“Everything is a memory. Everyone becomes a memory,” I waxed nostalgic on Facebook. Even a place could become a memory. My first visit to Macau in the early 1980s was marked with colonial nostalgia. Stone and clay were a stark contrast to the steel and glass of Hong Kong even then. Macau had since moved on 35 years later. Skyscrapers had broken out of its skyline, but it had done a better job at memory preservation than its sister city.
My closest encounter with the flat-top monolith favored by aliens in Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind was with its less famous cousin on the other side of the world. I had never even heard of it until a Google search led my travel buddy Melds and me to photos of Taung Kalat (Pedestal Hill), the 600-meter volcanic plug sticking out of the gentle slope of 1,500-meter Mount Popa. It would become a non-negotiable stop in our Myanmar itinerary the following year. Devil’s Tower in the US gained Hollywood fame, but what set Taung Kalat apart was the sprawling Buddhist monastery at the summit.