Day 1 – arrival at Yangon, Myanmar

Myanmar is truly a land of unsurpassed beauty and inspiration to many photographers with the Buddhist religion being the focal point of the countless pagodas and stupas there. Monasteries and nunneries are everywhere and if these are part of your itinerary, which I strongly recommend they should be included, I suggest you come prepared with a pair of washable slippers or slip-ons as one has to walk barefoot on entry.

My itinerary of my 10-day trip this time (because I know I'll be back there soon) included Yangon, Mandalay, Inle Lake and Bagan in that order. What a great combination of places these were. Of even greater beauty than the golden Shwedagon Paya in Yangon, the sheer beauty of ancient stupas of Bagan and the serene atmosphere of Inle Lake were the people and culture of Myanmar. Once you have traveled to Myanmar one of the most unforgettable experiences that you will encounter is the times you have spent amongst the people of this magnificent country. It is just like a land that has become trapped in time. I do not want to go into how the present junta runs the country, as it is beyond the scope of me being a photographer to dwell into politics. I urge any one who have any interest in this country to remember that beneath this layer of junta-run establishment there is this more important group of nice Myanmar people who will benefit from our visiting their country. You can expect to be greeted by a smile everywhere you go. Utter the ubiquitous greeting ‘mingalaba’ and invariably you would get the same reply. I always did get this response. In fact many a times it was an ice-breaker with the end result of them posing for me.

I’ll start my travelogue with Yangon the capital city which is the main gateway to Myanmar. Armed with my Nikon 3, Nikon 17-35mm, 24mm/1.4, 24-70mm, 70-200mm VRII and my 80g Epson P4500, I thought I was well prepared for my journey. I found out later that 80g of storage was really not enough.

I also brought along my Gitzo travel tripod just in case I take some landscape shots (Ok, I am a landscape photographer wannabe)....

*Click images for better view.

...with the Markins ballhead attached. Shots taken with the 24/1.4 @f/1.4.

The 2hr 45 min flight from Kuala Lumpur was comfortable and easy. I must admit that my preconceived mental image of Yangon international airport was one of chaos, rude immigration officers and out of date architecture. Boy was I wrong  - it was the complete opposites! The airport is modern, clean and very well run. Getting through the authorities was easy (provided you have the right documentation) and there was no hassle claiming our baggage. The very obvious thing I noticed on exiting the airport was the heat...it was uncomfortably hot! This was the temperature (in the 40's) for the whole duration of our stay immaterial of whether one was in the shade or not. That brings me to this point: the best time, temperature-wise, to visit Myanmar is from October to February. That is the peak season which also means that there will be many tourists. If one wants to have practically the whole place to yourself, the hot season (April-May) is worth considering - we will alone at most places that we visited with not many tourists to contend with during our photography sessions.

Although Yangon has a population of around five million, the city gives a different impression from other Asian capitals of similar size. It seems full of trees with some outlying neighbourhoods refreshingly overgrown, taking on a more provincial feel rather than that of an international city.

After checking in into very comfortable Summit Parkview hotel our first item on our itinerary was lunch. Food in general was good and very suitable for our Malaysian taste. We had lunch at a local restaurant serving Myanmar food. Myanmar food to me is like a fusion of Thai and Indian cuisine without the spiciness. That I can easily reconcile with. While waiting for food to arrive I walked around the restaurant (not well patronised at this time of the year) with my 24/1.4 and played with DOF. Here are a couple of shots of some puppets used as decor at one section of the restaurant.

I later learnt that these puppets were used for shows in evening performances for patrons.

Another thing I noticed was that electricity supply in Myanmar can be quite erratic prompting some establishments to have their own generators. During lunch alone there must have been umpteen power failures rendering the aircon useless. Sigh, had to contend with the heat again.

After lunch we visited the Chauk Htat Gyi temple where the famed reclining Buddha is being housed. This colossal (68 meter long) reclining Buddha statue is one of the largest images in Myanmar. Unfortunately the front of the statue was blocked by some scaffolding making any front shots impossible. Anyway I tested my newly acquired 70-200 VRII here...capturing the reclining Buddha's catchlights.

While walking around the colossal statue I met this monk sitting in one corner and appeared to be very at peace with himself.

Surrounding this temple were many monasteries. We took a walk around some of these monasteries meeting some nice people and monks along the way.

This is to show the dirty soles of the gentleman having a nap in front of a monastery. That was the condition of ours too having to walk barefoot at these holy places. (Now you can appreciate why I recommend to bring along a pair of washable slippers.)

Walkway. I like the nice patterns formed by the roofs here.

This was the same place I met this happy monk that I have shared at an earlier post.

One seldom have to worry about not having water to drink in Myanmar...drink stations are everywhere. I couldn't pluck enough courage to try it though.

Besides monks family members are allowed to stay at these monasteries.

This monk was one of the many unfortunate monks who suffered during the junta's clampdown of monk protesters a few years ago He apparently had neurosurgery and just recovered from some physically disabilities secondary to the junta's brutality.


 

By this time it was already late afternoon. Off we went to Shwedagon Paya to experience the golden pagoda at sunset. More of this later.

To be continued: Day 1 continued - Shwedagon Paya at sunset

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6 comments to Day 1 – arrival at Yangon, Myanmar

  • meng chai

    Truly a unique country n so many nice shots u've got!  Hope to join u the next trip, hav been dreaming to go all this while….

    • I know I’ll be back for more. If…I mean ‘when’ I do I’ll surely inform you. You’ll be swarmed by the number of shooting opportunities! If you like Day 1’s photos you will be amazed by the rest. 😉

  • Shen

    pls inform me also…

  • Zmin

    Haha… looking at your photos, remind me of the time when I went to Myanmar. It was in the year of 2002 and I was 14 years old then. I went to Yangoon, Mandalay, passed by Inle, went to Shwedagon, Bagan, visited the golden rock Stupa and many more that I do not know the names. It was a nice country, with nice people. Now, I am only going to start my journey in dslr, and going to get my first dslr (d90) next week. Hope that one day, I can shoot photos like the way you shoot. Nice photos! Love it!

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