Myanmar Street Photography

Photo Essay: The Streets of Yangon

21 comments
Myanmar, Photo Essay, Street Photography

I grew up in a small, rural town in Oklahoma where all life is lived indoors. Everyone travels by car, all commerce and events happen inside, and there is little interaction with neighbors. My hometown doesn’t really have pedestrians. If you see someone walking they are either insane or their car broke down. The only time people congregate on the street is for a parade or to watch an oncoming tornado.

So maybe that is why I am fascinated by places like Yangon, which are completely opposite. In Yangon, all life is lived on the street. At just about any time of day, there are people cooking up fried snacks, vendors selling second hand goods, kids kicking soccer balls, and old men playing chess. To me, it seems like a street carnival, but for them, it is just daily life.

As a result, I love walking around cities and taking photos. Yangon, is not only lively, but also has other elements necessary for a great photography destination, like beautiful, friendly people, colorful buildings, and grand architecture. It is quite simply, a street photography paradise.

Here is a collection of photos of daily life I took on the streets of Yangon on my recent trip. Click any photo to enlarge.

Yangon Street Photography Gallery


Have you been to Yangon or any other crowded city?

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Currently living in Bangkok, I travel, write, take photos, and stalk street cats. ~ planetbell1@gmail.com

21 thoughts on “Photo Essay: The Streets of Yangon”

  1. We too were fascinated by the street life in Yangon. The colors, the level of activity, the markets. Yup it does seem rather dramatically different to your description of where you grew up. And I grew up on a remote hillside in Johannesburg, South Africa ~ As a child my entertainment was found in the nature all around. So perhaps you are right that those of us that grew up with the opposite, will really enjoy the buzz of a city, especially an Asian one!

    My favorite of your photos are the two men in the blue sarongs against a blue background reading the newspapers and the little children in their pink monk in training outfits.

    Then again, the last one of the guy slurping noodles on the street really made me miss those street food noodle dishes there!!!

    Peta

    • I really like the noodle dishes in Myanmar – the noodles were thicker and the broth more flavorful than other places.

      Yangon is a street photography paradise – so much color, such great people. It is probably my favorite city to explore on foot.

      Thanks for the comments!

  2. Despite having been living in a chaotic city called Jakarta, I really enjoyed Yangon for its energy, diversity, and its beautiful buildings. I tried to take a few photos of the local people on my second visit in 2015, but back then you hadn’t taken that photography workshop with Maciej Dakowicz, hence no post on the keys to taking good photos of people.

    • Yangon is a walkable city, a little easier to navigate than others in Asia like Bangkok which are more spread out. There are a few new buildings, but most of them are old and beautiful as you mention.

      Taking people photos is hard, especially at first! You’d really enjoy a workshop with Maciej – you should do it sometime.

  3. I’m curious about what sparked your interest in the outdoors and travel and life in places like Alaska? Or did it all just happen gradually? Anyway, I love the Yangon street scenes, especially the kids (monks in training?).

    • The girls in pink are novice nuns. I think many poor families who can’t afford to send their kids to school send them to the temple for education and they serve as monks/nuns during that time.

      I was always very curious about the world as a kid, but never thought much about traveling. I had a friend in college who convinced me to go to Europe the summer after graduation and of course I was hooked after that. I haven’t stopped traveling since!

  4. Your photos of street life in Yangon are wonderful and I love your intro…the only time people congregate on the street is for a parade or to watch an oncoming tornado. My neighbourhood is not dissimilar but I’d substitute when Team Canada wins an Olympic Gold in hockey or we are forced to shovel our driveways. The vibrant street life is one of the main reasons I enjoy visiting South East Asian cities so much (gotta get to Yangon).

    • Sounds like your small town Canadian life is similar. I think our American cities arose after the car so are built much differently. I think Yangon is maybe the easiest Asian city to walk around. It is compact, has good sidewalks, and although busy isn’t as crazy as the Indian or Vietnamese cities.

  5. Great post Jeff. I actually grew up in El Reno OK, and I really relate to your introduction. I also caught the travel fever when I was younger but because of military service. I’ve visited and lived in many beautiful and exotic places. Places that I never would have even imagined growing up in rural Oklahoma. Most places I never even knew existed. I’ve seen a lot and had experienced a lot of awesome places in the world. Keep up the travels. I hope to see more posts… By the way I’m living in Korea now. A long way from Oklahoma.

    • No many of us from Oklahoma go out and travel – I’m glad you got to see the world. I’d really like to visit Korea and take photos there. Maybe someday on the way back to the states I’ll stop over. Thanks for your comments and happy trails in 2019!

  6. Beautiful photos. I like the vibrant colors. I had to Google what kind of paint was on women’s faces. The most crowded city I have been to is Flushing, NY. I could not believe not only the throngs, but the number of Asians. I thought I had walked to Asia! While I lived in Europe, some Asian friends told me that they miss crowded streets in the home countries.

    • New York is very crowded and diverse. I remember getting off the plane and every taxi driver was a Sikh with a turban. I thought I was in Delhi! That diversity makes NY great. I can see why a person would miss the crowded streets – there is always something going on. Thank you for commenting!

  7. Stunning images! Jeff, you’ve traveled extensively and often do street photography, so I’m curious: from one place to another, do people react very differently when they notice you’re taking their picture?

    – Verne

    • Verne, This is a great question, and something I am working on a blog post about. There is absolutely a difference in reaction among countries and cultures, and even among different neighborhoods at times. I have mostly shot in Asia, and here people are really open to photography and rarely seem to mind. I was recently in Bangladesh and the people there would walk up to me and pose. It was crazy how easy it was! I think maybe the biggest different between Asia and western countries is how long you can stay. In Asia, you can take several photos of a person or scene and stay for a long time, in the West you can get off a shot or two but then people change behavior if you stay and keep shooting.

  8. Well said about seeing someone walking on the street in a small town in the US. I grew up in NE Ohio. I live in Bali now.

    Lovely photography—enjoyed this essay.

    • If you are from Ohio and live in Bali now you can relate. There is so much life on the street in Asia vs. the US. Thank you for the comments.

      BTW – I enjoyed the photos of daily life in Bali on your website.

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