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Typical scenes of Myanmar - ordinary people life in Burma - 18 May 2008 Back to stories index

These photo shots were made during the trip to see the situation after the cyclone Nargis in Yangon and Ayeyarwaddy divisions. What Myanmar people do, what do they think of, and why they are doing what they are doing are sometimes difficult for those who have never been there to understand. There are a lot of differences and contradictions in the media about the country, its history and millions of events that have taken place.

However this small collection of photos will only attempt to present a piece of the life of many ordinary people who struggle to live day by day.

A young novice tending the charcoal stove boiling water
A young novice tending the charcoal stove boiling water

With the lack of electricity and other energy sources this young training monk in a monastery uses wood as fuel to boil water. There are a lot of Buddhist monasteries around the country; almost every village has a monastery.

A small mobile shop at the corner of streets
A small mobile shop at the corner of street intersection

This tiny shop on three wheels sell bananas, cookies, cigars, sweets, and packed food items. The people there live on small amount. Most houses are small, they eat small, they use small amount of wood, bamboo, fuel oil, gas, iron, etc. We call them poor people. There is little or no impression we see in them. However when the global climate change made partly by the over-use of world's resources by rich people takes effects - these poor people also suffer.

A Barber shop
A Barber's

This hair salon is run by a barber who used to be a piano player. Inside his small shop, on the wall, you can see the awards he obtained for his performances in the past. It is not uncommon to see a singer selling vegetable in the wet market, or a former engineer working as a tour guide. As things happen without a plan and almost all steps in any process include a red tape accompanied by tea-money payment, people no longer expect the expected things.

Ferry boat transport on Yangon river
Ferry boat transport on Yangon river

Many such ferry boats criss-cross Yangon river to transport people and goods between city area and satellite townships. These small wooden boats and larger ships negotiate and share the river for their space. And again you might be surprised to know that to get a license to run a ferry boat the boat owner/driver has to pay local authority a handsome sum of money. The big part of the payment for the license is not for the inspection and certification of whether or not the boat is safe to take passengers across the river.

When the chance to earn is made limited, every single small chance to earn are shared both ethically and unethically. The chance to earn is limited at least partly by tighter control of general management because of mis-understanding and dis-trust among the various groups of peoples. These mis-understanding and dis-trust arrived by many ways over a long long period. At first these were under controllable level; then in the colonial time of more than 100 years and the period that followed the situation was made out of control for benefits of some parties. (The effects of) the wars between different systems of government of the world helped make things worse.

Fishing boats at pier
Fishing boats at pier

Fishing boats - both foreign and local - ply Myanmar sea to harvest seafood. For ordinary people getting a job on a fishing boat is a good luck. In Thailand it is a bad luck for many. These two boats were waiting for officials at a Yangon river pier. Since the country has a limited number of boats and ships, the boat owners have to provide authorities their boats for certain operation when order is made. These two boats would be provided fuel oil and provision necessary to undertake an inspection trip to an area in Ayeyarwaddy division a week after the cyclone Nargis. We use the word "by force" while local newspapers report the same news as "volunteering".

Engine crew member taking a nap
An engine crew member taking a nap above the engine room

A deck man writing a letter in the cabin
A deck hand writing a letter home in the cabin he shares with other sailors

A shop on the boat pier bridge
A shop on the boat pier bridge selling betel nut and cigarettes

Shops shops selling things
At a storage at the jetty

A window of a jetty storage sell snack food, betel nuts, and cigarettes. A man walks pass carrying his own small shop with merchandise to sell. There is no shortage of small things. Look on the corrugated plates used as walling for the storage godown - there are small wooden containers hanging. The sparrows (small brown birds) also get small houses to live in.

A traffic on a road
A traffic on a road

An old house in De Da Ye
An old house in De Da Ye

This old building in De Da Ye, a small town in Ayeyarwaddy division, survived the cyclone. Only little part of the roof was damaged. Many such old buildings of colonical and Chinese style still exist around the country.

A restaurant and alcohol shop in De Da Ye
A restaurant in De Da Ye

A restaurant selling food and drink is housed in one of old buildings with high ceiling, wooden doors and wooden staircase. The shop may not qualify for a place where you want to send your teenage daughter to go have a dinner alone. Evening time will see people at the shop corners drinking alcohol and talking in the cigarette smoke.

A banana shop in De Da Ye
A banana shop in De Da Ye

Next to the above restaurant is a shop selling bananas. Banana is an important food for Myanmar people. Banana tree truck is used in a soup to eat. Banana leaves are used to pack lunch. Almost nothing is wasted.

Drinking water containers fill the stret in Pya Pon
Drinking water containers fill a street in Pya Pon (Ayeyarwaddy division)

A farm hut in Kyaik Lat
A paddy farm hut

A farm hut or a paddy farmer family house in Kyaik Lat townshop also in Ayeyarwaddy division. The area was not hit very hard by the cyclone. Again it is obvious from the picture that these people live on small amount.

A road home on Toe river bank, Ma U Bin
A road home on Toe river bank, Ma U Bin

This picture was taken from Ma U Bin bridge over the Toe river. Coconut palms are one of few types of trees which survived the cyclone. Their flexible trunks helped them swing but not break. In the cyclone effected areas coconut palms were left standing with their leaves damaged.

A transport in Ma U Bin
A way of transport in Ma U Bin

A small mobile transporter moving (packed) people and cargo over the bridge in Ma U Bin.

A boiled brown bean seller
A boiled brown bean seller and her tools

At 6 in the morning I was awaken by the sound of a woman carrying a bamboo basket selling her boiled brown bean along the streets. In her basket is a cloth wraping the steaming fresh bean. On the bamboo lid of the basket is a plastic sheet which keeps a copper balance and weights. That is not all - the woman herself carries "tha-na-kha" natural makeup on her cheeks. Also look at her head gear!

A copper balance
The copper balance (weighing scale) and the iron weights she uses

Public buses on a Yangon street
Public buses on a Yangon street

Wooden bodied buses still run the roads in Myanmar. They have been the work horse of Myanmar transportation system since many decades ago. The engine, steering system, under carriage, power transmission, breake system, and other machanism are imported or made in heavy industry factories. The body is constructed in small shops.
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