A Photographic & Cultural Exploration with Mike Yamashita & Jock Montgomery
November 2—13, 2014, 12 days of exploration in
Kyaing Tong, Inle Lake, Mandalay, & Bagan
Optional 3 Day Trip Extension to
Bago & the Golden Rock
Join renowned National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita and adventure travel photographer Jock Montgomery on a photographic exploration visiting the people and places of Myanmar. We’ll mingle with a variety of ethnic groups: the colorful Shan, Palong, Akha hill tribes, the unique leg rowing fishermen of Inle Lake, the burgundy-robed Theravada monks and, of course, the everyday citizens wearing simple sandals and lungis (sarongs). All this is highlighted against a spectacular background of natural and devotional beauty, from stunning rural landscapes to ancient temples and ruins.
- We’ve designed this tour specifically with photography in mind—to take advantage of the awesome landscapes, the warm morning and afternoon light, and to create opportunities to photograph and engage with local Burmese.
- Fine tune your ascetic eye and improve your photography skills with instruction and critiques from Mike and Jock. All levels of photographers are welcome, as well as non-photographing spouses.
- Non-photographer spouses are welcome and encouraged to join.
- Enjoy hiking to remote hill tribes where we engage with and shoot portraits of the villagers.
- Photograph a special Akha hill tribe village festival with traditional stick dancing.
- Traverse gleaming Inle Lake by boat and discover life on the water: floating farms, temples on stilts, weekly markets. Meet the elegant Inn Thar leg rowers of Inle.
- Throughout the trip photograph and engage with villagers creating their local artwork and crafts—especially around the old capitals of Mandalay, Sagaing and Amarapura.
- Take in the vista at the Ubein teak bridge known for its spectacular silhouetted sunsets.
- Explore the endless panorama of the 4000+ temples at Bagan.
- Take the optional sunrise balloon ride above the Bagan temple ruins—with spectacular photo ops!
- Head home with your memory cards full of great photos and your skills fine-tuned.
Photographic Shooting Sessions
From early morning to nightfall, participants will shoot with the supportive guidance of Michael Yamashita and Jock Montgomery. This photography tour concentrates first and foremost on helping you see and shoot in new and exciting ways. The focus will be on working with and “seeing the light,” defining your composition, and creating compelling content. As you work towards nurturing your shooting style, you’ll learn how to take in and personalize those breathtaking moments that range from sweeping natural scenery to colorful human activities.
Photography Reviews and Critiques
Throughout the workshop, Michael and Jock will personally review and critique the photos taken by participants and provide expert advice in review sessions.
Upon conclusion of the workshop, each participant will receive a certificate of completion signed by Michael and Jock.
The Photographer’s Open Eyes
Being flexible and open to new opportunities is the cornerstone to seeking out and shooting compelling photographs. Consider the following itinerary as an outline, and we’ll make every effort to keep our plans flexible so we can take full advantage of photographic opportunities as they arise. A photography tour is defined in great part by the participants, and we’ll strive to accommodate and work together as a group to help each other make the most of the experience as a group and individually. While you read the itinerary you’ll certainly notice that it is packed with activities; and in order to make sure we have time to for editing and critiques, we may need to make changes on the spot. Burma is a place where unusual events (both good and bad), appear out of nowhere like magic and we’ll want to keep our schedule and mental attitudes flexible. As Michael and Jock like to say it’s also all about “being safe and having fun!”
