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Amazing Myanmar with Karl Grobl – February 2020

Overview

Rudyard Kipling once described Burma (Myanmar) as: “Quite unlike any land you know about.” Join us as we explore this Golden Land, perhaps the least discovered country in Southeast Asia. Our itinerary includes Yangon’s Schwedagon Pagoda, the ancient city of Bagan where the landscape is dotted with more than one thousand temples and Inle Lake, where we will photograph local fishermen, bustling local markets and lakeside life seemingly unchanged for centuries. In Mandalay we will photograph monks crossing U Bien’s bridge, a 1.2 Km teak footbridge. The major points of interest on this trip include Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, and the Inle Lake. Each location affords us a wide variety of photographic opportunities including street photography, landscape photography, environmental portraiture and still life. Burma is truly one of the few “authentic” destinations remaining in this modern, ever-homogenizing world.

Yangon, or Rangoon as it was once called, is the largest city in Burma and contains the amazing Shwedagon Pagoda. The origin of the Shwedagon Pagoda dates back over 2500 years. Gautama Buddha presented eight strands of sacred hairs to two merchants, who offered it to King Okkalapa on their return. The king built a pagoda on a hilltop overlooking the port city of Okkalapa, in which the sacred hairs were enshrined. Successive monarchs enlarged the pagoda by building outer structures over the original. The present stupa reaching a height of 326 feet was completed in the mid 1450s by Queen Shin-Sawpu. The last renovation of the Shwehtidaw (literally meaning the “Golden Umbrella” and comprising the Diamond Bud, the vane and the shaft) was successfully undertaken by King Mindon in 1871.

Mandalay is the modern center of Buddhism and Myanmar arts, but was once the old royal city. Mandalay, 670 km north of Yangon, is now the home of traditional artisans – including wood and stone carvers, silversmiths, weavers and those producing gold leaf. The former capitol, prior to British rule, and second largest city in the country, Mandalay takes its name from the nearby 240-meter Mandalay Hill, and is rich in monasteries and pagodas.

Bagan is one of the richest archaeological sites in Asia, it is located on the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River. Once the capitol of the Myanmar Empire, Bagan covers an area of 42 sq. km containing over 2000 well-preserved pagodas and temples of the 11th – 13th century. At its height, in the early 11th century, Bagan was the world center of Therevada Buddhism, with more than 13,000 pagodas covering the plains bordered by two sides of the Ayeyarwady River. But the city fell to the invasion of Kublai Kahn’s hordes in 1287 and was abandoned, leaving to this day thousands of pagodas remaining in the midst of the Mongol destruction.

At 875 meters above sea level, Inle Lake is surrounded by high hills that help to keep the waters calm and lake area misty. The huge and beautiful lake not only contains a marvelous microcosm of aquatic life and activity, but is also home to a harmonious blend of national races, including the Bamar, Danaw, Danu, Intha, Kayah, Pa-O, Shan, and Taung-Yo peoples. Inle Lake also supports a thriving farming community that produces a wide range of vegetables and flowers. Rice is cultivated at the northern end of the lake on extremely fertile, man-made floating islands. The local men also produce silver and brassware, pottery and lacquerware, and the women of Inle Lake are highly skilled weavers.

Itinerary

Day 1: Guests arrive in Yangon, are picked up at airport and transported to our hotel. Yangon, formerly Rangoon, continues to be a city of the past, as seen by its lyongi-wearing pedestrians, its street vendors, and its pungent smells. If you are arriving early today, you will enjoy having the afternoon free to relax or venture out and explore this amazing city. Afternoon or evening orientation meeting at hotel, then dinner and spend the night in Yangon.

Day 2:Morning guided tour of Shwedagon Pagoda, then drive to Bago, guided tour of Bago then drive back to Yangon for an evening shoot at Shwedagon Pagoda. Gleaming in gold and decorated with diamonds, the huge Shwedagon Pagoda is a spectacular work of Burmese temple architecture and is the holiest Buddhist shrine in Myanmar. Dinner and spend the night in Yangon.

Day 3:Morning flight from Yangon to Mandalay, where we are then transported to our hotel. After checking in, we spend the afternoon on a guided tour to visit Mandalay Hill and City Palace. Mandalay hill is known for its abundance of pagodas and monasteries, and has been a major pilgrimage site for Burmese Buddhists for nearly two centuries. The view from atop Mandalay Hill alone makes it worth the climb up the stairs. For those not wishing to walk, there is also a one-way motor road. After dinner we are treated to one of Mandalay’s famous Marionette Puppet Shows. Spend the night in Mandalay.

