A portfolio of Yangon (formerly Rangoon) images includes the spectacular Shwedagon Paya and street scenes from old Rangoon’s colonial port area.
The glittering Shwedagon Paya at early dawn. A time when Shwedagon is at its best – the cool breezes, sounds of hypnotic chants from pilgrims and monks, chimes and jingles and the loud chirping of early morning birds. Shwedagon Paya at dawn is a peaceful and beautiful place to contemplate life – before the repressive heat of the day and the arrival of masses of visitors.
In contrast, a walk along Rangoon’s old city streets near the delta river reveals a rich, layered, textured history. A large global port of the British empire, peaking in the 1920s and ’30s, followed by a rapid decline from the 1950s onward.
Along the central promenades of Strand, Pansodan, and Sule Paya Roads are elegant colonial buildings. Some buildings have not changed for decades and are dilapidated; others still function as government centres, while empty structures serve as homes to squatters. Despite the deterioration, many former colonial buildings are beautiful from the exterior.
As one enters the grids of tiny narrow backstreets branching from the colonial promenades, the scenes change – Streets with crowded tenements, bustling shops, eateries, and wet markets. Men wear traditional longyi (skirts) – pieces of colourful cloth wrapped around their legs, secured at the waist in a standard knot. People smear their faces with a yellow-white paste – a national beauty product derived from the bark and branches of the Thanaka tree. The thanaka paste protects, moisturises and preserves skin from the harsh tropical sunlight. The ghostly white thanaka facemasks contrast starkly with blood-red stained teeth and lips – derived from the national habit of chewing the mildly narcotic betel nut. Despite the startling facial appearances, people’s smiles are genuine and welcoming.

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All photos are available to purchase as prints or as digital file downloads under a Rights Managed (RM) license agreement.