2 Jun 2015

People from Myawaddy, the door to Myanmar

The first thing you notice when you cross the Friendship Bridge that separates (or links) Thailand with Myanmar over Moei River is how populated the Burmese border town of Myawaddy is. As early as the border check-point (where you can get the visa without any prior application), hundreds of people can be seen anywhere you point your eyes at, making the crowds of Thailand seem somehow pale in comparison. Myawaddy is by no means a big town, actually it is rather small in terms of geographical scope, as you can easily walk around most of the town in a day, which makes it a perfect one-day-trip from the neighbor town of Mae Sot, and is perfectly reachable by bicycle, as I did myself.

Generations, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
The seamstress, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Soil & oil, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Bingo!, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Hidden feet, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Strolling its barely paved roads and alleys is a journey to a place that, despite the proximity with Thailand, has yet to catch up with modernization in many ways (slums and garbage pits cohabiting with temples and street markets, traditional clothes and colors alongside mobile phones and imported goods), but that shows a restless pace of people and work everywhere your feet brings you. For the most part, I only got smiles and curiosity in return to my glances and gestural way of asking for permission to take their pictures, specially from kids, that are omnipresent in the winding back alleys even under the fiercest sun of afternoon.

Through the wheel, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Serious eyes, colorful world, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Pensive girl, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Not there yet, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Tears that will soon fade, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Only after I returned to my guesthouse in Mae Sot that same evening I realized the downside of my obsession with Myawaddy's people, their homes and their modest businesses, their routines and their open, clear glances: I hadn't visited any of the supposed landmarks of Myawaddy, such as the "Crocodile temple", all my day was spent walking unnamed small roads engaging with whoever happened to be in the vicinity and taking my changes at portraits and people. That's why I decided to call this post "People of Myawaddy", since people is all there is, not a single picture of a landscape, a urban view, a monument; pure and simply, people.

Football in the dump, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Takraw below the bridge, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Faraway friends, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
However, between merchants and kids, vendors and walkers, drivers and idlers, what specially caught my attention, not only by the sheer number of them but specially because of the variety of their duties and tasks, where Buddhist monks. The more I see them and know about them, the more they surprise me, for they can as well be praying or peacefully having a frugal meal, than pruning the trees of their temple, taming a monkey, feeding stray animals or cleaning a car, to name a few, diverse examples (you can see a previous article I posted about Buddhist monks in Thailand here).

Mundane work, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Holy water, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Communication, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Monk's lunch, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Novice's lunch, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Since I live in Thailand, I have long developed a deep admiration for their determination and spirit, and I never get tired of observing how down to earth they are, and how valuable their teachings are in Buddhist societies, more so for children and novices with few other prospects for their future. Novice monks, with their innocent yet curious eyes, are surely one of the easiest ways I can lose sight of time and spent hours just communicating with them with my very limited language skills and capturing some images that, despite their glow, never get close to the feelings of peace and purity these little encounters bring to my soul.

Smile of joy, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
After lunch, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Novice portrait, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Bow, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Seamless colors, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Tighttree walker, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
There's strength in numbers, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
But I would be blind if I pretended that everything was relax and happiness in Myawaddy: far from it. There is poverty, no doubt, and overcrowding, and probably lack of options for many of them, which is never as apparent as in Moei river, where small boats offer the promise of a better land just across the still, silent waters. Good luck to all, and my deepest affection for all the people of a country that has so many different things to offer that one wishes all diversity could be preserved and not washed away slowly for the sake of some other goals.

Two banks, two countries, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm

16 comments:

  1. Came here via digitalphotographyschool. Fantastic shots!

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  2. Beautiful shots, there is heart in those pictures.

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    1. Thank you very much for your warm words!

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  3. Nice images- I enjoy the candidness!

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  4. The photo of the "pensive girl" is resonating. I wish I knew what she was thinking. Its true art. I am truly moved. Its clear to me why you did not bother with sight seeing. These shots are important. They convey a meaning a true meaning - I am moved. Please keep taking photos, Michelle from Australia

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    1. I'm really thankful for your words, Michelle. For me, photography is a way to portray what moves me at a human level, so to read that the feelings I felt while capturing some of those images have traveled to someone else is really beautiful. Thanks again!

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