Without an H

Photography from south-east Asia by Jon Sanwell

Posts tagged ‘temple’

Red & gold | Lunar new year in Yangon

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Although Myanmar celebrates its new year in April, there was still plenty going on to mark the lunar, or Chinese, new year in Yangon last month. Lanterns were strung across the streets in the Chinatown district and the city’s sizeable Chinese community visited local pagodas to pray and burn incense. There was also a replica Great Wall of China (not to scale) in one of the side streets.

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Evening at Shwedagon Paya

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Sometimes a city’s best-known, iconic sights can be a little underwhelming, but this is certainly not true of Shwedagon Paya, the golden Buddhist pagoda that towers over much of Yangon. It’s a beautiful, calming place that somehow manages to be both a major tourist attraction and an active religious site without any jarring awkwardness between these two seemingly incompatible roles.

These pictures were taken on a cloudy late afternoon and early evening in October last year.

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Grey skies over Prambanan

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The title says it all, really. I made two trips to the Hindu temple of Prambanan while I was in Java. On the first visit, the heavens opened minutes after I arrived (shortly after the picture above was taken, in fact). On the second, the rain held off, despite the threatening clouds overhead. So no spectacular sunsets, but I think the cloudy skies make for quite dramatic pictures in this case.

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A morning in Borobudur

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Along with Bagan and Angkor, central Java’s Borobudur is one of south-east Asia’s best known temples. While those first two are vast complexes that consist of many separate temples scattered over a wide area, Borobudur is a single structure, but one built on a grand scale, the largest Buddhist temple in the world.

My first sight of the temple was at sunrise from the top of nearby Setumbu hill. With hindsight, I should probably have skipped the trip up the hill and instead forked out the extra ruppiah for the sunrise ticket to the temple itself. My pictures from the hill were fairly underwhelming (so I haven’t included them here) and the best light had already gone by the time I made it to the temple at about half past six. But there were some pleasingly fluffy little white clouds in the sky, and the temple itself is beautiful enough to still be impressive in less than perfect light.

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Three payas

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Shwedagon Paya

With these pictures, I wanted to show how Yangon’s many Buddhist pagodas, or payas, are part of the fabric of life in the city.

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Shwedagon Paya

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Shwedagon Paya

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Chaukhtatgyi Paya

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Sule Paya

Baby brother pagoda

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As I mentioned before, there’s no shortage of pagodas and monasteries in Yangon. This neighbourhood pagoda was the other side of my hotel from the monastery featured in my previous post. In the first and last pictures in this set, you can just about make out Shwedagon Paya on the city skyline, looking down on its baby brother.

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In the street just outside, there’s a row of small workshops where craftsmen make and sell miniature Buddha replicas covered in gold leaf.

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Shwedagon Paya

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Some images of Yangon’s beautiful Shwedagon Paya at nightfall. These were taken back in February during a three week trip to Myanmar. I was so taken in by Yangon’s people and streetlife that in my earlier posts I neglected to include any pictures of the city’s most iconic sight.

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Three days in Bagan

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There’s such an overwhelming number of temples in Bagan that it’s difficult to know where to begin. I spent my days rattling along on my rented electric bike, stopping whenever I saw anything that I thought might be interesting, which was quite often. Some temple sites are little more than piles of rubble; many others are well preserved or have been carefully restored; some, thankfully only a minority, seem to have received so much restoration work that they are almost entirely new.

Bagan is rapidly becoming one of the most photographed sites in south-east Asia, so much so that it’s difficult to take an original picture. So this collection just shows the recurring textures and images that most appealed to me: gold, stone and brick; sunlight and shadow; faces and hands.

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Vietnambodia

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One of the most interesting things about my Mekong trip was watching one country slowly merge into another.  Vietnam’s Mekong delta felt very different to Yunnan province in China, where my journey started, but there were no dramatic changes as I travelled from one country to another, rather a series of gradual adjustments in culture and landscape, a blurring of the lines.  The rice terraces in Yuanyang in Yunnan are very similar to those in northern Vietnam; the flat plains of southern Laos are identical to those over the border in eastern Cambodia.  I ate Thai food in China, and Vietnamese food in Thailand.  I visited an ancient Angkor temple in Laos and Lao looking temples in China.  Borders have shifted over the years (and are still disputed in some regions) and people have migrated from one country to another, so there are Vietnamese communities in Laos, Khmer communities in Vietnam, Burmese communities in China.  Cham Muslim villages can be found all along the lower Mekong.

So it was quite fitting that Tra Vinh in southern Vietnam, the southernmost point of my Mekong journey, was another example of this movement of cultures.  Although located some way from the present day border with Cambodia, the town and surrounding countryside are home to a sizeable Khmer population, and a number of Khmer temples and monasteries.  These pictures were taken in a couple of those temples.  The monks I spoke to identified themselves as Khmer, but were also fluent in Vietnamese.

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