The Burmese are the Best

The weather has not been particularly pleasant during my recent trip to Myanmar (the second third and fourth weeks of August 2013). It was monsoon season, and particularly in Yangon and Bagan, all I got was rain and overcast skies. Personally, I prefer clear blue skies for my travel shots. Though heavy and dramatic clouds can serve as great background for popular landmarks, and rain can provide a very different kind of atmosphere to travel photographs, it really wasn’t what I was aiming for this time around. In Bagan, I neither got a jaw-dropping sunrise nor sunset shot over the temple-dotted plain of the ancient city. At Ubein Bridge, pre-sunset good lighting was only available for a minute or two, and it was cloudy again. Instances like those mentioned would have made me one frustrated photographer, but given that Myanmar has a whole lot to offer more than just temples and bridges, I diverted my attention to documenting another aspect of Myanmar that makes this one exciting and memorable destination – the people.

Many would agree that the Burmese are one of the nicest and most warm-hearted people on the planet. That is no exaggeration. Probably it’s because of their curiosity about outsiders (the country has been isolated for decades and has only been reintroduced to the world a couple of years back) or maybe it’s really just in their nature to be nice, helpful and caring people. Most importantly, for a travel photographer like myself, they are the best group of people to photograph. In all my travels, they are my favorite, and as much as possible I wanted to capture all the curious stares and genuine smiles thrown my way.

The different faces of Burma. (Clockwise: A girl selling 'antiques' at the market in Kalaw, Shan State; A monk lining up for lunch at Maha Gayanon Kyaung in Amarapura; A school boy at Pwin Oo Lwyn; Concentrating on his game in Mandalay; An elderly woman at a market in Nyaung U; Boy in train in Yangon; Monks at Ubein Bridge; Girl with leaf design thanaka in Inwa (Ava) City.

The different faces of Burma. (Clockwise: A girl selling ‘antiques’ at the market in Kalaw, Shan State; A monk lining up for lunch at Maha Gayanon Kyaung in Amarapura; A school boy at Pwin Oo Lwyn; Concentrating on his game in Mandalay; An elderly woman at a market in Nyaung U; Boy in train in Yangon; Monks at Ubein Bridge; Girl with leaf design thanaka in Inwa (Ava) City.

The Burmese way of life is still very traditional at best, and that makes them perfect subjects for photography: from the women and children with thanaka on their faces; the monks collecting alms in the morning; and men wearing skirts (the longyi); from the bustling markets to the sacred temples, there are many people who were willing to have themselves photographed. Simply put, Myanmar is the portrait (and street) photographer’s paradise. On a personal note, even with a camera i’d go back to Myanmar just for the people.

It was also in Myanmar where I got to cross out one shot from my photobucket list. Since I started travel photography, one of my dreams is to have a portrait of a woman from Karen Long Neck tribe. I attempted several times to visit some tribes in Northern Thailand but it never happened. In Bagan, much to my delight, I encounted one at Htilominlo temple. This is even better for me because the Karen tribe is originally from Myanmar and those in Thailand are refugees. Home turf advantage if you must.

 A 75-year old Karen Long Neck woman at Htilominlo Paya in Bagan, Myanmar.

A 75-year old Karen Long Neck woman at Htilominlo Paya in Bagan, Myanmar.

I love it that behind the tribeswoman, is a shop that has a black curtain hanging on it’s wall. It made it look like the shot is done inside a studio.

For more of my Myanmar photos please visit my flickr.

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