We headed up into the hills in our van, hoping to come across remote Padaung villages. The dirt track, however, proved too much for the poor vehicle, and we couldn’t proceed much further. There was a road construction crew that we had passed a few minutes earlier and we were able to negotiate the usage of one of their “tractors” that is normally used to haul raw materials.
We jumped into the back of the tractor, and upward and onward we went into the hills, following dirt tracks that we hoped would reach some interesting villages. Even the tractor found the going tough, and we had had to dismount several times to give the thing a fighting chance to negotiate through the rough terrain. Shake, rattle, and roll; sitting on solid metal was pretty uncomfortable!
After a while we were soon at our target, the tractor chugging its way into the centre of a Padaung village. The villagers informed us that we were the first foreigners they had seen since the British left Burma in 1948. I took that with a pinch of salt though. But the journey was worth it, as the village still practised many traditional techniques. This is a photo of a young schoolgirl from the village.
However, we were filled with dread of the return journey in that tractor.
But the pain of the return trip in the tractor was short lived as we, instead, soon ditched the tractor and hiked through the hills heading in a direction that we thought would lead us to a road. The hike was memorable as it enabled us to take in the wonderful scenery and interact more sociably with the people we met along the way. A good day!
It was another dawn outing near Kyaiktiyo Pagoda in Mon State, Myanmar (Burma). On the mountaintop, outside the main complex, a woman is lighting a man’s cigarette just after sunrise. The photo was taken in December 2014.
When I took this shot a few years ago in Myanmar, I thought that the photo would be a failure due to the extreme dynamic range involved. It was hand-held, shot into the sun, with the main subject being the Padaung woman in the shade. I revisited that photo quite recently and found, to my surprise, that it actually had a lot of information, and was close to my vision. So here it is in all its glory.
Venturing around the mountainous region of Chin State in Myanmar, sometimes on foot, sometimes on vehicle, we came across small towns and villages nestled on mountain sides or hidden in remote valleys.
Especially in the more remote regions, villagers have tended to tattoo their faces, and adorn their buildings with the skulls of mithuns, an ox-like animal that is found throughout the region. Here, a young girl, sporting the traditional thanaka decoration on her face, poses outside one of these buildings.
Well before dawn, hundreds of monks, old and young, queue at Ananda Temple during the Ananda Pagoda Festival in Bagan, Myanmar. Around the temple, thousands of pilgrims have congregated and set up camp. A hive of activity, including worshipping, cooking, and shopping for trinkets, surrounds the temple. Here, a Buddhist monk smokes a cigar.
Wandering around Hpa An in Myanmar, we made our way through the courtyard into the large Hindu temple. Dark but brightly decorated inside, with the main door overlaid with intricately patterned brass or bronze, this was likely the main (perhaps only) Hindu temple in town. It was quiet and I was pretty much free to walk around the place. Here, a Hindu priest relaxes by a window, reading a magazine.
The town of Hpa An in Myanmar, surrounded by a karst landscape, offers opportunities to visit the caves in that region. Many caves are used for Buddhist shrines, and some are used for navigation. Here, nearly 20 kilometres from Hpa An, fishermen are shown outside a cave entrance that runs through to the other side of the karst hills.
The last few days in Myanmar had been good, and today it was a pre-dawn trip down to Inle Lake to photograph the Intha fisherman. It was one of those mornings with mist on the lake surface, soon to be burned-off by the heat of the sun. I saw this hut by the lake shore and enjoyed the gentleness of it all.
It had been a long journey travelling by car from Yangon to Hpa An. At our destination, having unpacked, we explored the immediate vicinity of Hpa An and found a great place just as the sun was setting. Children were playing in the river, and an occasional boat would pass, but it was quiet and peaceful. A great end to the day.
This lady was hard at work in a refuse dump out in the country, several miles from the nearest town. Some of the refuse had been set ablaze and, as I ventured further in, my throat and nose became the first casualties in the onslaught brought on by the thick acrid smoke. There were two benefits though; where there was an abundance of smoke, there was a scarcity of flies, and the rotting stink from the refuse was masked. You pick your poison.
The heat of the sun, coupled with the heat of the fires, did not help. The lady worked on, moving piles of refuse from one area to another, sorting out those that should be burnt, those that should be buried, and those that could be scavenged. This was a hell to me. But these people suffer and endure. She looked over to us, and smiled.