Thoughts from Bagan

February 17, 2015. Sunset at Pyathada Pagoda, Bagan, Myanmar.

“Again, thousands of miles across the globe, I find myself waiting for the sun to set. Sipping a Sprite this time though, not beer. Why did I stop drinking Sprite? So refreshing.

As I was biking to my final destination temple where I knew I would spend the last moments of daylight I thought back to how many times in the past almost 8 months I have sought out a place to watch the ball of fire drop below the horizon. I remembered sitting on the wall overlooking the Caribbean in Cartagena, way back in August. I remembered hiking to the top of the hill in Copacabana to watch it set below Lake Titicaca. The time our sandboarding group had pisco sours at Lion King Rock, overlooking the otherworldly Atacama desert. There was the dock in Colonia del Sacramento, with the boats in the harbor. The time Habibi sent the sun down with a standing ovation in the Whitsundays. I watched it with the penguins at the St. Kilda Pier in Melbourne. Then from an infinity pool in Vinh Hy Bay. And with hundreds of bats in Battambang. Pascal and I raced to catch it in Khao Lak, but barely missed it and had to settle for just-after-sunset light over the Andaman Sea. My sister and I made it with happy hour drinks in Ao Nang and again in Gili Air. Utopia was the perfect setting with Simo in Luang Prabang, and Huay Tung Tao Lake outside Chiang Mai with my border crossing friends. And now here in Bagan I’m sitting on top of Pyathada Pagoda watching it set over a landscape dotted with temples, the Mekong and a mountain range serving as a backdrop.

How many times in how many places I’ve watched this natural phenomenon. The base idea may be the same, but the changing setting makes it look new every time.

I’m sure I’ll have the same experience with sunrise tomorrow – remembering Kaikoura, flying into Sydney, Lan Ha Bay, Angkor Wat, and Gili Air – even though there have been fewer sunrises than sunsets in my travels. Still, that doesn’t lessen their beauty. In fact, I tend to prefer the peacefulness of sunrises to the crowds of sunsets.

I find myself wondering if I’ll keep up this habit of watching daylight begin and end once I’m back in a daily routine. Maybe it’s better if I don’t. This is not something that should be routine. It never has been in all these places because the setting was never the same. So maybe it’s a ritual I’ll reserve for new places or certain ones that deserve it. Only time will tell. The great thing about sunrises and sunsets is that they’re not going anywhere. Wherever I end up, the sun must go down, and it must come up again. There’s something wonderfully comforting about that.”

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