The city of Bagan is located in Myanmar (formerly Burma), a country not yet fully opened to mass tourism that is changing fast.
In Bagan, footwear and socks are prohibited in all temples. The entrance to several of these temples is littered with shops selling trinkets and counterfeit CK One perfumes, Revlon lippies and what have you. One would wonder which one of disobeying the shoe and sock rule or purchasing counterfeit knick-knacks at the door of a holy temple is really sinful. Or if Buddha simply just enjoyed shopping barefoot.
Inside the temples, women frantically rub each and every Buddha’s hands and knees before touching their faces and necks with their Buddha-impregnated hands. They then proceed to the nearby lipstick counter, happy to spend a few kyats on counterfeit cosmetics after receiving Buddha’s blessing. Buddhism and consumerism do rhyme, after all.
Every morning, zombie clad electric bikes glide silently in the dark at 14 km/h, everyone in the search of their own secret temple from which to perch themselves for sunrise. Boys with flashlights keen for a dollar or two lead the way to little known viewpoints where, if you’re lucky, you’ll find yourself alone or with just a couple other travelers, more than likely of the French sort. And before you, as the curtain of the night pulls up, low and behold, the most magical spectacle you have seen in a while.
Bagan was pure magic.