Kyaukpadaung, Mandalay Region, Myanmar
May 30, 2018
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.