My first trip to Myanmar, then known as ‘Burma’, was in 1979. The country was and in many ways still is, a number of provinces held together by a military regime based in Rangoon. In these provinces there were continual localised rebellions; centralised control was at best, temporary. In 1979, it was possible to get a visa to travel in Burma for a week; one had to follow a designated route and stay at designated hotels. The route consisted of: Rangoon, Mandalay, Maymo and Bagan. Even today, now that the country has been opened up to tourism, most travellers follow this route.
My memories of that first trip to Burma remain with me, as vivid as ever. The population was a fraction of what it is today. The ‘big three’: Rangoon, Mandalay and Bagan – were towns rather than cities. The ghosts of Burma’s past as a British colony lay heavy over the land, like an early morning mist. This was very much a country which time had forgotten.
By 2004, when images were taken during a trip to Myanmar , the country had changed enormously thanks to an enormous increase in population. Myanmar at this point, was still off-limits for many people because it still under the control of the military. The people however were very welcoming and very friendly. As a part of my trip in Myanmar, I did a river trip on what was then a newly commissioned boat. The trip took over a week. It stopped at various towns on the way. Some places were avoided because of localised rebellions. It was a unique way to see one of Asia’s most unique countries.