I have been on quite a number of photo tours all over the world, and Luminous Journeys has been the best – by far. Kyaw Kyaw Winn and the people of Myanmar will always be in my heart.
— Benny Hanigal
Photographers Gone Wild w/ Kyaw Kyaw Winn has always been our most popular Myanmar photo tour adventure, for obvious reasons. Not only do participants get insider access and creative angles on Myanmar’s Big 4 iconic locations, but rare access to various tribal groups in the mountains of storied Chin State as well.
The Big 4 features Yangon’s 2,500 year old Shwedagon Pagoda and amazing street life, the floating world of magical Inle Lake and its uniquely photogenic Intha fishermen, the surreal 2,220 strong temple-scape of the ancient Bagan dynasty, and many of the myriad marvels of The Mandalay Array.
The “wild” aspect takes you well off the beaten path, where you will get the exciting opportunity to photograph the last of the Chin “tattoo tribes” in the small mountain villages where they live. . It’s an especially fascinating part of your overall adventure. (See more information in the Getting Cultural section near the bottom of the page).
This photo tour is open to photo enthusiasts of all skill levels interested in broadening their photographic horizons and learning how to shoot pro quality images. You will be taken to numerous insider locations that would be impossible to find on your own, and also have the chance to work in a number of arranged shoot situations w/ monks and others, including low and chiaroscuro light temple and village interiors.
“K.K” is a patient and enthusiastic teacher who has been leading international photographers on Myanmar photo tour workshops for years, and he knows the country and her often ethereal light like no one else on the planet. He’s technically brilliant as well, and regularly teaches workshops for Nikon , Fujifilm , and the Myanmar Photographic Society. He is also executive editor of the U.K’s Digital Photography magazine, Burmese edition.
With 8 – 10 participants, K.K. will be joined on tour by award winning photojournalist Boothee Thaik Htun. For more about K.K. and Boothee please see Photographer Bios . For an inspirational story about K.K. and how he became a pro photographer, visit the popular photo magazine, Photography Life. See K.K’s Gallery here.
NOTE: Yes, the country is very safe for travelers. Safer that the US, EU, or neighboring Thailand. This is a fact. Myanmar’s very remote troubles have zero affect on tourism, except for the drop in visitor numbers! Which makes it all the more desirable for photographers… If you have doubts, please have a look at this article.
Dates – January 6 – 19, 2020 (14 Days)
Tour Price – $6495 USD (only $464 per day!)
Single Supplement – $1150 USD
Lost City of Mrauk U Extension – Jan 19 – 23 (5 days)
Extension Price – $2495 USD
Minimum Deposit – $1500 USD ($2000 w/ Extension)
Lead Photographers – Kyaw Kyaw “”KK” Winn
w/ photojournalist Boothee Thaik Htun*
Locations Yangon, Bagan, Lake Inle, Mandalay, U Bein Bridge,
Mingun, Chin State, Mindat. Extension – Sittwe, Mrauk U
Skill Level – Suitable for ALL skill levels, novice to advanced
Hotels – 4/5 star, best available in remote locations
Tour Type – Small group photo tour workshop, 5 to 10 participant maximum. Extensions require a 3 participant minimum
Transportation – All internal flights, late model air conditioned mini-buses w/plenty of space, SUV’s for Chin State, private boats at Mandalay & Mrauk U
Physical Difficulty – Light to Moderate, with moderate trekking
* Boothee joins w/ 8 participants
The Mandalay Array – Mingun & The U Bein Bridge
The Thousand Monks of the Ananda Pagoda Festival
Lost City of Mrauk U + the “Tattoo Tribes” of the Lay Myo River
Vanishing Tribes of Chin State
Stunning Rice Terraces of the Golden Triangle
The Friendliest People on Earth!
Photographers Gone Wild – Chin State Expedition
Day 1 – Yangon – Spectacular Shwedagon
A Luminous Journeys representative will greet you at the airport whatever day or time you may arrive, no worries! Program begins at 3 pm with a meet & greet, followed by your first photo shoot at Shwedagon Pagoda and a nearby Buddhist monastery. A special Welcome Dinner & slideshow presentation by K.K. Winn.
Day 2 – Yangon – Bagan – Circle Train and a Pagoda Festival
Yangon’s fascinating old Circle Train, which circumnavigates the city’s rural outskirts, is gradually being modernized. This will be one of the last chances to photograph with these rustic train cars. Stop at a lively market that hugs the tracks, then head to the airport for the flight to Bagan. Free shoot festival pilgrims, then sunset temple-scapes.
