Yangon the beginning and the end! Our trip started and finished in Yangon a former capital of Burma. However, before I start, one of the dilemmas I had before even leaving home was deciding what photography gear to bring. I had recently changed to Fuji X series (an X-E1 my first purchase and also an X-T1 which I love). But I still have a Nikon D800 and some good lenses another system I love. At the time the Fuji system didn’t have the great array of really good lenses it now has. I had tried a few other “small” size cameras including the Nikon 1, but they just didn’t do it for me the way the Fuji X series does. I wanted the smaller form factor that the mirrorless offered with the same functionality of a DSLR, which is ideal for travel. In the end I went with the two Fujis and a few lenses. The XF56mm 1.2 is a brilliant portrait lens and I was very happy with the Fujis and lenses.
So back to Yangon, it was the capital and it is still the largest city with a population of 5 million people. We arrived in the afternoon to be met by our guide Michael Lin and driver. He was a lovely guy and very helpful, we were so keen to get out and about that after checking in he agreed to meet us on his own time that evening to show us around the city centre and to go for a meal.
So we headed to the port on the river to take some photos. It was time for people to head home and the port was full of boats laden with people. There were stalls there too for people to buy some groceries and other items on their way. It was our first view of the culture and people of this huge city and I felt it was a great start for taking photographs.
To me the city came across as a bit run down and a bit Soviet looking and not very Asian or oriental in style, but very functional. There is a lot of colonial style buildings reflecting its past British influence. It was a busy city with plenty of cars, taxis and buses. More modern than I expected but run down.
The people were friendly and didn’t mind being photographed. In fact at the port I thought I was being briefly followed when I realised the guy only wanted me to take his photo! Michael showed us around the street and brought us to a street full of restaurants where we ate a nice meal sitting on the street side.
The next day our tour began in earnest. We visited the Schwedagon Pagoda one of the most sacred in Myanmar. It was truly an amazing site to see with all its ornate structures and gilded stupa which is 99 metres high. It is a part of the tradition for worshippers to adorn their statues and pagodas with gold leaf and these grow considerably over the years and decades and the original statues to be unrecognisable.
Part of the tour was a short trip on the circular railway that runs around Yangon and can take up to 3 hours to compete the circuit. We were looking forward to getting photos of the locals on these old run down carriages, but were the disappointed to end up on a relatively modern carriage with no real photo opportunities. We visited a market which we were taken to on bicycles with side cars. We also visited the 65 metre long reclining Buddha at Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda where the Buddha statue is the size of a blue whale.
The amazing sights of the pagodas were in stark contrast to the city. They were bright colours, beautiful buildings highly revered by the people, ornate and well looked after.
Next we head off to Inle Lake in the interior of the country.