When I first traveled to Yangon, there were frequent power outages, a distinct lack of cellphones, and empty roads after 9pm. But things change. There were also crowded tea shops and chaotic street markets and girls wearing thanaka. Not to mention a kind of prevailing overall ramshackle charm. All of which has survived to this day. It’s a bit cliche to say that the country is finally moving into the 21st century, but it’s also difficult to deny the progress being made, especially in Yangon. Social media is making inroads. New bars and restaurants are opening up. Some neighborhoods are becoming more hip than others. There’s a growing arts scene. And so much more. It’s great to see a city coming into its own. Especially a city as beautiful and unique as Yangon. So here are just a few photos from a few days there. Focusing mostly on that retro allure. That certain whatever. That thing that keeps bring me back, over and over again.
I love forgetting about things. I end up shooting a lot of film on my travels, then putting the spent rolls in strange places, losing them for weeks, months, and years at a time. So it’s always an adventure when I find them and have them developed. My most recent finds are from the middle of last year, while I was traveling in China, North Korea, and Myanmar. The above image is from Chaungtha Beach, about five hours from Yangon, in Myanmar. While walking along the sand one day, I came across a group of nuns collecting shells and enjoying the afternoon sun close to a nearby temple. Simple. Peaceful. And a nice thing to find lying around, waiting to be discovered.
So I’ve been without reliable internet for most of the past week. Traveling through Myanmar, from Mandalay to Nyaungshwe to Kengtung and, finally, to Yangon. Where I sit. At the Traders Hotel. Drinking a Bloody Mary and using their internet and generally taking a much needed break from everything. I’m still gathering my thoughts about all the places I’ve been and the things I’ve seen and the country in general. But for now, here are some photo outtakes from the past few days. It’s all I can manage.
A fisherman in Amarapura. A gathering of novice monks in Sagaing. A crowded bus and a lone boy in Mandalay. Fried crickets at the market. Ancient temples on mountainsides. Riding a boat into Inle Lake. A market scene in Nyaungshwe. Watermelons at rest. Morning alms in Kengtung. And a man climbing an extremely tall tree. Simple.
While traveling around Mandalay and the surrounding ancient capitals, I came across several dozen workers loading barges with large rocks from the mainland. Just carrying rocks and dumping rocks and repeating the process ad nauseam. It was poetic and interesting in that way that sometimes very repetitive things can be poetic and interesting. I stuck around for a bit and took some photos. I also climbed the planks up to the barge and almost got bounced into the water (apparently long thick unsupported beams BOUNCE like all get-out, I learned almost tragically), which elicited cheers and laughs and bonding and all that. Once up on the boat, I had to steel myself for a good 15-20 minutes before making my way back down. The beams are steeper than they look. In the end, it was kind of a leap of fate.
Anyway, the rocks were being transported to build highways. A few boats down, people were hauling lumber and smaller rocks and charcoal. All back and forth, back and forth. For each trip, an individual earns one stick. At the end of the day, the sticks are traded in for 50 kyat a piece. About five cents. A good worker can make as many as 300 trips during the day. So that’s like US$20 a day, when there’s work. No clear answer on whether or not there’s always work.