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Trip Report A journey to the Chin Villages and the Tattoo women of Myanmar

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Before I left for Myanmar, I, as usual, checked into the Fodors forums to see what I should do and where I should go. I was on a photography trip. There were only two of us with two professional photographers--it was great--a two week master class.

This is not a full trip report. I have a lot of images to complete before that happens (but it's coming, promise). However, I know there is a lot of debate about whether or not it's right to visit the Chin village; that these people are being exploited. (this debate is not limited to Myanmar) In one response to my itinerary it was stated that the villages were a ""human zoo" experience" and "sad and demeaning" ; thus I decided to talk a bit about a very different experience. Note: This is only my experience; other's milage may vary : )

I throughly enjoyed visting the Chin villages--even at 104 wilting degrees. We were the only tourists that day in either village, but my guess is, given how hard it is to get to, that there isn't an overflow of tourists on any day. I didn't get the sense at all that they felt they were being exploited or that they WERE being exploited. Although we were all advanced photographers, we were tourists--no more no less. This is how the villagers make money--selling shawls and other trinkets. That's what we ALL do. In our lives, we "sell trinkets" Our trinkets may be consulting services, or iPhone apps, or dresses in a dress store, but we all sell trinkets. We all want to take care of ourselves and our children. The women in the Chin villages are no different. I never pay people for snapshots, but I do provide a fee when I ask them to be my models for an extended period. Exactly like I would in the US or anywhere else.

When my family asked me where the villages were, I laughed and told my them that you get to these villages by going to the middle of nowhere (Sittwe) and getting on a five hour boat to the land that time forgot (Mrauk U) and then taking a three hour loud boat upriver.

It was an honor to spend a day with these women in two villages--one was more commercial than the other. They asked us to take pictures of their families and with each other. All my Chin images (far more than the short slideshow below) are on their way back to the villages for distribution. We even did some "glamor" shots so that they could put them up on their walls and admire themselves as the beautiful women they are. When we showed them their images on our LCD screens, they insisted that some be deleted immediately as they didn't look good. See? They ARE just like us : ) We had a lot of fun.

Anyway, I'll tell you my story through a few (about 20) Tattoo women images as I think they speak for themselves.

Here is the (short) slideshow: http://snips.ly/Chin_Women_Slideshow

Here are the (20) individual images: http://snips.ly/Chin_Women_album

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