Day 3 – Bagan – Hot Air Aerials & Chiaroscuro Monks
The myriad temples of Bagan define one of the great archaeological sites of the world. Flying above the vast temple-scape is a thrill few choose to miss! But if you do, K.K. will have you in a prime position to get that perfect surreal temple-scape, great sunrise light willing. Interiors w/ novice monks & chiaroscuro light follow. Free shoot the festival in the afternoon, ending w/ sunset temple panoramas.
Day 4 – Bagan – Dawn of 1,000 Monks & Pilgrim Exodus
This final day of the Ananda Pagoda Festival offers two extraordinary photo opportunities. The first @ dawn w/ 1,000 or so monks lined up to receive alms donated by the pilgrims in attendance. (We often see Steve McCurry on this morning, but no promises!) After the alms scene, pilgrims begin their exodus, many by ox drawn wagon train! Sunset temple-scapes & special New Year’s Eve dinner party @ the hotel!
Day 5 – Bagan – Mindat – 2,220 Temples & the Road to Mindat
Last chance temple-scapes for that perfect sunrise before taking the scenic and interesting journey into the storied mountains of Chin State. There will be stops along the way for impromptu photography and a deliciously authentic Chin lunch at the summit. Arrive Mindat mid-afternoon, check into the new Mindat hotel and engage in some of the most unusual street shooting you will ever do.
Day 6 – Mindat – Chin Villages – People & Landscapes
A full day of exciting photography at the nearby villages of Nat Htai and Pang O lay ahead. You will meet & photograph various Chin tribes, some of them Christian, with different facial tattoos and adornments. Interior environmental portraiture w/ chiaroscuro lighting offer rare image making opportunities. Time permitting, KK will take you to the prefect outlook for late afternoon mountain-scapes.
Day 7 – Mindat – Trek & Shoot Tiger Hunter Village
The trek to Tiger Hunter village takes an hour, and is moderate in difficulty. Various hut clusters are home to dozens bearing the tattoo branding particular to their tribal group. KK is known and beloved here, and the day will be a mix of free and arranged shoots in a variety of light, included interiors and chiaroscuro. It’s bound to be one of the most intriguing photographic days you’ll ever have.
Day 8 – Mindat – Mandalay – Chin Music & the U Bein Bridge
Photographing morning alms rounds of young Buddhist monks is always a wonderful experience. Before the return drive to Bagan there will be time to visit and photograph a very special Chin musician with very unusual tattoo markings that are thought to be the last of her line. Arrive back in Bagan for a quick hop flight to Mandalay. There should be time to visit the legendary U bein Bridge for sunset.
Day 9 – Mandalay – Fishermen’s Dawn & Mingun Afternoon
At sunrise catch fisherman casting nets @ the U Bein Bridge. A street shoot near the monastery of the fallen Buddha follows, w/ special access to marble Buddha sculptors. Afternoon Irrawaddy cruise to the Mingun, home of the massive, earthquake cracked Mingun temple, the stunning all white temple of Hsinbyume & more. Our favorite schoolgirl models and young monks will join us – always great fun!
Day 10 – Mandalay – Inle – Sunrise Hill and a Magic Lake
Catch the evocative sunrise from our hidden monastery location on Mandalay Hill, then head to magical Inle Lake. The little town of Nyaungshwe is full of monasteries & nunneries to photograph, as well as excellent restaurants. Lunch here at an LJ favorite featuring delicious home-made rice pasta dishes & marvelous Inle avocado salads. After lunch hit the lake. Sunset shoot w/ Intha fishermen.
Day 11 – Inle Lake – Mysterious Ruins and a Vanishing Tribe
Indein village is the home of Inle’s largest market, which draws various tribes from the surrounding hills. Free shoot the market & then w/ local monks at the nearby temple ruins of Nyaung Oak. On return visit the Kayaung for a “studio” portrait and environmental portrait session. The Kayaung are Myanmar’s most distinctive vanishing tribe, by virtue of the many brass rings worn around the necks of females.
Day 12 – Inle Lake – Yangon – Fishermen Sunrise; Sunset on the River
Position before sunrise to photograph Intha fisherman as the sun breaks over the mountain & across the water to reveal a misty scene that is both peaceful & thrilling. We won’t even get into the velvety light Inle blesses us with on many of these mornings, because we haven’t the superlatives! Return to Yangon for sunset along the Wa Dan wharf, then to hopping 19 th St. for Chinatown BBQ.
