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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

First Sundown in Bagan


After witnessing a thousand sunsets in my life, I got used to it. Even the one which set directly across our office window, I often have taken it for granted. It warrants only a momentary pause "oh look at that fiery round sun", then I'm back at my computer desk. Not soon after, any remaining flicker of daylight is replaced by striking strobe lights from bumper to bumper cars and nearby buildings. The neon sign of "In God We Trust" attached to the roof of a condominium, creates a dragging longing for daylight. Still, I rest at the thought of the sun rising and setting again the next day. I'm definitely sure of that. I tend to overlook that the sun's clockwork cycle is what makes it possible for life to exist on this planet. Upon closer inspection, it is the most beautiful natural phenomenon which happens everyday. That moment between day and night, the short minutes which dusk spans, if I'm prodded with a choice. I would say is my favorite time of the day.

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Maybe I'm used to watching the sun drifts down into the horizon from my office or even from the rooftop of our house. Whenever I travel though, the sight of any sundown provides an added spectacle watching it from an entirely new platform. Whether standing from the beach, a mountain or in this case atop Shwesandaw Pagoda in Bagan, Myanmar.

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I remember climbing the steep stairs of Phnom Bakheng in Siem Reap to witness something I've witnessed a thousand times. The experience though was different, the stunning foreground and background plus the fact you were standing on a structure built over a many hundreds of years. It takes you back in time almost literally. 

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Our first day in Bagan we went biking around nearby temples. We were excited about the sunset as its one of the highlight for first timers in the place. At around 5:30 we started rolling our wheels over the sandy dunes and desert-like terrain towards Shwesandaw Pagoda. After a brief rest and sipping fresh coconut juice to its last drop, we climbed the stairs and at the upper-most level we settled into individual spots for the sunset viewing.

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The surrounding of Shwesandaw Pagoda offers kick-ass view of the many other temples and pagodas of all sizes and shapes. The contrasting colors of the gray sky, golden sand, green trees and the shimmery brick exteriors of the temples creates an image plucked out from a postcard. One could shoot a movie here with the characters reciting aloud "Pugad Baboy" comic strips and will still have a huge shot at winning a Best Cinematography award at the Oscars. 

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People from all over the globe started piling up the stairs and the walkways of each levels of the Pagoda. I found myself positioned near the top of the stairs, in an indian-seat position atop this small flat square, my tripod planted steadily and line of sight pointing towards the round mound of sun. 

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It wasn't the perfect backdrop to shoot sunsets as the sky was at its version of a human mind high with hallucinogens. Unclear, hazy and delusional. Pretending to be a picturesque sky when it clearly it is not. Nevertheless, the round red sun was still at its imposing presence. A cunning master of deceit, it always fools you into thinking it is the one which moves away from one part of the Earth, when in fact it is our planet escaping away from it. As illusions go, I saw it glides down from the horizon towards the steeples of the Pagodas in the foreground. 

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Each movement complimented by slow adjustments of daylight souring and turning into hints of darkness. Never before one gazes at the landscape of the earth witnessing the passing of day into night with such concentrated stare. Standing at a structure built long before there ever was any of us completes the experience.

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Sunset number 10,950. This one is for the books - or should I say one for the blog. In a place like Bagan, time stands still even for our generation who often doesn't find time to stop and wonder like an 8 year old kid, still fascinated minding nothing serious, just watching the wheels go round and round.


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