I have been to Asia. I love going to Asia. Myanmar however was a whole new experience. In November 2015 I travelled to Bagan in Myanmar via Yangon for work. On our way to Bagan we had one night and a full day to explore Yangon, Myanmar’s capital. In 40 degree heat we made our way to the Shwedagon Pagoda, on foot because clearly that’s a really great idea when it’s almost noon. To be fair we figured we would see more of Yangon this way, having witnessed crazy South East Asian traffic on our way from the airport to the hotel the night before. By the time we got to the pagoda we hadn’t realised that to get to the actual entrance to the temple there were what felt like 800 steps to take. Once up there though, it’s all worth it.
Bare feet burning on blistering hot white marble floors we rounded the golden stupa. At least once. I think. It was hard to tell as apart from the golden stupa there were a myriad of buddha statues, little shrines, big shrines, planetary posts and a whole lot of gold, blinking LED lights and temples. Weaving our way through everything there was to see we noticed most people simply resting in the shaded areas instead of coming closer the the shrines at the foot of the stupa. After crossing the white tiles in full sun shine we realised why, decided to cool our burning feet down by the lake and return before sunset.
An early morning flight later we found ourselves in Bagan, a vast plain with over 2200 Buddhist temples dating back to the 12th century. And every morning at sunrise hot air balloons rise up and fly over those temples. Every morning without fail my alarm woke me at 5am and in the humid dark, crickets humming in the air, I would make my way across another dusty field towards a closed up temple. The gatekeeper would unlock the gate and show me the right steps to get to the upper levels. Squeezing through narrow pathways, hands feeling the way along rough sandstone, bare feet padding up uneven blocks, always in the pitch black, until finally the way ahead opens up and the most magical of all views greets you in silence. I have never been a morning person but some experiences in life will change you forever. Myanmar was that experience for me.
Photographed on Kodak Portra 400 and Fuji 400h. Developed and scanned by Richard Photo Lab.