Bagan, Myanmar. November 2019 (12 photos)

This is Part 8 of my posts about Myanmar, and Part 10 of my posts about my near month-long visit to Myanmar, Thailand and Singapore in November 2019.

Bagan is an ancient city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Mandalay Region of Myanmar. From the 9th to 13th centuries, the city was the capital of the Pagan Kingdom, the first kingdom that unified the regions that would later constitute modern Myanmar. During the kingdom’s height between the 11th and 13th centuries, 4,446 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the Bagan plains alone. Many survive in various states of decay and renovation.

I suppose the obvious post about Bagan would feature its landscapes and temples. That will come another time. For now, here is a selection of local Burmese who kindly allowed me to photograph them; my Portraits from Bagan. It’s surprising how far one word (Mingalaba = Hello) and a smile will get you when in Myanmar.

Above a young boy sits on temple steps, seemingly lost in thought.

“Man outside temple ruins”

This man was sitting outside an ancient temple, doing not much. I think he enjoyed the attention he was getting from my camera.

“Don’t it make my brown eyes blue?”

A child monk at the Shwezigon Pagoda, during Tazaungdaing. Whilst I was photographing him a teenage monk came up behind him and started draping his robe on this young monk’s head. The young monk didn’t flinch but his eyes say it all.

“Woman smoking a cheroot”

I think that wall was made to be photographed.

“Face of a monk”

“Mother and daughter”

In a small village somewhere in Bagan.

“Crouching monks, not-so-hidden dragon”

I crouched down to be at their same head level.

“Young monks”

“Child at a roadside stall”

There are many roadside stalls in Bagan. This toddler eating rice was at one of them.

“I see you”

It seems tourists remain a curiosity to many Burmese. I noticed this monk was taking photos of me, so I took one of him.

“Young monk sitting on the back of a truck”

“Portraits from Bagan”

An inside view of the house with the woman smoking a cheroot.


As a side note, I had planned to be in New Zealand this week, just as I had planned to be in Japan last month. Since getting out of the house is something that’s not encouraged in these current times I’ll probably dip into the archives and/or post less once this current photographic series is completed.


This is Part 8 of my posts about Myanmar, and Part 10 of my posts about my near month-long visit to Myanmar, Thailand and Singapore in November 2019.

Leica Etcetera, Photography Etcetera

Portraits from Bagan


60 thoughts on “Portraits from Bagan

  1. Apart from the fact that the cheroot is ENORMOUS your photo β€œWoman smoking a cheroot” is the perfect example of what I was trying to show in my challenge – “using a pattern as a background for a specific subject”. Your monk photos are excellent too. I hope you will keep posting even if from your archives. I learn so much from you as well as getting immense enjoyment looking at your photos and the places you have travelled to.
    Stay safe xx

    • Thanks very much, Jude. That wall completely makes that photo. Don’t know how it keeps out the rain, though.

      I’m not a fan of reposting, so I’ll try to continue to post new content when I can. Let’s hope we all get through this current situation. I wish I could stay home as per the general direction, but my work is an essential service, so that’s difficult.

    • It’s funny, I used to regularly see locals taking photos of tourists, and they would also come up to tourists and take selfies with them, including me. It just brings a smile to the face. πŸ™‚

      Yes, I don’t think anyone’s travelling these days, unless it’s essential. Safety first, including for those around you. Stay safe.

    • Thanks very much, Alex. Myanmar was an awesome photographic experience, and the people so friendly. I enjoyed taking their photos then showing the photos back to them.
      I hope you’re well and keeping safe also.

    • No I didn’t. I’m sure I would have been in a coughing fit for hours if I did. However, I’m sure that would have given the locals great cause to laugh. πŸ™‚
      Thanks, Julie.

  2. I loved this reminder of Myanmar, a place which I liked for the gentleness of its people (hard to say that in some contexts). Beasutiful photos. I remember that “face cream” that is so popular. Also, that wall you point out continues across the border into eastern India; exactly the same weave. Someone once showed me how to do it.

    • Thank you. It’s true that our perceptions of a country are tainted by the images of its leadership. The trick is to meet the real people.
      They call that “facial cream” thanaka, a paste made from certain grounded barks, mostly worn by women and children. Most children had it as a full face application whereas women had it applied more decoratively.
      That’s interesting about the weave of the wall. It was a beautiful photographic backdrop.

  3. Splendid portraits, as always.
    Myanmar was the first country I felt OK taking portraits; people were always so smiling and open to the possibility that I felt less self-conscious in asking.
    The results are fabulous.

    Take care and stay home safely.

    • Thank you very much. I was already used to taking portraits, but Myanmar was on another higher level. Yes the locals were very friendly, and the smiles got even bigger when I showed them their photos. I hope you’re doing well. It’s a strange time at the moment.

  4. Lovely portraits, once again.

    For some reason I thought cheroots were small cigars, only slightly larger than cigarettes. So when I saw your picture of the woman smoking a honking big stogie I was, if that’s a cheroot in Burma I’d hate to see a full size cigar. Google cleared up the misconception, but still, that thing is dang near a log.

  5. I’m glad you’re at home – I had been wondering. These are days to reflect on travel rather than to do it. I bet you’ll find rich treasures in your archives. I love your people and places pictures, but I’d love to see a gallery of flowers or gardens you’ve seen on your travels and not had the incentive to share.

    • Thank you very much, Lisa. In general, the Burmese were wonderful to interact with, and the photo opportunities were great. All good so far, but these are uncertain times.

  6. A treasure trove of portraits, my friend. I was especially taken with the depth you were able to capture in their eyes. There is something about your personality that grounds and settles people. I especially liked seeing both the front and back of the house with the woman smoking the cheroot, it was whimsical. My favorite photo is the crouching monks, you did such a great job of capturing all four personalities in this.

    • Thank you kindly, Jet. A big smile was all I needed at times, and even bigger smiles were returned when I showed my photos back to people. The positive interactions made the trip so much more enjoyable.

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