Lynn Gail Photography

In a world where you can be anything you want, be yourself.

Category: Burma

Customs of Burma

Burma is steeped in Theravada Buddhism, the Burmese live and sleep their belief system and it is evident everywhere you go.  In Bagan (Pagan) I was stunned into silence (which is quite rare for me!) when I looked out from temple steps to witness a vista of over 4,000 temples – it is literally a breathtaking sight – pagoda spires dot the landscape as far as the eye can see.  The mind can only marvel at the workmanship involved in building the temples between the 11th and 13th Centuries.  I bet many a calloused hand took part in the hard labour.  In each of the temples there is a seated Buddha for worshipers to pay their respects.  Though only statues, the figures emanated peace and strangely seemed to nourish the soul.

Budha statue, Temple, Bagan, Myanmar.

At sunrise, hot air balloons emerge through the trees and float across the plain – every few minutes the quietness is interrupted by a whoosh as the flames keep the vessel afloat.  They float so close to the temples you can almost talk to the people inside!

Balloons over Bagan ancient temples, Myanmar.

Every night you’ll find candles burning in temples as young and old worship Buddha.  The whole base of the stupa is often surrounded by burning candles lighting up the darkness as the sun goes down.

Candles lit for prayer, Shwezigon Paya, Bagan.

Famously known as the Long Necked women, the Padaung Tribe are from the Kayah state, also known as the Karen or Karin women.  I had a difficult time photographing these beautiful women.  In the past the rings were applied purely for customary beliefs – now for an entirely different reason in some areas. Today many younger Padaung women are ferried across the border to Thailand to provide tour groups with photo opportunities.  The rings are extremely heavy and at age nine they start wearing 14 rings up until they are old enough to reach the maximum 32 rings!  Once on they are never removed – this often causes the collar bone to deform.  The women I met were very graceful and welcoming – I asked how it felt to wear the rings and how they lived with them on a daily basis.  They smiled humbly and said they were no problem at all – I found that hard to believe though as a full set weights around 10 kilos. In photographing this culture, I felt perhaps I was promoting the use of the rings.  I wanted to highlight the reasons behind their exploitation – although this is not always the case depending on where they live and their age.

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Ramblings of late….

I keep telling myself my aim is to keep my blog regularly updated with my latest work and travel tales – but somehow it seems to slip down the ‘to do’ list.  I am hoping to to push it up : ).

Myanmar (Burma) had been on my bucket list for some time. I have a sneaky feeling I sneaked in just at the right time before it became too popular on the over trodden tourist trail.  Myanmar’s people are humble and gracious; they will literally bend over backwards to help you find your way and point you in the right direction.  Although some words do get lost in translation and you can end up walking for hours!  After ‘listening’ to many pointed fingers along a railway track we finally found the old train that circumnavigates Yangon stopping at 37 stations – it well worth the zigzagging walk.  The stations are full of characters that showed as much interest in us and we did in them. A portrait photographer’s dream.

Portrait of teenage boy in train, Yangon, Myanmar (Burma).

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The colourful train stations were a small highlight, when you add the unique iconic Inle Fishermen and the warmth of the Buddhist monks into the mixture things begin to make you wish you had way longer than two weeks to soak up the Burmese culture and landscape.

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As a rite of passage, men are supposed to enter into monkhood twice in their lives, once as a novice aged between 10 and 20, and once as a fully ordained monk any time after their 20th birthday. In line with the Buddhist philosophy of removal of desire for materialism and want, everything a monks owns or consumes is supposed to be donated by the lay community. A life very different to how we are raised in western society.

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These are just a few images I wanted to share to get the ball rolling.  I will be adding more soon.