Mingun Paya is a huge half-built stupa across the river Ayerwaddy from Mandalay. It dates back around 200 years, and had it ever been finished it would have been the largest stupa in the world, standing around 150 meters tall. However, before it was completed one of the king’s astronomers claimed that if the building were ever finished, then the king would die.
Even in it’s incomplete form it’s simply massive. The first time I saw pictures of it (Steve McCurry's wonderful work) I thought that it had actually been built into a solid rock face, and it’s only when I saw wider shots that I realized it was actually a free standing monument. The stupa is covered in cracks from an earthquake in the early 19th century, and the side of the stupa I wanted to photograph has the biggest, most impressive cracks of all. By good fortune, this face also happens to be west facing, meaning it would catch the sun’s last light, and it’s also the opposite side from the entrance where all the crowds are. I set up on a small bank that overlooked the doorway into the stupa and composed the shot in such a way that the whole face of the stupa would fill the frame, giving the illusion that it was a sheer cliff face. The same illusion I’d had when I first saw images of it.