“Music saves the soul. Play softly while you read.”
April 26, 2046
How are you? I hope you’re doing well. I know you hated your gray hair plus the obvious wrinkles on your face. And the saggy skin of your neck makes you grumpy at times. I hope you’re in a good mood today to be reminded of the fun story about your solo trip in Bagan, Myanmar way back in 2014. You were so free as a bird. It would be really nice to know all stories about you too and hear whether my dreams did came true. I hope they did, I tried my best.
You flew to Myanmar on Christmas day of 2014 in a search for something valuable but you had no idea what exactly you’re looking for. Something that’s indescribable. A strong magical emotion, perhaps? Something profound comparable to mixed feelings you have when seeing rainbows over cliffs and waterfalls with colorful birds singing and whirling around and the adrenaline rush on the very minute when the roller coaster train has finally been released off a long steep launch track. Something that gives you a sense of accomplishment and humility at the same time. Something that measures how courageous and frail you can be. And I’d like to believe that somehow, you found it in Bagan – your most favorite place in Myanmar.
The excitement can be seen on your eyes when the plane was about to land in Bagan Nyaung-U Airport. The sight of countless stupas over hazelnut-ish soil surrounded by trees under a sunny clear blue sky made you giddy like a child on a Christmas morning. The road from airport to the hotel you booked has the sight of these stupas at closer distance thus the zest got stronger. You can hardly wait to explore the town.
You stayed in The Floral Breeze Hotel in New Bagan and loved the red facade of the infrastructure. It was too cold to take a dip in the pool, you didn’t have time anyways during the daylight. There were 2 beds in your room that made you realize you were really alone and missing a partner in crime, but “who cares”? You proudly put all your stuff on the other bed and felt optimistic that in time, you will fly back to Bagan with a funny cute guy worth traveling with. You took your time to take photos of the lovely accommodation before you decided to rent an e-bike, you have never tried one before. You had no idea how it works. After a couple of minutes of how-to’s tutorial, your Bagan adventure begun.
In your white sling bag was a small map, your phone at the verge of getting drained, Burmese Kyats, a handkerchief, a hand sanitizer, passport and your rose gold pinkish compact camera. You opened up the map and realized you just needed to bike straight from the main Bagan-Chauk Road to reach old Bagan. Then you thought “screw the map!”, you wanted to get lost anyways. You rode to Old Bagan, but you struggled with the e-bike. You got scared of the big trucks honking both from your behind and driving in your opposite direction. The fact that you’re driving in the main road over a slippery sandy surface at the sides made you quiver more. You fell off many times, scratches with tiny amount of blood are everywhere – elbows, ankles, arms, hands – the little girl in you must’ve cried but you didn’t. You got injured whilst still on your way to Old Bagan, you expected more scratches at the end of the day! You cursed the e-bike and silently murmured “fuck fuck fuck!”. You did this every time you fall and get up. You decided to relax for a little while and eat lunch in one humble eatery at the roadside where the cook and the waitress do not speak English but meekly answered you with smiles and nods. You were the only customer and no one was there to help you with translations. It was good though they had both Burmese and English menu, you pointed over deep fried pork cutlets with rice, spring rolls and avocado smoothie and didn’t bother to ask about items in the menu that seemed interesting. You cleaned your scratches with the bottled water they served while waiting for the food, you endured the prickling sensation you’re not used to and continuously murmured the same F word. Your teary eyes were scared to get more along the way. How long have you biked, you asked yourself. You had no idea where you were in the map, nobody can tell you at that time. The food was honestly delicious as if your mom cooked it for you. A soy sauce+vinegar+garlic+chilies combo condiment was handed over to you by the cook while he gave you a thumbs up implying you must really try it, it reminded you of your uncle at home who had magical hands creating the most enhancing condiments and sauces. You thanked and appreciated the eatery staff for the very nice lunch then you drove off with a brave heart believing that you can still enjoy the rest of the day. I must tell you that you fell off the e-bike again before leaving the eatery, the worst one that gave you the most prickling cut under your feet that made it difficult for you to walk the entire day. You found the fall funny though, the waitress helped you get up and you two laughed together. The good news is, that was the last fall you had. I guess the worst fall in life hits us hard that it gives us the best lesson, the wisdom that no matter how badly you fall, you must get up, stand strong and try not to fall the same way again.
You din’t mind the heat of the sun after 12 noon. You know you loved the sun. You visited one temple to another, drove wherever road your heart desires. You were still scared of the trucks and cars honking, but this time you biked faster, way faster than the first time from the hotel. You climbed tall pagodas as if each one will give you a different view of Bagan. But no, it was the same view every single time but you still did it and enjoyed the uniqueness and the quiet atmosphere of the archaeological zone. Birds were chirping, wind was blowing, your skin was gradually burning, your sole was bleeding and aching, the sight was extremely amazing, other tourists were smiling at you, you smiled back. These elements gave you mixed emotions, a lovely one that made your heart pound in perfect rhythm.