Day 13 – Yangon – Chinatown Morning & Free Time
After the best buffet breakfast in Yangon, grab your gear and set out for a final street shoot in the lively & exotic Chinatown morning market. Your day is then free for image review w/KK, to go shopping at the 2000 shops of Scott Market near the hotel, or to lounge by the pool. Special Farewell Dinner tonight, w/ spectacular views over the city.
Day 14 – Myanmar Departure or Mrauk U Extension
According to your individual departure time, you’ll be driven to the airport and bid a fond farewell. You’ll miss this place, but fortunately you’ll have unforgettable memories that will continue to resonate for a very long time. Not to mention a slew of great new images to show off! For those who cannot bare to leave yet, the flight to Mrauk U departs about noon.
*Please note the above itinerary is a brief sample only. The order of locations is subject to change. A 30+ page final detailed schedule and information kit concerning traveling for photography in Myanmar will be sent to all participants approximately 100 days prior to tour start date.
Journey to the Lost City
The Lost City of Mrauk U is the stuff of legend. It was virtually unknown outside Asia in its prime; and remains so even now. It was as wealthy as Amsterdam or London by 1635, with a population of 160,000 including thousands of foreign traders, merchants & mercenaries. The Arakan Kings even reached into Japan to hire Samurai warriors, who became their most trusted bodyguards!
The kingdom controlled vast coastal regions from western Myanmar well into eastern India to the mouth of the Ganges River. When Mrauk U finally fell to the Bamar in 1784, it was abandoned and largely forgotten. Grand palaces, 19-miles of fortifications, and some 700 uniquely designed Buddhist temples were slowly swallowed by the jungle. Today the jungle is thick only with irony; these grand symbols of a once bustling dynastic capitol serving as little more than an exotic backdrop for what is now a sleepy rural village. The world still doesn’t know it’s here. You do, and you’ll have the rare opportunity to photograph it with K.K. Winn, who will also take you to visit a “vanishing tribe” of Chin people, whose women have adorned their faces with intricate tattoos for centuries, a practice that has been outlawed since the 1960’s.
Day 1 – Yangon – Sittwe – Short Flight to a Different World
Although Sittwe is a long way from being a lost city, it is a world of its own and an interesting place, especially for a photographer. Our wonderful guide Miss Linn Linn will greet us at the airport and show us a bit of the crumbling former British port town on the way to lunch. Afternoon street shoot amongst the largely ethnic Bengali population.
Day 2 – Sittwe – Mrauk U – Journey to the Lost City
This morning photograph Sittwe’s fascinating fish market on the Bay of Bengal. Then board a private boat for the river journey to Mrauk U. The kingdom once extended all the way to the Ganges River in India, and reigned 354 years before being sacked by the Burmese & abandoned to the jungle for more than two centuries.
Day 3 – Mrauk U – Lost Sunrise & Fortress Temples
Photograph the misty Mrauk U temple valley at sunrise, and later explore the temple fortresses of Shitthaung and Kothaung, each dating to the mid 1500’s and taking more than a decade to construct. Late afternoon shoot around the monastery at the foot of Htukkanthein, and for sunset climb the hill for position above its mushroom shaped fortress dome that looks like something out of Indiana Jones.
Day 4 – Mrauk U – Chin Villages – Vanishing “Tattoo Tribes”
Early rise for another hilltop angle overlooking the low warm light, mist and smoke of the temple valley below. After breakfast take to the Lay Myo River for a boat trip to photograph the vanishing Chin “tattoo tribes”. The ancient practice is banned & dying out. These women are the last of their respective lines. Their tattoos originated as branding, & became adornment.
Time permitting, K.K. will take you to yet another sunrise landscape location. The return river trip to Sittwe and flight to Yangon follow. Arrive about 4:30 pm. If you plan to depart Yangon tonight, best to allow for delays and schedule a late flight. Alternatively, you may wish to spend another night in Yangon. This is not included in the extension price, but we are of course happy to book it for you at less than internet prices.
Photographer fees and top English speaking guides
In-country flights, airport & ground transport
All meals from Day dinner through Day 14 breakfast
Plenty of bottled water & refresh towels throughout
All entrance, zone and camera fees
Local model, monastery donations
Drinks @ lunches & dinners
Trip cancellation or medical insurance
Gratuities for hotel porters, local guides & drivers
Myanmar visa fee
End of trip gratuities for photographer tour leaders
More Knowledge – Better Pictures