It’s still Wednesday, I think, and we’d been promised the best vantage point to see the sun set over the temples of Bagan. Even though we’d been up since 3.30 (and were beginning to feel like it, too) we really didn’t want to miss this highlight.
We drove through the old part of Bagan, back into the temple area and made our way to the Shwegugyi pagoda from where Aung assured us we’d have a great view.
He was right. We climbed up the steep steps to the base of the pagoda and joined a few other tourists to stand and wait. Whilst we did, we were offered T shirts, terrible paintings of monks, lacquerwork and all kinds of other tourist stuff – Bagan really does hold the ticket for being pestered with people selling stuff.
Being in such a beautiful place was a real privilege and the opportunity to chat to our travelling companions was fun. All widely travelled, interesting and from different corners of the globe, the conversation never palled. And of course, we all had one thing in common: We were thrilled to be here.
So it didn’t really matter that it wasn’t a spectacular sunset. As the minutes passed, it was clear that the haze was going to overwhelm the view and that we weren’t going to get any of those classic photographic images tonight.
We didn’t mind one bit. How could we, when we were standing in such an amazing place?
More people were arriving, by all manner of transport, some leaving it until the very last minute to arrive,
The sun was going to wait for no one, but it was the early birds who’d got the best view and seen the clearest sights.
We didn’t wait until the sun actually set, but headed on down those steep steps when it was still light enough to see where we were going. Actually, someone had lit candles all the way down, which was extraordinarily thoughtful and much appreciated.
A small surprise lay ahead for us. Whilst we’d been gone, the Ananda had moved from the riverside mooring to a nearby sandbank, so our return journey was by local speedboat. After a quick shower and change, we assembled in the bar for what I referred to as the lifeboat drill, but which Guest Relations Manager Tim correctly called the Champagne Reception. It did bear some passing resemblance to a lifeboat drill in that the correct use of a lifejacket was demonstrated, but the general advice was that the river is too shallow for the boat to sink and that possibly, the best action to take in the case of our taking on water is to head upstairs to the bar and order a cocktail!
Fortified with a couple of glasses of champagne, we stepped back out on board the speedboat with a little more confidence, because dinner tonight was served on the sand, where a torchlit dining room had been set up ready.
As we approached the beach, fireworks were lit and the most magical atmosphere set for what was to be a truly memorable occasion.
Dining under the stars, we enjoyed the company of a delightful couple and ate the best meal so far. The Ananda chef was formerly at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok and his culinary expertise is legendary. After a starter of assorted salads and suchlike, we progressed to a stir fry set up and cooked by the man himself. The idea was, we were to gather our chosen ingredients and he would cook them as requested – except I had no idea what to choose, so I asked him to create something for me.
I have no idea what he did to make those few simple ingredients taste so good. A spoonful of this (oyster sauce?) a little of that (“seasoning”) and the end result was spectacular.
The evening went so fast, in no time at all we were being advised that we might like to make our way to the boat again, for a jolly ride back to the Ananda. The strange thing is, when we woke this morning, she was back in her original mooring even though we never felt her move at all.
Maybe it was all a dream?