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Photo Journal: Chasing Sunsets over Bagan’s Pagodas, Myanmar

When I was little, sunsets were the harbingers of death. Yes, literally death. My mother would tell us terrifying stories of what clowns and monsters (euphemisms for child molesters and rapists; although “clown” does the job pretty well on its own, don’t you think?) did to little kids in the dark. I don’t remember what these things were exactly but I remember they sounded real bad.

 

And so, watching the golden rays of light slowly fade beyond the endless horizon was like the discordant sound of an alarm clock. It was a visual reminder that it was time to pack up Chutes and Ladders, bid neighborhood friends good night and peddle like a rabid mouse on my pink Huffy bicycle.

 

And because of my dear mother’s lovely tales of the guaranteed gruesome deaths that awaited young children around the dark corners of the dark house along the dark street in the dark, I would peddle like the wind with an occasional twist and turn only to make sure I wasn’t being hunted for the young and delicious child-meat that these villains saw me for. And between thoughts of “they’re coming for me…” and my frantic hustle to get home, I never had the luxury (or state of mind) to catch and enjoy the sunset.

 

And even after I got over my fear of monsters (not over clowns just yet, they’re still the most terrifying creatures in existence) by my mid-teens the tender and precocious age of 7, I never found the time to sit still while the day transformed to dusk. There was always something else to do: homework, birthday party, exam crunching, staying employed, Twilight Zone marathon.

 

It wasn’t until the last few years that I realized just how magical they are. Dusk has a way of relaxing the scene and ambiance, enhancing the colors of nature and hiding that two-slices-of-pie-too-much belly bulge (if that’s not magic, then it simply doesn’t exist.)

 

And watching the sun set over the thousands of ancient pagodas and temples scattered across the 26 sq. mile territory in Bagan was a sight for the sorest eyes. The bright sandy landscape transformed into golden speckles, the sky faded into juicy shades of orange, grapefruit, blueberry and the pagodas disappeared into quiet silhouettes against the rebellious streaks of clouds.

 

We stood atop Shwesandaw temple and watched the sun set with other sun seekers from all over the world. We were hot, hungry and tired from trekking across the landscape but the hour-long scene filled us with timeless awe. And it looked and tasted like nothing else in the world.

 

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