MYANMAR PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR

Myanmar is slightly larger than France and the 40th largest country in the world. It boasts over 100 ethnic tribes as it boarders five countries, yet there is still a wonderful innocence to the people which makes them warm and welcoming. 

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“These guys have got it right. Tuition seems effortless, even the most hardened luddite of the group grasped each of the lessons straight away. Before you know it, you realise that you have the ability to take any photographs in any situation. And that feels good. Throw in top hospitality and plenty of socialising makes this two-thumbs up”.

HORDALAND FOLKEBLAD

Highlights.

Photographically, this is a dream as the locals are generally happy to have their pictures taken (and, in fact, may request photos with you in return) and will welcome you into their lives. The dusty lands of crumbling stupas, shimmering temples in the spectacular light are hard to beat visually.

It’s still early days for tourism here and if you get off the prescribed routes, as we do, you are confronted by a rural land that has not changed for hundreds of years.

Street photography in the winding alleys of Yangon, with opportunities for casual portraits in the city’s outskirts.

Portraiture on the waterways of Inle Lake, as we get up close and personal with the famous one leg rowers.

Landscape photography on the waterways and dusty planes of Bagan, from sunrise to sunset.

Capturing stories, as we hear about the lives of local stone carvers and goat herders.

Black and white documentary challenge with the idol carvers.

Lighting and reflecting light with an off-camera flash workshop.

If you choose to do a balloon ride over the Bagan temples, then you will also experience the wonders of aerial photography.

Myanmar Photography Tour Itinerary.

“Mingalabar!” – welcome to the golden land! Our Myanmar photo adventure starts in Yangon with a quick transfer to your hotel – did we mention it is a 1920s luxury yacht hotel? 

Time to freshen up before we take you through what to expect on your magical 10 days ahead. In the afternoon we get the cameras warmed up and the skills refreshed by our expert tutor as we take you downtown to explore Yangon.  Here, you will experience a warren of historic streets concealing some of the best British colonial-era architecture in the region, chattering teashops, historic markets and bustling streets. The outing will culminate at Warden Jetty, where you will have an opportunity to see local life at all social levels under the setting sun. The evening will be spent digesting what you saw in a faded but fascinating old colonial mansion, “House of Memories”, for dinner.

At Creative Escapes, we like to support local enterprises and people who have fought adversity. Htoo Htoo is one such guy. He is a larger than life character who, after his unexpectedly died, had to step up as the eldest son, to bring in the money for his family. He decided to show foreigners the real Myanmar that he lives in, so set up as a guide, but in our view will also be the next youtube sensation  He will be our exclusive Yangon insider as he takes us on a fantastic bespoke journey across the river to his hometown where we will visit his favourite breakfast spot, meet the people he grew up with, and visit the market his mum shops in. It’s only 2km from the centre of the city of Yangon, but you will be transported into the countryside. Not many tourists get out here, so it’s about as real as it gets. Having fired up the cameras in the streets of Yangon the day before, this will be a chance to build on your skills and interact with subjects to work on composition and directing your shots. All whilst supporting the community. Before the day id done we will also go to his snake temple (it’s weirdness!) … It’s an incredible day that should have your memory cards aching. Then is back for sunset, a spa treatment, if you are inclined or just stories and cocktails.

Up and off to the airport. Yangon has been a great way to start this trip but it’s time to change the tempo and head for the slower pace of Inle Lake, with its stilted houses and backdrop of the Shan Hills. The flight is a quick hour and ten minutes and the drive is around one hour to the lake. Hopefully, you will have had a chance to look through and select some of your favourite images from Yangon on the way,   as there will be an opportunity to share and discuss these at our  customary slideshow in the evening.  But, for now, we head straight to the Red mountain winery for a tasting of the best wines in Myanmar and some lunch. 

Your tutor will brief you over lunch about what we have in store for you during our time in Inle, and will get you inspired with a travel photo workshop. 

Having let the midday sun burn off, we send our bags to the hotel and head for the water – Maing Thouk Wooden Bridge, to be exact. They call it the little U-Bein bridge. Here, small boats will take us on our first look at this floating land, guided by the ladies of the Inthar ethnic group. They will lead us through floating vegetable gardens, stilted houses and show us the unique tradition of one leg rowing.

We will be back in plenty of time to check in, relax and catch the sunset over the lake from the waterside deck of the hotel before our first slideshow of Yangon.

Slow………… this day is yours to do with it what you want: catch the sunrise, have a spa treatment, pop to the Khaung Daing Natural Hot Spring, work on some pictures or just sleep in!

There is an option of meeting for lunch, followed by a trip to Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery, if you’re keen to explore Inle more This 150-year-old monastery is a gem of Burmese architecture, known for its large oval windows. It was built in the 19th century from teak and is covered with carved wooden bas-reliefs decorated with colourful glass mosaics and gold paint. The monastery used to house the poor boys before they became novice monks and you may get the chance to meet with them while you visit. The lake is all about the sunsets, so if you choose to do this excursion, we will make sure you’re back in time to get your perfect viewing spot before the sun starts its descent over the lake. 

Back on the lake to see a different side. We will head right down to the bottom and up a river to the Indein village. This is one of the villages that hosts the Inle “5 day market”, a market which is held in a five-day rotating cycle around the lake. It’s also where the Pa-Oh people who live in the surrounding hills sell their crops. Here is your chance to capture some amazing portraits and build on a series or project.

The village is best known for its ancient Nyaung Ohak Pagodas, which date back to the 17th and 18th century, with one dating back even earlier than that to the 14th century. It feels very Indiana Jones as you walk amongst the pagodas. They come in all shapes and sizes and in various states of preservation. While some have been restored, others are in their original crumbling state. The site contains hundreds of pagodas and makes for an incredible backdrop or a chance to explore a structural theme.

