A Photographic & Cultural Exploration with Mike Yamashita & Jock Montgomery
November 9—21, 2014, 13 days of exploration in
Mandalay, Bagan, Inle Lake, Kalau, Pindaya and Yangon
Optional 5 Day Trip Extension, November 21-25
To Golden Rock, Hpa An & the Bago
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 esthetic 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.
- Throughout the trip photograph and engage with villagers creating their local artwork and crafts—especially around the old capitals of Mandalay, Sagaing and Amarapura.
- Traverse gleaming Inle Lake by boat and discover life on the water: floating farms, temples on stilts, weekly markets.
- Shoot portraits of the elegant Inn Thar leg-rowing fishermen of Inle.
- 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!
- Visit the Kalaw Hill Station and wash elephants at the Green Valley Elephant Camp
- At Pindaya, photograph the fertile landscapes and the explore a cave filled with thousands of Buddha images
- 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. 11/9 Arrive Yangon
On arrival at the Yangon airport one of our staff will greet you and take you to our hotel. This afternoon, we gather with Mike and Jock for a briefing, followed by a welcome dinner at House of Memories. This restaurant used to be where Ang San’s political offices were located.
Day 2. 11/10, Mandalay, Snake Pagoda, various artisans’ shops, Mahamuni Temple
Transfer to Yangon airport for a morning flight to Mandalay. Visit the Paleik Snake Pagoda. Walk to and nearby village, visit with the locals at a riverside weaving and dying village. Lunch is at Marie-Min Vegetarian Restaurant. Tour central Mandalay this afternoon: view gold leaf making, a marble and wood carving street and visit Mahamuni, Mandalay’s most famous temple.
Day 3. 11/11 Ancient capitals of Sagaing & Amarapura Buddhist life and cottage industries
Early birds can rise to participate in a morning offering by donating alms/food to monks on the street. After breakfast we journey by boat on the Irrawaddy River to the ancient kingdom of Sagaing. From a high bridge across the Irrawaddy River we take in the beautiful view overlooking the river and the Sagaing hillside covered with countless pagodas. In Sagaing we visit a monastery to learn about the life of Buddhist devotees and then visit a silversmith village. We carry on to Amarapura, and a weaving cottage industry site. We head back to our hotel by mid afternoon. Although we spend time every day talking about our photography and comparing notes, this afternoon is set aside so we have time not just to do a quick edit, but to dig into what we’ve shot so far, review each others work and consider how to approach our photography over the coming days. As always our discussions focus on encouraging each other, and learning in ways that are not intimidating!
Day 4. 11/12 Depart Mandalay, Bagan’s Temples, laquerware, and sunset photos
We fly to Bagan. We visit the elegantly symmetric Ananda temple, which is always bustling with local worshipers from all over Myanmar. We continue to more sites, perhaps Swezigon and Gubyaukgyi temples and visit a lacquerware factory. This evening we’ll take a classic sunset photograph from atop one of Bagan’s temples.
Day 5. 11/13, Optional balloon ride, more of Bagan’s temples, Soemmiy monastery, village visit
There’s an optional early morning balloon ride—highly recommended. We visit the Bagan market and the Shwewarton antique shop, and we tour the Upalatain ordination hall, and Soemmiy monasteries. In the afternoon visit a quiet village. We’ll take in one more fantastic sunset, this time from another temple.
Day 6. 11/14, Bagan, Teakwood Monastery, Mt. Popa
We make an excursion to the Teakwood Monastery with intricate carvings adorning its walls and doors. We continue to Mount Popa, an extinct volcano and the Burmese spiritual epicenter for those who worship the pantheon of Nat spirits and martyrs. On our way back to Bagan we visit a toddy palm factory.
Day 7. 11/15, Fly to Heho, visit the market, umbrella making, transfer to Inle Lake
Fly to Heho. En route to Inle Lake, we stop at various cottage industries and temples. We then board wooden canoes paddled by leg rowing locals and by late afternoon arrive at our hotel.
Day 8. & 9. 11/16 & 17 Fishermen’s portraits, Inle Lake markets, workshops, Inthar Heritage House
There’s so much to see on Inle Lake! We spend two days exploring by motorized long tail boats. We also want be sure to make time to catch up editing and reviewing our photography. A few highlights: Spend the early morning hours photographing the leg-rowing fishermen. Tour a once a week village morning market. Visit the golden Buddhist Phaung Daw Oo Paya Pagoda, a roll cheroot (cigar) making factory a weave silk at weaving center, a blacksmith’s workshop and a boat builder’s shed. Immerse yourself in Inn Dein Pagoda complex, which contains hundreds of pagodas. Lunch at the Inthar Heritage House (conceived and run by a friend of Mike’s), which has various collections including many pedigree Burmese cats!
