There are over 3,000 temples and shrines within a 10 km by 10 km area in the ancient city of Bagan, Myanmar. All are between 900 and 1300 years old, and yet none are in ruins. They have been scrupulously maintained as active Buddhist worship sites over the centuries by both locals and distant benefactors. But Bagan is flat and sprinkled with trees, and it is hard to appreciate the enormity of this undertaking from ground level. Going airborne in a hot-air balloon and seeing Bagan in the pre-dawn pastel mist provides a view that incorporates reality and fantasy in the same frame.
This photo came so close to not happening that the memory still gives me chills. In a foolish moment I had packed my spare batteries in a bag that was later lost by the airline. And in this part of the world, airlines don’t feel any particular obligation to unite you with your missing stuff. So I found some friendly people and bought their loyalty and hoped for the best. Despite trying to conserve electrons, my only battery began failing the moment of liftoff. I had to plan my shots extremely carefully, knowing that any shot could be my last. I went so far as to keep it in my pocket between shots, trying to keep it warm and get the maximum juice out of it. In the end, I got about 10 shots. This was the best of them. And my lost luggage, with batteries, caught up with me within an hour of touchdown. Lesson learned. (Price Schedule A)