Day 1. 11/2, Fly Bangkok to northern Thailand, drive to Kyaing Tong Shan State, Myanmar
We recommend you arrive a few days before ahead of time so you’re over your jet leg at the beginning of the trip. This morning we’ll meet at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport and fly to Chiang Rai (flight to be announced-TBA). We make our way by van 1.5 hours to the Myanmar border and will continue on to Kyaing Tong, the capital of Myanmar’s Shan State. Jock and our local guide will meet you at the border and the driving time to Kyaing Tong is about 4.5 hours. On route we’ll stop to take in the scenery and meet some local farmers. To save time, Jock and Mike will give an orientation talk in the van. If time allows, this afternoon we’ll tour the Kyaing Tong monastery, the wet market, or perhaps the noodle factory where noodles are made by hand. We stay at the best accommodation in town, the simple Golden Star Hotel (L, D)
Day 2. 11/3, Kyaing Tong, excursion to hill tribe villages
We’ll spend the day hiking through the countryside, enjoying a pack lunch, and visiting Akha and Eng (Ann) hill tribes. The walking will be on good rolling trails for approximately 2-3 hours. We are at 4,000 feet so the weather will be a little cooler here, which makes for better walking. Jock will be making arrangements ahead of time with particular villagers so we can make the most of photo opportunities while at the same time showing our respect for the locals and their customs. Golden Star Hotel (B, L, D)
Day 3. 11/4, Kyaing Tong, more hill tribe visits, Akha full-moon festival celebrations
Today we’ll make another walking excursion to an Akha hill tribe village. This afternoon we’ll experience a village festival with local women performing a traditional dance while wearing traditional clothes. This is a very photogenic event. We’ll dine at a local Shan-style restaurant. Golden Star Hotel (B, L, D)
Day 4. 11/5, Fly to Heho, visit the market, umbrella making, transfer to Inle Lake
The morning we can either take time to edit and review photographs or see more of the sites around Kyaing Tong. Lunch today is at the Bodlane Banyan Restaurant. In the early afternoon we take a 30-minute flight to Heho, a quiet transit town. If time allows, we’ll make a short visit to the lively Heho Market, the meeting point for different ethnic minority groups from the surrounding areas who trade handmade goods and locally grown produce. En route to Inle Lake, we stop at a local family-run workshop to learn how traditional Shan umbrellas and paper are made using fibers from the mulberry tree. The road to Inle Lake descends through the valley with sweeping views of the Shan mountains and rice paddy fields to the town of Nyaungshwe. Here we board long-tail boats and by late afternoon arriveat the well-appointed Pristine Lotus or similar. (B, L, D)
Day 5. 11/6, Inle Lake market day, more cultural sites
We spend the whole day exploring Inle Lake by long-tail boat. This shallow lake is full of floating reeds and water hyacinth. The local Inn Thar minority groups who reside here gather these plants and create rich floating vegetable gardens that are often compared to “French intensive,” gardening methods. As we motor across the lake, we’ll seek out picturesque photographs of the fishermen who row with a unique elegant style: they stand at the stern of their boat and balance on one leg in order to row with the other. Each village on the lake has a rotating morning market and we’ll be sure to visit at least one of these, probably at the village of Indein or Maing Thauk. We’ll visit the Buddhist Phaung Daw Oo Paya Pagoda, and watch women skillfully roll cheroots at a factory, and weave silk at weaving center. Pristine Lotus or similar (B, L, D)
Day 6. 11/7, Mandalay, Snake Pagoda, various crafts shops, Mahamuni Temple, Full Moon Festival
Transfer to Heho airport for morning flight to Mandalay. (Flight TBA.) On route to Mandalay from the airport, we’ll visit the Paleik Snake Pagoda. Three Burmese reticulated pythons live curled around a Buddha image at the pagoda and are washed and fed by devout locals. Walk to and visit with the locals at a nearby riverside weaving and dying village. Lunch is at Marie-Min Vegetarian Restaurant. Across the alley from our eatery is a dusty, well-stocked antique shop that’s worth a visit. We tour central Mandalay this afternoon: view gold leaf making, a marble factory and visit Mahamuni, Mandalay’s most famous temple. If time allows we’ll make an excursion out of town along the Irrawaddy River where many farmers work with bullocks in their fields. This evening we’ll head back to the Mahamuni Temple where we’ll experience a full-moon candlelit procession circling the temple three times. Shwe Inn Gyin Hotel (B, L, D)
Day 7. 11/8, Ancient capitals of Sagaing & Amarapura Buddhist life, silversmith, textiles
