Sagaing Hill in the Evening, Myanmar

I was several days into my time in Sagaing Hill, but I felt that I had only begun to explore the area and its culture. It was a place rich with history and faith and wandering its streets and pathways, I felt that I could spend years there and only begin to understand the faith and its teachings.

Sedi La Su Taung Pyae Pagoda and Irrawaddy River in the Evening, Sagaing Hill, Myanmar
Single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 70 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 4 seconds, ISO 64, tripod.

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Again and again I climbed to the top of Sagaing Hill, often to photograph the city, but sometimes simply to find a quiet place and think. Myanmar tends to inspire that in a person; surrounded by temples and hundreds of monks and nuns, it’s hard not to feel contemplative here.

On a particularly warm evening, I made my way to the top of the hill, took some photographs overlooking the city, and sat down in the shade of a tree. Before me was a view that I had come to love — the golden stupas of Sagaing Hill glittering like gemstones in the sunlight and the great Irrawaddy River flowing in the distance.

I thought of Gautama himself, who found enlightenment as he sat underneath a Bodhi tree. I won’t claim any kind of special insight or mastery of a spiritual discipline. I can’t say for certain what kind of tree I sat under. But as I sat there, looking over the hillside and the river beyond, I felt an ancient peace settle over me. In my case, it was the peace that comes from a deep contentment with the present and a profound appreciation of beauty. There is something very special about Sagaing Hill; it was easy to see why so many devout Buddhists are drawn to the place. I was in no hurry and had nowhere else to be. I settled myself against the tree and prepared to spend the afternoon admiring this beautiful, serene bit of creation.

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