I stumbled out of bed at midnight. Come on, wake up already. While yawning, we went into the darkness out of charity. The noble cause? Watching the sunrise from a temple over a temple-dotted valley. Sounds good. We searched for a deserted and remote temple as we cycled along. It should be a piece of cake within this sea of temples. Well, in theory. We actually couldn’t see the wood for the trees, if we saw anything at all. No need to despair though. Persistence pays off, as it showed. We found a real beauty after cycling some extra kilometers. This one was really by the book, and that without reading one. We went on the roof and sat down. The crystal clear starry sky was very promising. Wonderful place, mighty views, special times, good company. Great vibes. This can’t go wrong, I reasoned. Everything seemed to turn out on a memorable day. A day packed with action, satisfaction and connectivity. And, who knows, one that possibly leads to more with a Canadian chick.
Boom! A bolt from the blue struck. Out of nowhere, my guts produced a disturbing noise. The supreme moment vaporized like hot air. I even skipped breakfast and took some pills. Too bad, no result. Shit… Not now, not now! There was no holding of it. Shit hits the fan with diarrhea. With shaking knees, I scrambled down as fast as I could. Once down, a tree on site took it all. While in squatting position, I inspect the damage through my legs. Good grace. Utter shame was dripping off it. This can no longer be covered, certainly not with a sparse handful of tiny leaves. I wiped my ass and climbed up again. Silently I took a bottle of drinking water and washed off my torn-through-the-leaves fingers. The unbearable stench of crime lingers. After an awkward little laugh, her laughter perished. An uncomfortable silence hung in the air until sunrise. A shout ended it abruptly.
“Hey, you! Get down here. Now!”
Chills went through my body. Oh oh. Now I’ve done it. As I went downstairs, visions of Locked Up Abroad raced through my head. I nearly pooped my pants out of fear of troubles. Once I stood face to face with the skinny little man, I braced myself for a rant. Let’s hope that will be all. Getting beaten up over and over again within an overcrowded cell… Nah, I rather give it a miss.
“You’re not allowed to climb this pagoda.”
“Oh, sorry sir. We’re sorry. We thought it was okay to do so.”
* With an angry glance, he points to a prohibition sign in English. I looked at it with a poker face.
“Didn’t see it in the dark,” I said without any conviction.
“Get lost before I call the police.”
“Please don’t. We’re going.”
I genuinely wanted to confess my improper feral poopy. But as a fresh temple-pooper, I didn’t have the balls to do so. Leg it, go now. Out of politeness, I didn’t give him an infected hand – that would be adding injury to insult. So I fled to the tourist village with the tail between my legs. Once in Bagan, we submerged within the anonymity of mass tourism. We lost each other in the crowd. Going out together, arriving home alone. I crawled onto bed as I felt abandoned and defeated. A catnap later and the shame had largely faded. Oh well. This was force majeure, so be it. It’s no use crying over spilled milk; let the second round commence. On my own, I had an eye for the historical splendor. That attention was well deserved. What a remarkable place. Then and now. A thousand years later, I saw the daily life of days long gone all upfront. Look closely and see the family squabbles and parties, obligations and expectations, couples in love and groups battling each other. Open your eyes and look at all the traditions and ceremonies, hierarchies and roles. Within this commercial circus of modernity, my imagination was crystal clear. The simplicity and mystery of it all. So human. So vivid. So… relatable.
During sunset, I sat on a temple once again. This time legally and with heaps of restless foreigners. Shutters and yells from various languages formed the orchestra. Tranquility gone, magic gone. I smiled while looking at the abundant selfie-sticks and forced poses. Actually, that interplay within the international rank and file was way more interesting to watch than an average star of an average galaxy. Those sharp contrasts between cultures, personalities and the zeitgeist were intriguing. What a special era this is, I thought. Previously unthinkable possibilities are now so accessible to ordinary Joe. Flying around for a penny and (expecting to) sit on the front row seat at every show. Lucky devils ay. Hey, can’t blame those millions of Western backpackers. Chasing dreams and fulfilling desires, bloody great. Gain life experiences, learn from them and enjoy the ride. Do it! Do it before ‘the real-life’ grabs you by the throat and squeezes all the life out of it. So: tick off the box and move on to the next hip destination. Go, go, go. #Yolo, #LivingTheDream, #Wanderlust, #No9to5, #ChasingTheAuthentic. Be a purebred experience-hunter, grab whatever you can grab. And just give a shit when needed. Can do. Tomorrow you’ll be gone with the wind anyway. Been there, done that, seen it ‘all’. Complicit? Whatever. Bye.
Having masses of restless thrill-seekers, noise-makers and stinky hobo’s on your roof; not everyone is keen for the global shit-show.