Early birds can rise for Mahamuni Buddha’s morning wash and teeth brushing at 4:30AM overseen by a trustee of the pagoda. We can participate in a morning offering by donating alms/food to monks and later enjoy a typical Myanmar breakfast of mohinga soup and tea at one of the popular teashops. After returning to our hotel for breakfast, we journey to the ancient kingdom of Sagaing, located across the Irrawaddy River. At Sagaing Hill, we take in the beautiful view overlooking the river and the hillside covered with countless pagodas. We visit a monastery in Sagaing to learn about the life of Buddhist devotees and continue to a nearby silversmith village. We carry on to another beautiful ancient capital, Amarapura, famous for its weaving and textile industries. At a cottage industry workshop we’ll learn how Myanmar longyis (sarongs), and other traditional fabrics are woven. We’ll head back to our hotel for an early dinner. Late in the afternoon we will stop at Ubein Bridge, an old teak structure that spans 1.2 kilometers over Taungtaman Lake. Silhouetted by the setting sun, the bridge, albeit a bit touristy, provides one of Burma’s great photography opportunities. Shwe Inn Gyin Hotel or similar (B, L, D)
Day 8. 11/9, Bagan’s Temples, laquerware, and sunset photos
We transfer to Mandalay airport for a one-hour flight TBA to Bagan. To make the most of the day we’ll squeeze in a quick lunch at a convenient local eatery and won’t check in to our Bagan hotel until shortly before dinner. We’ll also be sure to make it an early night to keep fully rested for the days ahead and tomorrow’s optional early morning balloon ride. We begin with a visit to the elegantly symmetric Ananda temple, which is always bustling with local worshipers from all over Myanmar. We’ll also visit some of the other major attractions and secluded sites of Bagan, perhaps Swezigon and Gubyaukgyi temples and visit a lacquerware factory. This evening we’ll take a classic sunset photograph from atop on of Bagan’s temples. Dinner tonight will be at our hotel. Bagan Lodge or similar (B, L, D)
Day 9. 11/10, Optional balloon ride, more of Bagan’s temples, Soemmiy monastery, village visit
Those who are interested can rise very early this morning for a glorious, sunrise balloon ride over the ruins of Bagan—so early in fact that we return to our hotel for a well deserved breakfast. Note: The balloon is highly recommended and must be booked at least 3 months prior to the flight. Today we’ll have a chance to do a bit of shopping at the Bagan market and the Shwewarton antique shop. We’ll also tour the Upalatain ordination hall, and Soemmiy monasteries. At Soemmiy disadvantaged children are provided free primary education. In the afternoon we’ll take a break from the ruins and walk two to three hours in the central plain to visit a quiet village. We’ll take in one more fantastic sunset, this time from Tayokepyay temple. Bagan Lodge or similar (B, L, D)
Day 10. 11/11, Bagan, Teakwood monastery, Mt. Popa
After breakfast, we begin a full day’s excursion outside of Bagan with a 35-mile/1.5 hour drive to the Teakwood Monastery and Saley Village. The monastery houses the largest lacquerware Buddha image in country and is one of best preserved teak wood monasteries in the country with intricate carvings adorning its walls and doors. From here we drive 1.5 hours to Mount Popa, an extinct volcano and the Burmese spiritual epicenter for those who worship the pantheon of Nat spirits and martyrs. After paying respects to the Nat shrine at the foot of Mount Popa, we climb nearly 800 steps to the pagoda perched atop the mountain to admire the views of the surrounding plains and farmlands. In the afternoon, we drive back to Bagan and stop en route at a family-run toddy shop to observe the process of making the rich and caramel-like toddy candies from the sap of the toddy palms. Bagan Lodge or similar (B, L, D)
Day 11. 11/12, Arrive Yangon, reclining Buddha, Chinatown, Shwedagon Pagoda
This morning we’ll depart to Yangon (flight to be announced). From the airport we’ll head right to the Irrawaddy River pier where there’s a good opportunity to do some street photography. If time allows we’ll cross the river on the local ferry and take a rickshaw ride.
We’ll plan to have lunch at the hotel so you also have a little time to edit some of your work as the trip may be coming to an end soon—unless you’re join us for the trip extension! At around 4:00 PM we’ll head to the highlight of any visit to Yangon—and Myanmar for that matter—a sunset visit to Shwedagon Pagoda. The final dinner tonight will be at our hotel so we have more time for an exciting final review of everyone’s work. Inya Lake Hotel (L, D)
Day 12. 11/13, Departure
This morning we’ll say our goodbyes and head to the airport for the flight to Bangkok and connecting onward flights. (B)
Optional 3-Day Trip Extension November 13—15, to Bago and the Golden Rock
Day 1. 11/13, Snake temple, Bago and the Golden Rock
We drive east of Yangon for two hours to Bago and visit a Buddhist monastery and a snake temple, a popular pilgrimage spot for locals. A famous monk is believed to have reincarnated in the form of large serpent that has become a good luck mascot for well-wishers. After lunch at a local restaurant in Bago, we continue for three and a half hours to Kin Pun the pilgrim’s camp for the Golden Rock religious site. From here we share the back of a large open truck with local pilgrimage makers for the half hour ride to Yathetaung base camp, located five hundred meters below the Golden Rock.
