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Trip Report Myanmar Photo Trip. Lot's O' Photos!

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I took at two week trip with a photo tour company and it turned out that there were only three of us on the trip with two pros. It was pretty sweet. The company is Burmese, located in Yangon, and is called "Luminous Journeys". I would recommend them highly (they do regular group trips and private trips as well) Thanks to Kathie and Silverswimmer for your tips before I left. They were invaluable. A meandering trip report is below.

For those who just want to jump directly to the images and skip the report, here is a link to my public Facebook album. There is a link at the bottom of the report as well:

Myanmar, The Golden Land.

My Photo Album. March 2015

Flights: I was able to arrange flights via "Book your Award" for 180,000 points round trip. (thanks to whichever Fordorite gave me that tip years ago) I flew business class Boston/zurich on Swiss and then first class Thai air to Bangkok and then on to Yangon. Thai first class is very nice and the transfer in Bangkok bordered on hilarious. I had my own HUGE bus upon getting off the airplane, my own transfer steward, and was ushered into the first class lounge after a ride through the BKK airport as the only passenger on a 12 passenger golf cart. I had a great shower during my short layover. I actually wish I had had longer to enjoy it.

Anyway I arrived in Yangon, got a MPT sim card (super cheap--$20 for both text, internet and phone for really large number of minutes) at the airport. I was able to get, email, texts, and internet all over Myanmar on my smart phone, even Mrauk U. On arrival we stayed at the The Kandawgyi Palace Hotel which was fine. On our return we stayed at the Sule Shangri-La (Traders) and it was perfect for the end of the trip when you needed an International hotel for all the reasons they are great--including a fine lobby bar. : )

From Yangon we headed to Inle Lake where we stayed at a hotel in the lake called Golden Island Cottages. You were limited to boat travel, but for us as photographers it could not be better. We had fishermen at sunrise and sunset working with us. We loved it. Inle was the only place in Myanma that we encountered mosquitos--but only on the patio, not in the rooms. There were nets on the beds anyway. The rooms were huge. The boat noise at 4 AM when the fishermen get going could be annoying to some, but I just saw it as atmosphere. We really didn't do tourist stuff, we pretty much did hard core photography. Although I did buy a 100% Lotus flower silk scarf at the factory, and love, love, love it. I haven't taken it off. They are fairly expensive, but they only sell them in country and I couldn't imagine anything else I would buy. Would recommend highly to get one of the scarves.

From Inle we flew to Bagan. It was so hot I feel like making a Johnny Carson joke. "Hot hot was it?" There was a heat wave and the temperature did not drop below 104 any day we were there. Lordy, I'm a New England girl. This was not anything I had ever encountered. But we planned around it, shooting early in the morning and late afternoon. In the middle of the day we shot in (somewhat cooler) temples or went back to the hotel for photoshop/lightoom lessons. With such a small group, it was perfect. I did look down one day and was shocked to see my ankles were swollen (I have never had swollen ankles in my life). I iced them and was craving bananas. I then started eating three bananas a day and it never happened again. My potassium balance must have been off. Who knows, but the bananas fixed me.

In the various places we were, we often talked with the chief monk at the monasteries and asked if we could invite a couple of the young monks to go with us to temples for photography. Luminous Journeys makes donations to the monasteries on a regular basis, so they are glad to oblige. Nothing like a burgundy robe or two to help an image pop. One of our pros is an expert in "low light" photography--I learned a whole lot about light and captured some really nice young monk (novices actually) mages.

We then visited Mandalay, Amarapura (U Bein bridge) for sunrise and sunset where I tried to get some phonons that hadn't been taken a million times before, and took at boat to Mingun late afternoon. The only nice thing about it being a bazillion degrees is that there are no tourists at all. Zero. We were seriously totally along in Mingun at sunset.

From Mandalay we took an airplane back to Yangon and then on to Sittwe en route to Mrauk U. I'm not going to talk about Sittwe because I am still trying to purge it from my consciousness. I don't know if there is a way to not have to stay overnight in Sittwe, but if there is, do yourself a favor and find it. Enough said about Sittwe. I do have a wonderful image from the fish market in Sittwe in the album below, so if you must be in sittwe, wander down to the fish market--there are some good photo opportunities.

In the morning, we got on a private boat (there are now just four of us--two clients and two pro photographers) and took a five hour boat to Mrauk U. I simply loved Mrauk U even though it actually went to 106 when we were there. (I'm not sure at what temperature someone born in Vermont will die, but I don't think it is far away from 106 degrees) We stayed at a great little hotel whose location couldn't be better. It's called the Nawarat Hotel and it is literally steps away from the temples and a five minute walk from the watering hole. It is also a five minute walk the other direction to Moe Cherry, the only really good place to eat in town. And, it has the best air conditioning you have ever felt.

In Mrauk U we were invited by some nuns we met at the watering hole to walk up to their nunnery which was great for photos and just to sit and talk with them. One of our photo pros was Burmese and we always had a local guide and driver as well, so communication was good. We also hired some models (traditional dancers) to go to a temple with us for a photo shoot. I prefer just getting people off the street, but sometimes models are really great.

We were in Mrauk U for three days. I wish it had been four. One day we went to the Chin villages. Again there were no other tourists at all. Not one. So everyone was glad to see us and we spent hours getting great photographs. I posted my Chin village images in a post last week.

We headed back on our five hour boat right to catch a plane to Yangon via Sittwe and once again, Sittwe did a job on me. For the first time in years, I got food poisoning from a restaurant where we had lunch before we caught our airplane to Yangon. It hit me like clockwork--exactly four hours to the minute. We went directly from the airport to do a sunset shoot of the Shwedagon Pagoda from the park, but I was behind a tree vomiting. I actually didn't want to take pictures anymore anyway, so it was a diversion : ) That's why i was so glad we were at the Sule Shangri-la upon our return to Yangon. When you are feeling like crap, you don't want charm. you want a big bathroom, a great shower, good pillows, 100% cotton sheets and room service. So, my last day in Myanmar I had a very light breakfast, a short walk with my friend to that massive local market (do not remember the name) and pretty much stayed low until my flight to Hong Kong at 1AM.

Took Dragonair to Hong Kong and then took Cathay Pacific business class to NYC and then a quick flight back to Boston. Cathay Pacific was great--business class seats are little cubicles and so private. Food was great, but I stayed with the vegetarian light entrees.

So, it was a fun trip. I loved Myanmar. I would never go back in March. I would only go in December or January.

I've posted about 100 images from the trip to a publicly available Facebook album (out of about 6000 images that I haven't even attempted to go through yet). I hope you enjoy them as much as I did shooting them.

Myanmar, The Golden Land.

My Photo Album. March 2015

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