opener.
Novice monk initiation rites
The place itself is colourfully festooned. A small show consists of songs by hired singers accompanied by ensemble music, a pep talk by a layman and some rituals. After some photos with their parents, the boys are brought again to another monastery (Myoe Daung Monastery) to be stripped, head shaved, and bathed. Finally they are assembled in the hall in front of the abbot for some prayer recitation, oath taking and robe-blessing ceremonies after which they are totally stripped and dressed in their new robe vestment by their parents. They will stay the rest of their school holiday in the monastery.
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