It will take us about an hour of hiking on the steep road and paved trails that leads us to the summit. For those who would rather not make the arduous hike up the hillside, one can enjoy riding in a bamboo sedan chair carried by four strong local porters. Prices are determined by season, availability and body weight, and typical run around $20.00. And never-the-less, we recommend walking. The Golden Rock, or Kyaikhtiyo as the Burmese call it, is a sacred gold leaf covered boulder balanced precariously on the edge of a cliff. Crowning the boulder is a small shrine that contains relics of the Buddha’s hair and it is believed that these relics are the source of the gravity defying magic that keeps the boulder in place. A continual stream of pilgrims from Myanmar and all over Asia come to witness this wonder. Enjoy the tranquil sunset, soak in the unique atmosphere and share in wonder with fellow monks, nuns, and lay pilgrims. Our hotel is located nearby, the Golden Rock. Mountain Top Hotel or similar (B, L, D)
Day 2. 11/14, Bago reclining Buddha, Mon weaving village, Nat shrine, Kyaik Pun Pagoda and the WW2 cemetery
We rise early for a lovely sunrise view, and a peaceful morning stroll amongst the shrines beside the Golden Rock. We breakfast at our hotel and descend to Kin Pun where we meet our vehicle and drive three and a half hours to Bago, one of richest archeological sites in Myanmar and the ancient capital of the Mon Kingdom. We visit the impressive fifty-five meter long reclining Buddha of Shwe Tha Lyaung and the 114-meter high Shwemawdaw Pagoda. This pagoda is even taller than the famous Swedagon Pagoda of Yangon, and both sites are popular pilgrimage sites for Buddhist devotees.
After a late lunch we’ll visit a Mon weaving village near Bago. The rest of the two-hour drive to Yangon is broken up with visits to a Nat tree shrine, an animist shrine dedicated to some of the nat spirits, the Kyaik Pun Pagoda with its four giant Buddha images, and the Allied Troops War Cemetery honoring 6,000 heroes of WWII. Tonight we will gather to review our work and depending on time will either have our farewell dinner at our hotel or at the l’Opera Restaurant. Inya Lake Hotel or similar (B, L, D)
Day 3, 11/15, Depart Yangon for home
Time is at your leisure until we transfer to Yangon airport for departure on Bangkok. (B)
IMPORTANT INFORMATION REGARDING ADVANCE BOOKING: Myanmar is a developing country and with the recent influx of travelers its tourism infrastructure is playing catch up; therefore, accommodations listed in the itinerary are subject to change due to availability and advance reservations. To insure hotel and flight bookings it is important to book services by paying the deposit as far in advance as possible.
For any questions and more information regarding payment please contact Jock at email@example.com
Photography Tour Price (including in-country flights)
- $6,290.00/person with 13-16 participants
- $6,555.00/person with 10-12 participants
- $6,955.00/person with 8-9 participants
- $985.00 single room supplement
- $330.00/person for the optional balloon ride over Bagan. This experience highly recommended and needs to be booked at least three months in advance.
Optional Trip Extension
- $855.00/person with 13-16
- $885.00/person with 10-12 participants
- $920.00/person with 8-9 participants
- $225.00 single room supplement
For any questions and more information regarding payment please contact Jock at firstname.lastname@example.org
What is Included
v 5 inter-Asia flights (BKK-CEI, KET-HEH-MDL-NYU-RGN)
v Expert leadership, local guides and support staff
v Airport and other transfers
v Domestic luggage handling fees at airports and hotels
v Ground transportation, vans (air-con), boats, horse carts, rickshaws etcetera
v Entrance fees to various sites
v Camera fees at all monuments
v Meals as specified, breakfast lunch, dinner (B, L, D)
v Accommodation as specified
What is Not Included
v Insurance of any kind, note: traveler’s health insurance is required of all participants
v International airfare from home to Bangkok, and from Yangon to home
v Accommodation in Bangkok
v Video fees at monuments
v Personal expenses, including laundry, snacks, drinks, alcohol etcetera
v Overweight luggage charges
v Customary but optional tips for local guides
- At time of reservation $1,000.00. After registering, all future correspondence, billings and financial transactions will be handled directly by Jock.
- Balance due 90 days prior to departure.
- Minimum Fee $1,000.00
- 120-61 days prior to departure 50% of land cost
- 60 days or less prior to departure 100% of land cost