A Burmese Village Snapshot ~ Near Mandalay, Myanmar

Portrait: Burmese woman and baby, wet from their morning bath.

After the Bath
A Burmese woman and her child pause on a muddy riverbank so they can have their picture taken.

I’ve said it before: the hospitality, friendliness – and general willingness to be be followed around and photographed – of people in small communities off-the-beaten-track, amazes me.

Green fields and muddy river: Aerial view of Mandalay region, Myanmar

Coming into Mandalay
Green fields and the muddy Ayeyarwady River below.

The sun was barely up as we descended over the Mandalay region last September, landing at that beautiful, modern facility in the middle of nowhere: the brand new Mandalay International Airport in Tada-U. Finished in 2000 at a cost of US$150 million, the airport is thirty-five kilometres south of Mandalay, and so necessitated the building of new roads to the city. Wikipedia suggests the whole enterprise was designed to turn the country into an Asian hub for tourism and business. Other sources have whispered that the building of the airport was intended to advantage a powerful general whose lands are located in the area.

Either way, the  “largest and most modern international airport in Burma has never met the high expectations; instead it has come to represent the military junta’s money-wasting white elephant projects.”

Of course, as soon as you are off the modern “expressway”, you are plunged back into villages where water is pumped and carried by hand and electricity is a foreign concept. What a contrast!

A woman with a load on her head walks into a Burmese village, while tourists photograph.

Into the Village
Sometimes the “visitors” out-number the locals!

We were ten photo-tour participants, under the able leadership of Karl Grobl and local guide MM. In a village as small as this one outside Amarapura in the Mandalay region, we were at risk of swamping the local population. In spite of this, villagers stopped to smile, or simply ignored us and went about their daily business.

Burmese woman in bare feet with two water buckets on a shoulder yoke.

Water Carrier

Portrait: Smiling burmese middle aged man against a grass roof.

A Smiling Welcome

Woman and baby on a rock aside a muddy river.

Bath Time

Two burmese women bathing in a muddy river.

Women Bathing

Burmese in a straw hat using a small cup to bale out a wooden boat.


Two wooden boats on a muddy burmese river.

Still Life: Boats

Man paddling a full wooden boat across a muddy burmese river.

Ferry Man

Portrait: A burmese man and woman with their baby; grandma looks on from behind.

Portrait of a Burmese Family
As I was taking a picture of a proud dad and mum with their daughter, grandma snuck into the shot.

Portrait: Old burmese woman against a dirt river bank.

Old Woman on the Riverbank

Portrait of a shirtless burmese man

A local man takes a break.

Portrait of a white floppy-eared cow

Portrait: Cow
I love these Asian cows with their gentle floppy ears.

Two bumese men pumping water in to cans at a village well.

At the Village Pump

Water spilling from a pump onto cobbled ground.

Precious Water

Colourful Rooster in a trough of grain, Mandalay region, Myanmar

Tomorrow’s Dinner?

Through the Window

Through the Window
It’s already white-hot outside, but little light enters inside to the breakfast table.

Blackened pots on an ask pile in the middle of a dirt floor.

The Kitchen
Not a great photo, but an illustration of life’s challenges – imagine making dinner here every night!

Environmental portrait: Burmese by in a wooden chair with a rattan tray of red chilies next to him.

A Boy and his Chillies

Portrait: Solemn-faced burmese boy

Just a Boy

Three white geese on a packed dirt road.

Honking Road Traffic

Portrait of a strong burmese woman

Village Elder

Portrait: Shirtless Burmese Man in a village

Man at the Gate

A baby poy in his burmese mother

“Say Good Bye to the Visitors”

Text: Keep smilingBefore long, we were back in our air-conditioned bus and driving north, and the villagers could go back to their work: pumping and carrying water, plowing the fields behind a bullock, tending the chickens and geese, rowing the boats on the river –

– and smiling.

Pictures: 13Septembe2012

  • Gabe - January 24, 2013 - 7:28 am

    What a contrast; multi million dollar airports with multi million dollar infrastructure but the locals are struggling. I hope that the new Burmese openness leads to better living standards for all.ReplyCancel

  • Signe Westerberg - January 25, 2013 - 4:26 am

    Gabe …Life upside down, we really do get things wrong sometimes, The beautiful smiles on the faces of these people is so enchanting.ReplyCancel

  • michael carter - February 15, 2013 - 11:08 am

    Ursula, thanks for posting this. It gives a feeling of being there, although I’ve never been to Mandalay. I was in Yangon 2 weeks ago. What a long way Myanmar has to come.

    And I love the slideshow at the top. The pic of the Eiffel tower and the people bathing in the river, silhouetted with the reflection on the water – stick in my mind 😉ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - February 16, 2013 - 1:40 am

      Hi Michael,
      I’m glad you liked the post. Isn’t Myanmar wonderful? I thoroughly enjoyed my two weeks there, More posts to come: watch this space! 😉
      Sorry we didn’t catch up – maybe next time you are in Aus.:-)ReplyCancel

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