Not that long ago, Myanmar was unknown. It’s only been in the last decade or so — a blip, in the grand scheme of things — that Myanmar has opened itself to tourism, and for most people, the country is still well off the beaten path. It was a place few travelers ever visited, one that existed in a time apart from the rest of the world, largely isolated from modernity. As the writer Rudyard Kipling said of it, when it was still known as Burma, “it is unlike any land you know about.”
Staged photo, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 14 mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 1/160, ISO 800, handheld.
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When I arrived in Myanmar, it was easy to see that this is a land still immersed in traditional ways. Unlike much of the world, Myanmar doesn’t appear to be in any great hurry to slough off the past and adopt all the trappings of the new and modern. It’s still quite possible to see something of life as it has been lived here for centuries, behind a veil of near total isolation from the rest of the world.
But tourists are quickly discovering Myanmar. Its gilded pagodas and floating gardens are mystical and serene and it isn’t hard to find yourself completely enchanted by the country and its people. Foreign tourists will bring change to the country; it’s inevitable. And little by little, those traces of ancient life may begin to slip away.
As I traveled through Myanmar, I had the profound sense of having entered a land at a hinge moment of its history, a land still permeated by the past but where change is happening rapidly. A familiar refrain among travelers to the country is “You have to see it before it changes.”
I was fascinated by Myanmar for years before I was fortunate enough to see it for myself, and the people I met there have a special place in my heart. I feel that I was able to see this beautiful country at a rare moment in its long history, and I hope my photographs capture the beauty of the landscape and the kind and gentle spirit of its people.