Caution: Ninety-seven good photos ahead (a few of which are amazing).Read More
After an amazing few days in Bagan we set out for our next main stop in Myanmar - the mountain town of Kalaw. Kalaw is the jumping off point for many adventures for the outdoorsy types. In the USA we typically call this 'Hiking'. Apparently much like Football being known as a community sport played by a majority of the known world, 'Trekking' is a big thing there. I'm thinking the main difference could be when you Hike, you do not necessarily need a hired guide. In our case that also included an assistant guide, a chef, and porter service to forward all of our non-essential gear to our three-day, two-night trek destination of Inle Lake. Let's not get ahead of ourselves too much. So. Many. Photo. Stories. To. Tell. 😁
This all awaited us after a six-plus-hour drive from Bagan to Kalaw. About an hour onto the drive we stopped by the highest peak in all of Myanmar - the mighty Mount Popa at an elevation of 4,980 feet. After experiencing this marvel one can safely conclude that the word 'Popa' loosely translates into 'hill climb of monkey death'. This is especially true for those who are carrying an extra sixty pounds of weight, but only about twenty of that is in your pack.
When viewed from afar the seven hundred seventy-seven vertical steps to Nirvana don't seem that daunting. To be fair since the ladies plotted our course for this entire trip I had no idea what I was in for most days. Hindsight being what it is, the logical part of my brain, and the sometimes-frustrated three others in my group, wished I had a keyed in a bit more ahead of time with regard to our itinerary in general. The creative in me however relished in the challenge of thinking on-the-go and reacting to the situation accordingly as the compositions presented themselves for documentation. I feel I get more of a genuine representation of the goings-on rather than trying to tick off pre-planned shot list.
The only time this changed was when we stayed in a given location for more than a day or two. Sometimes I found myself shooting half the day with the Ultra-wide then favored the long lens for the remainder or entirety of the next day. This helps to get a variety of looks in the same area.
This method can be a bit limiting but it saves you from having to carry around all your gear, all the time. This is of course assuming you have some place safe to store it. That was one of the reassuring things about Myanmar - in general you did not get what Matt calls 'The Vibe'. That feeling you get as you walk around that at any given moment someone is plotting dastardly doings.
Ok, up we go! Actually...before that...
Another side note for Myanmar and one of many wondrous cultural norms - the Street Dog. So. Many. Adorable (and some not-so). Dogs.
Being that I was mainly focused on converting oxygen to carbon dioxide at a rather intense rate for the duration of the ascent I only managed a few keepers.
After dodging a decent amount of tourists, locals, and those with a natural entrepreneurial diligence for cleaning the steps of monkey excrement...we summited to the Stupa.
A Monk at a temple...who knew?!? 😜
We are fairly certain this was the leader of the troupe who commanded the minions to scare the crap out of us on the way back down by abruptly pounding on the metal roofs of the stairway. Visions of Saruman trying to bring down the mountain flashed through my head. It was hilarious in hindsight.
Pretty sure the view from the Cobra Buddah was near the first few blue buildings on the top-left seen here.
If you feel the need to lean back when walking down stairs, you've got quite a grade to deal with.
The look of realizing the monkeys had in fact no intention to show the tourists the quick way down the mountain.
If you can physically walk into a temple and/or it has several rooms, which many do, expect to see a mini-market of wares at some point on the way in. The incline of the stairs on this one however did not help in any regard to maneuvering safely around people.
As cute and cuddly as they seem initially at rest and play things can escalate quickly. It's best to the leave the monkey business to the professionals and be on your way. Their incisors, claws, and agility are to be respected at all times if you see a local with either a stick or a sling-shot it's for good reason and can serve as great allies in a pinch. To be clear we did not witness any animal cruelty, but rather keeping them in check from time-to-time. It's all about boundaries.
It was what seemed like a million degrees and a thousand percent humidity. After our descent it was straight back to the van as we had another five hours on the road before Kalaw. Big thanks to Matt for getting some solid GoPro footage for me as needed. I will include said footage after I have a chance to edit back at home later this week.