Day 4:Mandalay all day: visit to Inwa, Sagaing, Amarapura and if we have enough time – Ubien Bridge. Amarapura, the City of Immortals, was a capitol before Mandalay was built. In Amarapura we visit and photograph the Mahagandayone monastery, to observe the morning meal of hundreds of monks. Then it’s off to Segaing, a religious sanctuary with the town at the foot of the hills and hundreds of pagodas, monasteries and nunneries tucked into the surrounding valleys and hills. It’s a photographer’s paradise, with some monasteries made of brick in a combination of Western and Myanmar architectural designs, while others are contructed from massive teak wood trees. Spend the night in Mandalay.

Day 5:Mandalay: breakfast at hotel then guided day tour to Mingun village by private boat. Mingun is home to the world’s largest ringing bell, weighing in at 87 tons. Mingun is also home to the unfinished Mingun Pagoda, which was built between 1790 and 1797 by King Bodawpaya. we return to Mandalay, then after a break, visit and photograph monks at sunset, crossing the U Bein Bridge, the world’s longest teak bridge. Spend the night in Mandalay.

Day 6:Free time today for downloading images, enjoying a massage, taking a dip in the pool and/or scheduling a 30 minute portfolio review with Karl and/or individual photography instruction based on your individual needs. At 3:00pm, transfer to airport and take a short flight to Bagan – Sunset photography at Shwesandaw pagoda (looking east). Spend the night in Bagan.

Day 7:We’ll be up early for a sunrise shoot from a temple top. We’ll return to the hotel for breakfast.

Later we’ll spend the touring Bagan starting from Nyaung Oo market and a few big-name temples including Shwezigon, Htilominlo and Ananda. After lunch, visit to Lacquer industry and Minnanthu village. Sunset shoot from Pyathatgyi temple (looking west). Spend the night in Bagan.

Day 8:This morning we are up early to catch our horse drawn carriages for a sunrise shoot at temples. Then we go for a day tour to see brown sugar, alcohol and plum juice production, on the way to Mt. Popa. Mt. Popa is a place of pilgimage for Burmese of all walks of life and is home to Burma’s nats. Locals climb the mountain to make offerings to the nats. We’ll witness and photograph this spectacle before returning to Bagan for a sunset shoot at Phat That Gyi Temple, followed by dinner and a good night’s sleep in Bagan.

Day 9:Free day in Bagan to visit your favorite temples via electric motorbike, horse cart, or walking. Perhaps take leisure time to get a massage, swim, do some shopping or download images / review and edit.

Karl will be available in 30 minute appointments to help you with anything photographic. If time permits Karl will provide a two thirty minute lectures on photographic composition, lighting and rapport building. Spend the night in Bagan.

Day 10:Morning flight from Bagan to Heho, then transport to Inle Lake / Nyaungshwe, stopping to photograph the Heho market on the way. Upon arrival in Nuangshwe, immediately board long tail boats and set out across Inle Lake to a beautiful resort where we relax and unwind for a few hours. In the afternoon we are treated to a boat ride to photograph local fisherman houses on the lake. Dinner and overnight in Heho.

Day 11:Guided tour with private boats to visit different lakeside markets where the hill tribes come to buy, sell and exchange all types of goods, including fish, produce, farm implements and handicrafts. In addition to all the lakeside market activities we photograph, we will also visit such sites as the Jumping Cats (Nga Phe Kyaung) monastery, and a traditional silk factory where old weaving looms are used. Dinner and overnight in Heho.

Day 12:After a leisurely breakfast our private boats take us to Nuangshwe town and we’ll check into our hotel. Today you will have the afternoon free to explore Nuangshwe town, with its shops, monasteries, pagodas, and bustling markets. Dinner followed by a good night’s sleep in Nuangshwe.

Day 13:This day we rise early to photograph monks from the local monasteries, walking through town collecting their daily alms from the local population. Later we have a guided walking tour of Nuangshwe town including the many monasteries, pagodas and the local market. Those wishing to hike or rent a local bicycle are free to do so. Spend the night in Nuangshwe.

Day 14:After breakfast we are transported back to Heho for flight to Yangon. After checking into our hotel, we have the afternoon to relax, shop or continue photographing, including one last optional visit to Shwedagon Pagoda. This evening we will enjoy a nice farewell dinner and spend the final night in Yangon.

Day 15:Today guests are transported to the airport for flights back home.

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