It is very difficult to identify a culture’s people we adore as much as the Burmese. Eternally open, joyous and exuberant with life, they are at the very heart of our experience in their country and certainly the memories and images we took away from it. While we spent a total of four days in Yangon and Mandalay, the two principal cities, most of our time ashore was in small villages, usually alongside the Irrawaddy River itself. And every encounter was filled with laughter and smiles and a profound curiosity from each side. So most of what we can give you is a small selection of the hundreds of photos Bonnie took of these wonderful people.
Let’s start with the women. Virtually all of them, along with the children, wear thanaka cream on their faces. It is slightly yellow in color, made of the ground bark of the thanaka tree and provides protection from the strong sun which pervades Myanmar for most of the year. Dressed in the traditional longhi, adapted centuries ago from Indian neighbors, they were often sighted at riverside washing clothes, but were also frequently spotted carrying things,
usually on their heads!
If you click on any of the photos above you will be able to scroll through them full sized.
At the same time, when not laboring, they are adept at sharing a comfortable shaded platform in the heat of the day.
Note the woman on the left waving with a cellphone in her hand. Like nearly everywhere in the world now, cellphones are common with even the poorest of Myanmar’s rural people.
We do want to give some showtime to the many men we encountered as well. Below is a gallery of some of our favorites.
The last of these was a gentleman and his fighting cock, victorious in the battle that preceded our arrival. And among the teenagers, sometimes we encountered those with a slightly different perspective.
Another feature of life in Myanmar are the monks and nuns found nearly everywhere. Often they are more mature monks seen out begging their daily rice as they do each day. Those are nuns in the background of the photo below.
The rice is then pooled and distributed to individual bowls,
and taken to a common eating area and shared among a group of monks or nuns.
The variety of what those bowls may contain is sometimes amazing, though this example is certainly beyond what monks normally share!
Most of the monks and nuns we saw, however, were mere youths, often as young as six years old, always in their distinctive robes. All have their heads shaved, and while they can be part of the Buddhist community for as brief a stay as a week, every child participates sometime before maturity.
These nuns, also young, were on their way to clean up a pagoda in ruin as part of their service when we encountered them.
But of course it was the children who absolutely captured us with their smiles and happiness.
We are afraid that this could go on endlessly as we seem to have well over a hundred photos of the children, so here is a gallery of just five more!
Finally, here is a quick look at the people of the Irrawaddy, particularly the children, in action:
It has now been six weeks since we finished our trip up the Irrawaddy in Myanmar, and just scrolling through the images in preparation of writing this posting makes us somehow nostalgic for the simplicity and joy we found there.
Stay tuned for the next posting, a deep look into village life in Myanmar.