Thousands of Buddhist temples dot the plains around Bagan, Myanmar. Built between the 9th and 13th centuries, and heavily restored starting in the 1990s, the sheer number of these temples and ruins is an impressive sight. Outside of the most famous temples, their multitude makes it easy to find temples, stupas and ruins available to explore completely on one’s own. I did not find such isolation when I arrived at one of the several small hills in Bagan that are popular viewing spots for sunsets.

Crowded with what seemed like hundreds of other people and souvenir sellers, I watched the sun slowly recede behind the nearby temples. Small herds of cattle grazed nearby, their tinkling bells punctuating the evening air as they stirred up dust that diffused the rays of dying light. It was a scenic moment, but its serenity was hampered by the crowds. Once the sun disappeared, the crowds evanesced, and I was left alone on the hilltop. As I turned to leave, I saw two temples nestled in the scrub of the plain with a soft backdrop of pastel evening sky and a full moon overhead. I drank it in, captured this photo and enjoyed the unexpected serene and contemplative moment.