And then there's Bagan. An ancient land untouched by time, Land of a Thousand Temples, shrouded in mist on the early morning when we got off the sleeper bus. Shivering in the cold -- surrounded by taxi drivers offering rates that are too good to be true -- we waited for our guide.
Shwesantaw was already crowded when we reached. Everyone wanted a glimpse of the mythical Bagan sunrise, even when it was 19°C. The wait was excruciatingly long, especially when we had only a scarf to share.
And then it happened.
The sun rose. The mist dissipated, almost languidly. A million temples appeared on the plains: hidden behind trees, perched on top of hills.
You asked yourself if beauty exists only on a dimension parallel to ours, and if you're in that dimension now. Perhaps these holy ruins are entrances to another realm, for mankind is incapable of making such beauties. Legends could stem from scenes like these.
Time didn't seem to exist as we traversed the landscape. A 3G-fuelled phone and an e-bike were the means that guided us around this ancient place. There were places where all the eye could see was an endless sea of brown trees and sand. Other places, temples were as common as wooden shacks in a village.
How suddenly the people left this place, disappeared in time. Only the Irrawaddy River knows the full history, but it will never tell.
Like waking up from a dream, gasping for breath -- no longer the cold, dry Burmese air -- Bagan retreated from reality into memory. Even in memories, the rustling of leaves on the Bagan plains sounds muffled, retreated into the mists.
Kipling was on the road to Mandalay; we might have treaded the same path.