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Burma part 1: Arrival at Yangon

At the start of December I embarked on a photographic trip to Burma organized by Within the Frame. If you don't already know about them I encourage you to check them out. This trip gave me a chance to see a country unlike any other, meet amazing people and learn to push the boundaries of my own photography. For someone like me that loves both travel and photography this was something I was looking forward to all year, and even with all the anticipation it still was better than I expected. The first stop of our trip was Yangon, the old capital. I use "old" loosely, as it stopped being the capital only in 2006, when the government relocated it to Naypyidaw. The city has a great buzz of activity, with all the street food vendors, betel nut sellers, kids running around, unusual smells and bright colours... The colours in Burma are something that would get me every time during my journey. Maybe it's because I had just left behind a grey December in London, but the colours to me seemed really vivid, almost in an unreal way.

Yangon
Yangon

This explosion of colour could be seen pretty much eveywhere. From the way people dressed, to the way they would paint their houses, to even the props and utensils they would use for everyday life.

Betel nut seller
Betel nut seller

One thing that caught my eye on my first day was the yellow paste that some Burmese, mainly women an children, would have applied to their faces. When I asked  about it, our guide said that it was Thanaka, which is made from ground tree bark mixed with water. Other than being cosmetic, it's also fragant (similar to sandalwood), it provides a cooling sensation and it protects from the sun. It's also supposed to help keep the skin smooth and to be good against acne.

Burmese kid wearing thanaka
Burmese kid wearing thanaka

The Burmese are really friendly and in general don't mind having their picture taken. As long as you have a little tact and not take a photo when you feel it wouldn't be welcome, you are normally ok to take a few shots. The few times I sensed that someone would prefer not to have their picture taken I would just have a chat instead (if you could call "chat" the three or four burmese words I know mixed with gesturing and making funny faces). But most times it wasn't an issue. Children proved to be great subjects as they are really curious and many times would be happy to interact, give you a huge smile or just go about their business playing or doing whatever it is they would normally do.

Girl feeding pidgeons outside a temple
Girl feeding pidgeons outside a temple

Even though my stay in Yangon was short and I was quite jetlagged I still had a great time. It also soon became clear that jetlag was fighting a losing battle against how captivated I was quickly becoming by the country and it's people.

I'll be back soon with another post about the next part of my Burmese trip. Next stop... Bagan!