A Storm in Heaven

Mandalay caught in the eye of a large thunderstorm.
Mandalay caught in the eye of a large thunderstorm.

This photo shows an immense storm slowly coagulating in the sky above the former Burmese capital of Mandalay မန္တလေး back in mid-2017. I took this from a vantage point on Mandalay Hill which rises gradually above the flat plain on which the city stands; after scaling endless sets of covered stairs in an attempt to investigate Su Taung Pyae Pagoda, which crests the mound’s apex.

I almost made it before the inclement weather rolled in, but instead only got as far as an oppressive, seemingly semi-derelict reinforced concrete shell in a poor state of repair, containing numerous caged shrines illuminated by only the pallid light of the occasional unornamented bulb dangling pitiably from a skinny strand of flex.

When the rain hit I sought shelter under the eaves and gazed out across the occluded cityscape at the ensuing maelstrom, as vast curtains of rain bent and distorted in the rising winds, softly illuminated by the light of the slowly setting sun. Thunder and lightning soon arrived, and I struck up a conversation with some of the locals who were also waiting for the deluge to pass, managing to secure a ride back to my hostel in the process. We hurried back down tiled steps now slick with water, sprinting across any uncovered ground, before arriving back at the entrance to a sky clearing as quickly as it clouded, and a chance to catch our breaths before taking to the now partially flooded streets.