Sunday, March 17, 2013
When I tell people I just returned from Myanmar, some say, "Where?" Yet most people have heard of Aung San Suu Kyi, the president elect that was put on house arrest by the military junta of Myanmar and kept her from collecting her Nobel Prize for Peace - at least until last year. Myanmar is now opening up, the miliary is loosening its grip, and people all over the country are treating Aung San Suu Kyi as a hero. Photos of her are everywhere, as well those of her father Bogyoke Aung San who liberated the country from British rule.
Saturday, March 16, 2013
You may notice the many tourists taking photos of the monks on their way to their morning meal. The monks at this monestary (Sasnayaunggyi Kyaung) a thousand monks reside. Unfortunately, there must have been four times that many tourists photographing and josseling each other for a better vantage point. The crowd must have been four or five deep!
Myanmar men are expected to be monks at some point in their lives - usually once as children, and once as adults. This country is devoutly Buddhist, and when the local people take a vacation they do a pilgrimage to religious sites: pagodas, stuppas, temples, monasteries, and caves full of Buddhas. The tour agencies assume that is what tourists will want to do. So our itinerary was one after the other of these sites. Unfortunately, all the other tourists were following the same trail. We met an 84 year old man from England, Dermit - who we ended up seeing three times - in three different cities.
In Bagan we went to what we thought was a remote pagoda as a vantage point to take a photo of the sunset. When we climbed to the top it was full of tourists who had come to capture the same sunset. This is a picture of all the tourists climbing down after photographing the sunrise.
A year ago Myanmar only had 300,000 tourists. In contrast, Thailand had ten million. This year Myanmar has had a million tourists, and anticipates three million next year. I'm glad we took the advice of travel articles in the San Francisco paper and went now. The country doesn't have the hotels or infrastructure to handle many more tourists.
Fortunately, we had guides willing to vary from our itinerary. We encountered these nuns on the street. In this case we were the only tourists witnessing this amazing sight.
At another place we encountered another kind of tourist - Buddhist nuns from China.
We found the people to be exceptionally friendly. We rarely found anyone who wasn't gracious about having a camera pointed at them. I suspect this may change as they are confronted with a larger volume of tourists.
We were invited to join these weavers on their tea break.
The Paoh (also spelled Pa-o) ethnic group was the most identifiable one we saw - noteworthy for the colorful towels in orange and red that they wear on their heads.
Many of the areas we went to were populated by the Paoh people, and where our guide, Aung was from.
This woman is from the Padaung ethnic group.
This is a dying custom of rings being increasingly added until a woman marries. The numbers of younger women interested in this custom has decreased by more international exposure. The U.N. has compared the treatment of these women to animals in a zoo, in that they are strategically placed in shops to be photographed by tourists. It might, however, be the only income for their families.
We did met a teenager with rings. We also were able to pick up rings and found them quite heavy. They don't actually elongate the neck, but push the clavical and shoulders down.
|An unidentified ethnic group|
Thanakha is a paste made by rubbing the bark of the Thanakha tree onto a grindstone with water, and then smearing it on your face. It is used as sun block, moisterizer and perfume. It is worn by all Burmese and is very common, sometimes artfully shaped like a leaf on young, fashion conscious girls.
Note that the woman above has her mouth full. She is chewing betel nut which produces a mild stimulant, red teeth and spit.
The betel nut is combined with leaves and a paste and can be bought at any of the markets.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Monday, March 11, 2013
Sunday, March 10, 2013
|Judy engaging a local person to be able to take a photograph.|
Judy was amazing on this trip. Her philosophy was, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Instead of standing around watching me with a camera she took on some serious shooting of her own.
Here are some of the results of her own creative work!