Girl in Padaung village

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.

A young girl in a fairly remote Padaung village in Kayah State, Myanmar (Burma). Photo taken in December 2014.

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!

Girl in Chin State

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.

Joy and sadness in Iraq

In southern Iraq, just a few miles from the Iranian border. It was another hot day, and I was standing outside the structure called Ezra’s Tomb. Nearby, three kids were peeking through a doorway, their faces in obvious delight at the interest being shown to them by my camera. But the countless horrors of people killing other people will touch their lives in countless ways, and I wonder if they still smile. But I have hope.

Young girl in Uruk, Iraq

Iraq, not too long ago. I was heading out on foot across the desert, battling through a sandstorm, to reach the ruins of Uruk, that ancient city famous for its part in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Not too far from here, alone and remote, a small village eke out a living. The sandstorm had imparted a reddish-yellow colour to the entire scene but I was recently able to correct for this and, in the process, recover this engaging image of a young girl near the village edge.

Girl at Indein

A trip to the ancient ruins near the village of Indein in Myanmar required a pre-dawn boat ride to ensure we got there early and make the best use of available light. It was cold on that boat ride, and I was wearing layers of clothing to keep warm, but I knew in a few hours it would be stifling hot. You make do. It was already warm by the time we arrived at Indein, and the locals were preparing for the day. This was still just the start of the journey to the ruins, but I made sure that I stocked up on liquids from the local stalls before setting off from the village. Here, a young girl was selling various cloth, happy to interact with us.

Young girl in Chin State

Chin State in Myanmar is mountainous, and that means long winding roads carved into the forested mountain sides. It gets quite cold here in the winter, and villages have a hard life surviving off the land, but friendliness is abundant. In one of these villages, a young girl takes note of the new visitors; I suspect we met with her approval!