Day 10. 11/18, Kalaw Hill Station, Green Valley Elephant Camp
Visit the hill station town of Kalawan the local market frequented with hill tribe folk. From Kalaw we travel by truck to the Green Valley Elephant Camp. We help with feeding and washing the elephants and as always there will be plenty of great photo opportunities. We lunch with panoramic views at the camp headquarters before transferring to the town of Aung Bagan.
Day 11, 11/19 Pindaya Cave, fly to Yangon
We drive through some gorgeous rolling countryside reminiscent of Tuscany to the town of Pindaya. On the hillside are an enormous temple complex and a unique cave which houses thousands of Buddha images alongside of numerous limestone stalagmite and stalactite formations. In the early afternoon, we transfer to Heho Airport and return to Yangon. If time allows we might visit Shewdagon Pagoda, for the sunset, but it’s less crowded and generally more interesting at sunrise.
Day 12, 11/20 Shewdagon Pagoda, Irrawaddy River Pier, Colonial Architecture
Rise early and head to the highlight of any visit to Yangon—sunrise at Shwedagon Pagoda, and later on, on we go to the Irrawaddy River pier where there’s a good opportunity to do some street photography. We also cross the river for more photography via rickshaw. If time allows we can tour some of the colonial architecture sites around Yangon. This afternoon we stopover at our hotel so everyone has some time to edit their work; after all, trip may be coming to an end soon—unless you’re join us for the trip extension! The final dinner tonight will be at a nearby restaurant so we have plenty of time for an exciting final review of everyone’s work.
Day 13. 11/21 Depart towards home
Time is at your leisure until we have to say our sad goodbyes, get transferred to the Yangon airport and begin the homeward bound journey.
Optional 5 Day Trip Extension, November 21-25, 2014
To Golden Rock, Hpa An & the Bago
Day 1. 11/20 Train Bago, the Golden Rock
Early this morning we transfer to Yangon railway station to board 6:48AM train to Bago. This journey provides great opportunities to meet and photograph locals. We continue to Kin Pun the pilgrim’s camp for the Golden Rock religious site. 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. From here it’s about an hour of hiking on the steep paved road to the summit. 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. 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.
DAY 2. 11/21 Hpa-An: Saddar Cave & Zwekabin Mountain, Thamanya Monastery, Kyaut Ka Latt Shrine, Lumbini Garden,
Wake up early for a quiet morning stroll and stunning sunrise views of the Golden Rock surrounded by worshipping pilgrims. We drive to the quaint Karen State capital of Hpa-An and our first stop is the Thamanya Monastery, home to one of Myanmar’s most revered monks. We walk through the Saddar Cave, the most impressive limestone cave in Myanmar. A well-lit path takes us through an entire limestone mountain range and opens up to a small lake and rice fields. Those who are fit and up for the challenge can climb to the summit of Mt Zwekabin for amazing panoramic views. This afternoon we continue with visits a picturesque standalone rock islet Kyaut Ka Latt, in the middle of a small lake. We visit the Lumbini Garden, a park housing one thousand Buddha images.
DAY 3. 11/22 Hpa-An Central Market, Cultural Museum, Salween River boat ride
After breakfast, we take a stroll through the central market to get the feel of Hpa An local life, then visit the Kayin Cultural Museum with exhibits of the social, literary, musical and cultural heritage of the Karen (Kayin) ethnic peoples. Starting from Hpa-An town we continue with a stunning scenic boat ride cruising beside the beautiful limestone karst mountain range. This evening we enjoy the sunset at Shweyinmyaw Pagoda located on the banks of Salween (Thanlwin) River.
DAY 4. 11/23 Bago’s Reclining Buddha, Mon weaving village, Nat shrine, Kyaik Pun Pagoda and the WW2 cemetery
One our way to Yangon we stop over in Bago and visit the impressive fifty-five meter long reclining Buddha of Shwe Tha Lyaung and the 114-meter high Shwemawdaw Pagoda. In the afternoon also visit a Mon weaving village outside of Bago. The rest of the 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.
Day 5, 11/25, Depart Yangon for home
Time is at your leisure until we transfer you to the Yangon airport for your departure home.
Photographer Michael Yamashita has been shooting for the National Geographic magazine for over 30 years, combining his dual passions of photography and travel.
