But back to the temple we set out for before getting distracted by a 3 year old asking for money. This temple had a massive stone wall surrounding the courtyard. We took off our flip flops and wandered into the grounds.
Not long after, we were approached by a vendor, this one was an artist. He first started talking to us about the temple. It became apparent very quickly that he knew this place well. He was so nice we stayed with him as he guided us around the temple and talked about its history. He knew all the photo spots and the dark history of the temple. This king who ordered this place built was so ruthless that he would cut the hand off of any bricklayer whose bricks he could fit a toothpick between. He showed us a few less obvious stairwells and the many names this place went by. It turned out his family moved nearby when he was young and he spent a lot of time at this temple as a kid, jumping across the narrow ledges to see to its highest points. He said he only finished school up to grade 6 but his English was pretty good. He was so nice and a perfect impromptu guide that we had a look at his artwork. We sat down together as he showed us his painting and went into detail about the process. After spending nearly an hour here, we left with a painting of his and carried on. He mentioned another temple worth seeing so back on our bikes we headed in that direction.
The temple he recommended was nice, but the most memorable part was meeting another genuinely nice individual. As we walked past the souvenir vendors down a long hallway into the temple. One of the sellers quickly introduced himself and offered a handshake as we walked by. His teeth were red with the betel nut chew, but his had a big grin. We stopped briefly to talk to him and he asked where we were from. When we said Canada, he grew ecstatic! He wanted to know if we spoke French, what part we were from, and then pulled out a photograph from behind his stand of group of French-Canadian travelers he met a few years back. He said they were so amazing and that he loved Canadians. He promptly invited us into his home for dinner but we had to decline since we were leaving that night (although it would have been quite the experience). He then offered us a small gift – a small bamboo laquerware jar decoratively painted. He wouldn’t let us refuse it, told us to enjoy the temple and let us go on our way.
The people in Myanmar seemed to always go above and beyond to show their generosity and interest in travellers. Everyone, like this man, was so kind to us on our entire trip.