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