A recent online interview with Michael can be seen here.
After graduating from Wesleyan University with a degree in Asian studies, he spent seven years in Asia, which became his photographic area of specialty. Upon returning to the US, Yamashita began shooting for the National Geographic as well as other American and international magazines and clients.
In addition to Yamashita’s focus on Asia, his work has taken him to six continents. As a third-generation Japanese-American, he is fluent in Japanese, and has covered the length of Japan, from Hokkaido to Kyushu. Yamashita’s particular specialty is in retracing the paths of famous travelers, resulting in stories on Marco Polo, the Japanese poet Basho, and the Chinese explorer Zheng He.
His feature documentary, The Ghost Fleet, inspired by his National Geographic story about the 15th-century Admiral, won the Best Historical Documentary prize at the New York International Independent Film Festival and his National Geographic Channel documentary, Marco Polo: The China Mystery Revealed, based on his three-part magazine story, received two Asian Television and Film Awards. It was also included in the top twenty most popular NG Channel documentaries of the decade.
A frequent keynote speaker for corporations and foundations, as well as a lecturer and teacher at schools and workshops around the world, Yamashita has received numerous industry awards, including those from the Pictures of the Year, Photo District News, the New York Art Directors Club, and the Asian-American Journalists Association. Major exhibits of his work have opened throughout Asia, in Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Taipei and Singapore, as well as in Rome, Venice, Frankfurt, and Perpignan, France. His work has been exhibited at galleries in Los Angeles and at the National Gallery in Washington, DC
Yamashita has published nine books (most inspired by his 30 National Geographic stories): The Great Wall From Beginning to End; New York: Flying High, an aerial portrait of Manhattan; Zheng He: Tracing the Epic Voyages of China’s Greatest Explorer; Japan: The Soul of a Nation; Marco Polo, A Photographer’s Journey; Mekong: A Journey on the Mother of Waters; In the Japanese Garden; A Pictorial Tribute to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy; Lakes, Peaks and Prairies: Discovering the U.S. Canadian Border.
While not traveling, Michael Yamashita lives with his family in rural New Jersey, where he maintains a studio and is an active volunteer fireman. Visit his website: www.michaelyamashita.com
Photographer Jock Montgomery is originally from the United States. He lived in Nepal for twelve years, and as of 1995 has been based in Bangkok, Thailand. He shoots magazine features, products, resorts, industry, portraits and sports for a wide variety of clients including The New York Times, National Geographic Adventure, CNN Traveller, Travel + Leisure (SE Asia), Discovery Channel, GEO (Germany, Russia), Outside, The North Face, Patagonia Inc., Oriental Hotel (Bangkok), Marriott Hotel (Bangkok), Kodak, IBM, UNICEF, UNESCO and Thai International.
Jock is also an experienced outdoorsman with extensive guiding and teaching experience. He creates customized private treks, mountain biking, whitewater expeditions and photography tours around the world including many parts of the Arctic, Patagonia and the Himalayas. As a photographer, he often specializes in adventure travel and adventure sports photography. Jock was the sole photographer for Menam Chao Phraya, River of Life and Legend, a 252-page coffee-table book about Thailand’s principal waterway. He speaks Nepali and is conversant in Thai.
Photography Tour Price (these prices includes four domestic flights)
- $6,510.00/person with 13-16 participants
- $6,800.00/person with 10-12 participants
- $7,200.00/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 well in advance.
Optional Trip Extension
- $1950.00/person with 13-16
- $1980.00/person with 10-12 participants
- $2055.00/person with 8-9 participants
- $320.00 single room supplement
For any questions and more information regarding payment please contact Jock at firstname.lastname@example.org
What is Included
- 4 inter-Asia flights (RGN-MDL, MDL-NYU, NYU-HEH, HEH-RGN)
- Expert leadership, local guides and support staff
- Airport and other transfers
- Domestic luggage handling fees at airports and hotels
- Ground transportation, vans (air-con), boats, horse carts, rickshaws etcetera
- Entrance fees to various sites
- Camera fees at all monuments
- Meals as specified, breakfast lunch, dinner (B, L, D)
- Accommodation as specified
What is Not Included
- Insurance of any kind, note: traveler’s health insurance is required of all participants
- International airfare from home to Bangkok, and from Yangon to home
- Accommodation in Bangkok
- Video fees at monuments
- Personal expenses, including laundry, snacks, drinks, alcohol etcetera
- Overweight luggage charges
- Customary but optional tips for local guides
- At time of reservation $1,000.00
- 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