Photography from south-east Asia by Jon Sanwell

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Streets of Yangon

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Yangon quickly became one of my favourite places. I spent days wandering around the streets, especially the tight grid of narrow alleyways that make up the downtown area. The city has such a mixture of cultures, with influences from all over south-east Asia, sub-continental India and China all very much in evidence. In the space of a couple blocks, you can find a Chinese pagoda, a mosque, a Hindu temple and a Baptist church. You can have dim sum for lunch and chicken biryani for dinner. Brand new hotels and office blocks sit opposite derelict colonial era buildings. The city is full of life and energy, but is also very welcoming. Everywhere I went, I met people who were friendly, interesting and curious.

I met the banjo playing gentleman below on my first morning in the city. I heard him before I saw him, the sound of his Chinese folk tunes carrying across the street. He was playing and singing to himself on his front porch, and I crouched down to take a few pictures. As I was taking my first few shots, his wife came out of the house, tapped me on the shoulder, handed me a plastic stool to sit on, and wordlessly went back inside. This was the first of a number of small kindnesses I experienced in Myanmar. I chatted to the banjo player for a little while; once he found out that I was British, he started playing Christmas songs and hits from the 60s.

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Women – and to a lesser extent men – wearing thanaka, a paste made from ground bark, are a common sight throughout Myanmar.

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Chewing betel – leaving blood red stains on the teeth – is a common habit in Myanmar. This man is preparing betel leaves and nuts for sale.

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Yangon Yangon

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In the pagodas and on the streets of Yangon.

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Drums and dragons: lunar new year in Yangon

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Welcoming in the year of the goat in Yangon’s Chinatown.

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Hanoi street portraits (#15)

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Hanoi street portraits (#13)

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Read all about it.

Hanoi street portraits (#12)

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I tend to look quite foolish in a hat, so I always admire a man who can wear one with style.

Hanoi street portraits (#11)

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Hanoi bruisers.

Hanoi street portraits (#10)

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Last week, thanks to the nice people at WordPress, my post on shooting for a year at 35mm was featured on Freshly Pressed, causing an ego-boosting spike in views of this site. I’d just like to say a quick hello to my new followers, and a big thank you to those who’ve been reading for a while. I appreciate all the support and comments, and I hope that you’ll continue to enjoy my pictures.

Kumquat

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The Tet holiday is almost upon us, and the streets are full of kumquat trees. One of the traditions of the lunar new year in Hanoi is to decorate the home with these fruit trees, so the roads throughout the city are busy with motorbikes carrying shrubbery of varying sizes from growers’ gardens to people’s houses. The smaller trees look like they’d be blown away in a sharp breeze, while the largest ones are a danger to overhead power lines. In the narrow stretch of land between the flower market on Au Co and the Red River, there are dozens of plots given over to growing these kumquat trees. Late on Sunday afternoon, when I visited, the neighbourhood was busy with families picking out their trees, growers digging up their crop, and delivery drivers speeding in and out on their motorbikes.

Another Tet tradition is for expats to flee the city in search of warmer weather, and – although the winter has been mild so far – I’ll be joining the exodus. On Saturday, I’m flying to Burma / Myanmar for three weeks. It’s a new destination for me, and somewhere I’ve been wanting to visit for some time. I know a few people who’ve been there, and they all seem to glow a little when they talk about it. It will be a while before I post any pictures from the trip, as I’m not taking my laptop with me, but I have a few more Hanoi street portraits lined up to post while I’m way.

Chuc mung nam moi, everyone.

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