This weekend I joined some friends on a hike, about 2 hours north of Yangon. The city has a small reputation for not having lots of options for day trip getaways, particularly in the rainy season. A short jungle hike certainly is an option if spending time outdoors is your thing.
Not necessarily a challenging hike but the monsoon, the changing weather conditions and the (at times surprisingly pleasant) weight of constantly being wet add a flavour to the walk. In an odd way, the mud and humidity reminded me of hiking in the rainforests of British Columbia. Except for fewer bears and more machete wielding to make way.
As cities around the world are slowly starting to ease their lockdowns, so has life started to return to Yangon. Having spent most of the last several months cooped up alone in the apartment, there is a well-developed itch to spend more time outdoors. Case loads in Yangon have been low and life has been rushing to “normal” for several weeks. Traffic feels like it’s almost back to its usual chaotic self, street vendors have taken back their corners, construction workers are back to laying bricks.
An upside to having my routine disrupted is that it rendered time for reflection of what it is I enjoy and don’t enjoy spending time on. Photography being one of the former, I rushed myself out for an aimless wander … for the first in a loooong time. I first thought I’d challenge myself to try something new and stick to shooting only in black and white. But it turns out I had missed colour more than I thought – a black and white wonder around town will have to wait for another day.
There was little deliberation about where to go on my first outing outside of the regular shopping trips – downtown, no question. Maybe it’s the lockdown effect but even after 4 years of living here, a few hours of an afternoon sun interrupting the monsoon rains are still just as exciting. On days like today, it’s hard not to feel that downtown Yangon is just magic. It’d take more than than a short blog to muster a description worth the city’s energy. You’d have to content with what comes out of the back of the camera.
Stay safe and take care of others, wherever you are!
P.S. I’ve been testing a vintage 50 mm Minolta lens. If you find some pics out of focus, it’s because I’m still feeling my way around its focus ring 🙂
Bagan is the most known place in Myanmar. Pictures of air balloons towering over the remains of thousands of temples and pagodas have become a standard for the many tourists who visit the ancient city. Even those not in the habit of waking up early will find the experience of catching the sunrise worth it.
The place and the atmosphere are no doubt unique. The never-ending temples open themselves up one after another along the plains. It can make you wonder how much energy and commitment has gone into the construction of over 4,000 sites between the 11th and 13th centuries. Not surprisingly, that energy and where it came from provides a strong sense of pride for many in the country.
Owing to the nascent stage of the country’s tourism industry, one can still find a sense of harmless adventure by zipping around on dusty roads in a rented e-scooter. Several years of living in Myanmar have taken me to Bagan multiple times. But only a few weeks ago was my first visit properly equipped with a camera and an above-average sense of curiosity. This was also the first time I took my new wide camera lens out for some air, which was pretty handy in tighter corners in between temples. (For those interested, the lens used for the wider shots is the 12 mm Rakinon).
Earlier this week I went on a work trip eastward to Kayin (Karen) State. A significant chunk of it was spent in a car, about 6 hours each way. Apart from being reminded of how big and diverse Myanmar is, traveling on land is also a good reminder of how dangerous roads can be. Myanmar is the only country I can think of where the majority of cars are right-hand drive (steering wheel on the right) driving in a right-hand traffic. So whenever someone attempts a takeover on a 2 lane highway, it isn’t really supported by the driver’s view of the oncoming traffic.
The drive nonetheless was scenic in parts, especially as we got closer to the capital Hpa-An. It’s surrounded by grandiose tall beautifully shaped mountains. We were crossing a bridge during sunset on the approach to the city when a view opened up with great colors and mountains stretching across the river. People weren’t allowed on the bridge, however, so I had to shoot out of a moving vehicle, across the seat through a window with the camera aimed in between window stickers and bridge support columns. To my own surprise a decently framed shot showed on my camera screen as I looked down expecting a picture of a blurry metal columns. Next time I hope for more time on foot.
Last week celebrations were on for the Thadingyut Festival (သီတင်းကျွတ်ပွဲတော်). It’s a Burmese Lighting Festival that takes place on the full moon of the Burmese Lunar month of Thadingyut. Celebrations are spread over a number of days with a downtown street blocked off from traffic and absorbed by a wave of people every evening. Vendors pay for a spot to set up shop offering all sorts of goods and services; from tattoos to underwear sale to a bucket of insects to munch on just a stall over.
I unfortunately, didn’t have much time out with my camera and would have to limit this post to a few random shots of some of the street vendors hard at work.
It’s been so long since my last post I almost forgot this website is still up and running. There’s been plenty of material to post, though unfortunately not as much in motivation or discipline to do so. As I’m starting a new adventure all of the mentioned should be in large supply.
I took this photo on an old train line that wraps around the city of Yangon. The train travels at a leisurely pace, not in any rush to get anywhere fast. That doesn’t seem to bother the passengers who are all smiles, and some even peak out the window for a light breeze.