With some treasures on your memory cards, we head home. It’s our last night here and a chance to collate the projects you have been working on for the group show.

One last dawn on the lake before a quick flight to Mandalay. It’s the second largest city and its surroundings have some of the Myanmar’s best sites.

Our hotel is centrally located and rather like an oasis in the city. Once installed, we head out for some local lunchtime specialities before our afternoon adventures. 

If you liked the header shot to this trip, then you are in luck, as we are going to the same location. We take a short boat trip across the river and a horse carriage through amazing countryside that feels untouched for millennia to Innwa. This was the capital of Myanmar and the structures here were large but in ruins, as an earthquake hit the area badly. Whether you are into the architecture or are keen to use it as a backdrop for portraits, this whole area has a certain time-capsule feel.

From here we’ll head to the famous the U Bein Bridge, which was built in 1850 out of teak, using the remains of a royal palace and is believed to be the oldest and (once) longest bridge in the world. Locals flock here in the evening to see the setting sun from on top of, or under, the bridge. It is quite the scene and an excellent opportunity to capture portraits and document the event.

Today is epic and a chance to further hone your skills in storytelling. We are up early to jump on a train at the Tha Ye ze, which means Warrior Market. The produce and vendors line the tracks, some even in between the rails. All are miraculously swept up and cleared as the train approaches. 

The train will take us 45km out of Mandalay, winding through rice fields and villages to Matayar, a town famous for betel leaf and guava orchards. Beyond the orchards are the marble quarries and Sagyin village where they sculpt idols. There seems to be an endless need for them and we will watch the sculptors at work. Perfect for dusty portraits and power tools.

If that has not got you a story or two then we end the day back on the Irrawaddy with some local fisherman, who have developed a special, collaborative relationship with dolphins.   In a unique tradition, the dolphins voluntarily herd fish into nets for the fishermen, which can increase the size of fishermen’s catch, and then feed on those fish that don’t make it into the net. It’s a win-win situation for the dolphins and fishermen (not so much for the fish though).

Bags packed and out first thing as we are racing the great light tourist boats to the monumental but unfinished Mingun Pagoda, the beautiful large 19th-century Mya Thein Tan Buddhist pagoda with a white–painted exterior modelled on a legendary mountain. With luck there will be a monk or two to give your pictures a context. Tourist boats arrive at around 10am and the whole place loses its charm but that’s ok as we will just be leaving to get to Bagan. En route we will stop at local cafes, catch the cheroot smoking locals, sample some tealeaf salad and arrive in Bagan in the early afternoon and your first sunset over the stupas. Our hotel has a tower and one of the best views available.

Dawn over the pagodas is what this place is famous for. You have seen the pictures, so it’s time to feel it from a pagoda viewing point.

Back to the hotel for breakfast, a dip or a chill before we ready our next special event. It’s a light on your feet day.

The 4400 pagodas date back to the same period as the majestic temples of Angkor and daily life has always interwoven with them. So today we tackle the vast archeological Bagan site from a very different perspective. Photography is all about exactly that as no one likes to tread the same path and shoot the same views, so today our guides are goats! Yes, today we go back in time and yearn for a simple life as we join the goats herders of Bagan as they go about their daily business of herding their animals in the UNESCO site they call home. This is a perfect chance for a documentary exercise and an opportunity to tell a more interesting story with backdrops to die for. Lunch will also be local, so we expect the chances for killer portraits is high. The only rule of the day is not to upset the goats (models). We will be back in plenty of time to enjoy the hotel’s amenities.

Today we drive beyond Bagan and get a taste of more local life when we visit a small village on Kyun Thiri Island. We leave from a jetty about 30 minutes from our hotel and take a boat for about only 10 minutes to cross the river. Here we will be transported back in time once more. We will be met by bullock cart or ox that will take us to go to Kyunthiri, en route, you will enjoy the glorious scenes of people working the peanut, corn fields, beans, onions and chili plantations by hand. This stilted village also has a monastery where you can chat with the head monk who is only the third head monk in 120 years since the monastery was built.

Lunch will be at one of the local houses where we will have it ‘local style’, under a big tree. 

After lunch we head back and spend the afternoon in the faded colonial-era town of Salay. We are here to cruise the streets looking for decisive moments. This is a quieter town with amazing textures, backdrops and shapes to work with. In amongst it we just need some players to our scenes. Constructing street scenes will be your workshop and the morning light should give this a magic. There are also 103 ruins so you will have lots to play with. 

It’s the final night so we need to prep. Tonight we have our last group slide show and mini pop up gallery of best shots followed by a dinner. It’s an opportunity to look back over our amazing trip to Myanmar and all the things you have learned along the way. 

If you ever wanted to tick the bucket list, then a sunrise hot air balloon above Bagan’s hundreds of stupas was probably on it *optional extra. If not it’s your last chance to see the incredible sunrise from a stupa before we get picked up and head to the airport for our flights home. 

New friends, amazing memories and social feeds to die for. 

Until the next time. 

Details.

1-12 November

2021
Spaces available

11 days. 10 nights. Starts in Yangon and ends in Bagan, Myanmar.

£2650 / £450 single supplement

Price includes 10 days boutique accommodation at listed hotels, including breakfast 11 full days tuition from our UK-based professional photographer, all transfers and excursions on rivers, Multiple 1-on-1 tuition sessions

Price excludes flights, lunch and dinner.

 

At the time of publishing there are no direct flights into Yangon from the UK. The easiest is to fly to BKK and then its a quick hop to Myanmar. Prices start at around £600. We will update as things start to ease.

"Quite simply one of the best things I have ever done."


Paul Goodhead, Manchester