Bamiyan, Afghanistan. The place where two giant Buddha statues, the Bamiyan Buddhas, stood for over 1,500 years before being obliterated by the Islamist group known as the Taliban in 2001. I managed to get there in 2009, and explored the area for historically significant sites.
The valley is quite fertile with many small farms. On our long walks between the Buddha statue niches and our yurts, it was quite common to cut across these farms. I encountered this young boy who had been looking after some sheep. He was quite a happy lad and enjoyed having his photo taken.
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.
I’d spent a couple of days at the Lake Turkana Festival in Kenya, and the days had been hot and humid. Our last night there, dusk had arrived, and with it a fall in temperatures, allowing me to join in with the tribal dances. Pictured are members of the Samburu tribe singing and dancing well into the evening. It was a great night out.
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.
The Yangon Circular Railway in Myanmar provides a wonderful opportunity to see people travelling across the city. Whilst standing on the platform at a train station, I noticed this young boy looking out from the train that had just pulled in.
A rice field several miles from Hpa An, Myanmar. We had already journeyed through a cave in this karst-rich landscape when we came across this field. It was great to be out in the open again!
During the Ananda Pagoda Festival at the Ananda Temple in Bagan, Myanmar, the region becomes extremely busy with pilgrims arriving from all over the country. This is one of many Buddhist monks at the temple. Photo taken in January 2014.
There we were, travelling along the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan. A journey through mountain passes and dry valleys, along dried river-beds and empty places on lonely roads, with nothing more than dust-devils keeping us company. Low temperatures and the glare of the sun added to the harshness of the landscape.
However, it was a challenge that I enthusiastically seized in my quest to reach the fabled Minaret of Jam, a place that only a few travellers reach. But here, in the middle of nowhere, there was human activity; a rest-stop for truck drivers hauling their goods across the country, a place to stretch the legs and take shelter from the elements.
Although it was August, the place was cold, and I couldn’t imagine what this place would be like in winter. A hardy landscape creates a hardy people. This man tendered to our needs with chai and food, his face betraying the challenges of the environment.