In one temple, you met a German guy, Stefan, he was a lone traveler too, he was tall and skinny, getting a little bald and was on his late 30’s. Obviously not your type but you didn’t mind befriending him because he was too nice to initiate a conversation. He knows where to go and how much time should be allocated in each point, he studied the place before leaving the hotel, unlike you Miss Spontaneous! Then you thought it would be nice to bike with someone in a place you hardly familiarized, why not have someone to laugh together with and exchange stories about life in between stops at least for the whole afternoon? You spent the rest of the day with him. You met his friends, (which he met a day before you met Stefan) at Shwe Zi Gone Pagoda where you acted as his tour guide. Stefan’s friends asked him where to get such a beautiful local guide who speaks better English than the one they had before. You blushed, felt flattered and smiled to these friendly souls. You didn’t admit to them that you were not really a tour guide, not even after bidding goodbye at the end of the day. You and Stefan found it funny and laughed hard about it. You spent some time talking and taking pictures, it was a blithe moment.
Stefan’s friends have already seen the sunrise at Shwe San Daw pagoda and planned for something else during the dusk. You joined Stefan to see the sunset at the mentioned pagoda and was more than thankful you met him on the road. If not, I knew you would’ve just ridden back to hotel and fought the cold water in the pool – boring! You reached Shwe San Daw around 4:30 in the afternoon, you carefully climbed up the steep temple made of stones and you had the best spot at the top. As the sun started to descend over the Bagan horizon, more people were coming in. You secured your spot and successfully took pictures of the lovely sunset. It was such a magical show, everyone at the temple clapped their hands the moment the sun was gone, all were left in so much so much awe. Your eyes were teary again, you can’t believe such a marvelous sight can move you to so much amazement. You were running out of superlative adjectives to describe how breath-taking it was and how beautiful your emotions were while the nightfall hues dominated the sky. You climbed down the stairs and started to bike back to your hotel. Stefan was on the same way as yours. The road back to Floral Breeze was long and it was getting cold. You courageously biked so much faster together with all the tourists heading back to their respective accommodations in New Bagan. The wind was cold but the sight of the cloudless night sky was amazing that you forgot you were wearing a short sleeved top. You were under an infinite blanket of million stars, biking with people from all over the world, of different ages, different skin color. In your mind, one of them may also be in search of something like you do.
You exchanged email addresses with Stefan and he asked to have dinner with you at the junction after freshening up though you both knew you cannot have the e-bike anymore, you two have to walk in the middle of the dark. Upon reaching your hotel room, you felt really tired. You showered and emailed Stefan that it was really nice to meet him and you were really grateful that he spent his afternoon with you then you politely ditched the dinner invitation because you can’t find the energy to go outside your hotel anymore. You just asked the hotelier to bring your dinner inside your room. You rested with a joyful heart and woke up early the next day and biked again back to Old Bagan after breakfast and took other routes you missed. This time, you chose the real bike, and pedalled the whole morning. A good way to burn calories, you thought. You bought souvenirs for your younger sisters, Donna and Danelle, and for your parents too. You had a five dollar worth fish and rice lunch and you were overwhelmed by how much side dishes were included in the meal. In the afternoon, you flew to Yangon. You endlessly looked back at the photos you took and realized that even when you had a very short time staying in this wonderful Burmese city, you truly fell in love with Bagan.
I’d like to believe you found something magical in Bagan. Something that only you and I can ever understand. The courage, both the merriment and sadness, the cordiality, being appreciative of the history, of people’s efforts, of diversity and culture, of existence of different religions – these are the important constituents to get the most out of an adventure, we believe. I hope I did things in Bagan that will make you look back and be reminded of how beautifully amazing you were in your late 20s as you were equally still at your 60s. The adventures after Bagan continued in other places, in other corners of the world. The magical feeling you looked for leveled up each and every time you flew. I tried to grasp those indescribable things in my hands on every trip, I hope you can tell and agree that I did. I hope you’ve already found someone to travel with you back to Bagan, the man of your dreams with sense of humor who found good things from the sound of your laugh, because this is what I have promised you way back. I hope you are happily married now with this man and I hope you two have traveled the world together. I hope you now discovered what your favorite cuisine is, because you love to eat a lot, hehe. . If you are divorced, which I am not wishing but I’m very much open-minded to the possibility of you being one, I hope I already made you strong enough over the years to be capable of being alone. I think I have tried hard enough to achieve happiness in my own self believing that felicity can never be won by being with someone but rather by sharing it with someone. I hope your teenage offspring/s find your travel stories interesting that will make them idolize you and be like you somehow – spontaneously packing her bags, leave, make the most out of it then write everything about it. I hope you’ve already found the bliss you are looking for from all the crazy things I did. Lastly, I hope that your age which made you fragile does not stop you from being keen for more.
Your ghostly 28-year-old self