Portraits of Myanmar

Portraits of Myanmar

Learn how to visit Myanmar yourself with our tips, costs and highlights. Read the Myanmar Travel Guide.

Where are you going? asked an older man in Yangon just after I had arrived from Thailand where that phrase is always the introduction to a sales pitch, typically for a tuk tuk ride that will take you everywhere but where you want to go.  I said ‘right here’ shrugging him away, not realizing that these inquiries in Myanmar are sincere.  He persisted, where are you from?  America I responded, immediately his eyes lit up and he said Oh!  Good country, flashing a huge smile.

Among the many reasons to add Myanmar to your travel itinerary is that the vast majority of locals you meet want you to come.  How do I know this?  It’s hard not to realize when you see how welcome they make you feel and how much they genuinely want to help.  I have never been to a country where the people are so overwhelmingly friendly, helpful and warm to visitors.  I have had the most amazing people moments of our trip in Myanmar.   With outside communication regulated, foreigners provide an open two-way exchange between locals and the outside world.  It seems that the Myanmar people are as curious about us as we are about them and they are happy to share.  Below are a few portraits of the wonderful people we met in Myanmar.

Cherry is a curious local that I encountered in Mandalay.  She immediately approached me and started with a barrage of questions; where are you from, how long are you visiting…etc.  She teaches English in Mandalay and in low season looks for tourists to provide her guiding services to.  Unfortunately, we already had a guide, but that didn’t bother her she still wanted to chat.  She, like most Myanmar people we encountered, wanted to help in some way by providing information or taking you into their home for a cup of tea.  Cheri gave us a run-down on the animals associated with the Buddhist calendar, which was very interesting.  We parted ways after sharing email addresses where she urged me to keep in touch.

Many locals don’t speak much English or have an email address, but they don’t want to miss out on a chance to interact with you anyway.  Many people request to have their picture taken with me (I don’t think they see many blondes) or have one of us take their picture so that they can see it.  The gentleman above requested thinkCHUA to take his picture at Mt. Popa, which he gladly did.  The photo captures his red-stained teeth from chewing betel (pronounced beetle), which is a popular nut chewed as a mild intoxicant, much like chewing tobacco.  You can also see prayer beads tucked into his chest pocket and the longyi, which is a sarong style skirt worn be men and women, tied around his waist.  He enjoyed having his picture taken so much he insisted that a picture be taken of him with his wife and then his wife with her sisters as well.

For those that don’t like chewing betel nut there are the ever popular Myanmar cigars made with roots or herbs and a little bit of tobacco.  These large cigars are smoked by everyone young and old and only cost about 13 cents.  This older woman at the tribal market in Inle Lake was enjoying her morning cigar.

On our boat tour of Inle Lake we stopped at one of the many cigar factories and that is where I met the woman above.  She is wearing thanakha on her cheeks, which is a yellow sandalwood-like paste, worn by many Myanmar women on their faces as a combination of skin conditioner, sunblock and make-up.

With all the smoking and chewing in Myanmar people’s teeth are worse than the British.  The lack of dental hygiene doesn’t help either as you can see by this child’s black smile (above).

The kids were the most fun to take portraits of because they got so excited to have their picture taken and then see the results.  It was sometimes hard to escape a whole group of enthusiastic children that wanted their photo taken in a variety of poses.  While the young boys often wanted action shots or posed in fighting stances the girls would patiently sit still in a model-esque posture waiting for their close-up.  The young girl above was so sweet and waited for the boys to finish their shenanigans before she quietly asked for her photo to be taken.

As I said the kids were the most fun, but I love getting a good monk shot, which is surprisingly easy in Myanmar.  Socially, every Myanmar male is expected to serve in the monkhood twice, once as a novice between 10-20 years old and once as a fully ordained monk sometime after the age of 20.  So, monks are everywhere, they are not just confined to monasteries and temples.  The young novice above asked me to take his picture, but then seemed unsure if it was a good idea, checking to see who might be watching out of the corner of his eye.

I hope that these portraits give you a glimpse into Myanmar life and the warm-hearted people that you will meet if you travel there.  While there are many things to see and do in Myanmar I can guarantee you that the people you meet will be the highlight.

Learn how to visit Myanmar yourself with our tips, costs and highlights. Read the Myanmar Travel Guide.


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Comments

» bka :
Jun 21, 2011

great photos as always……….unfortunatly, we are still taking snapshots……would be fun if you could print off pic’s for locals to have right on the spot…..must be technology for that, i am not aware of……pic’s are always worth a 1,000 words……be safe…..love you dad

LOCAVORista Reply:

Dad, thanks for the compliment on the photos. Would love to be able to print them off and give them to people as most of these people don’t have any pictures of themselves or their family.

5 Trackback(s)
{ Jul 10, 2011 - 07:07:34 } Living If | 7/3/2011 Snapshot Sunday
{ Jul 31, 2011 - 05:07:40 } Living If | 7/31/2011 Snapshot Sunday
{ Sep 28, 2012 - 02:09:59 } Living If | Myanmar Logistics

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About the Author

LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.
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