Faces of Mandalay Photography Tour

A child in mother's arms at Mandalay market
A child in mother’s arms at a Mandalay market.

This tour brings you closer to the colorful people and vibrant daily life of Mandalay’s markets, streets, temples, teashops, and monasteries. Learn the local rhythm of activities that drive Myanmar’s second-largest city and cultural capital.

Your guide Ms. Thandar at a morning market in Mandalay
Your guide Ms. Thandar at a morning market in Mandalay

First, we’ll visit a vibrant local market on the rainway tracks. The rainbow of fresh flowers, exotic fruits, and colorful dress will have you spellbound. The warm smiles of local sellers greet our cameras – we’re an odd sight for them. This isn’t a place tour buses visit, so many here have never interacted with foreigners before. We’ll spend about an hour here, enough time to witness a train pass through the market, a beautifully organized chaos.

Next, we’ll visit a local teashop for a break and to have a chat with locals as they begin their day. Fresh dim sum, Indian-style pancakes, noodles, and of course mohinga, the national dish of Burma, are all available. Myanmar tea, similar to Indian chai, is actually a complex speciality served in as more varieties than a coffee house espresso menu.

The tea shops are the cornerstone of daily social life in Burma’s cities. As such, they make perfect locations for street photography in Myanmar. If you enjoy shooting portraits, the rustic walls and interesting light will captivate you. Burmese people are very welcoming to foreigners, enjoy photography themselves, and are naturally curious about what draws so many photographers here. Spending some time in the tea shops with locals, these spontaneous moments naturally happen, and the photography flows naturally. As a result, our guests are able to capture the moments in photographs of people and places they remember and have a connection to. This adds context and depth to our photographs that staged shoots simply cannot capture.

After the tea shop is the perfect time for street photography before lunch! We’ll walk around downtown Mandalay and the buzz of everyday business there. Each street holds special interest, each shop a window on this fascinating culture. See items recycled or made by hand that you’ve never thought possible. Old machines and faded facades add sparkle and interest to our shots.

After lunch we’ll visit local artisanal workshops around Mandalay. Capture the fog of flying dust as stone carvers reveal Buddhas hidden in granite, jade, and marble. Visit the timeless trades of artisans who make slippers and begging bowls for Buddhist monks, toy and shoemakers. Marvel at the intricately carved teakwood pieces used to decorate Burmese homes, monasteries, and temples.

Finally, our journey brings us to U Bein Bridge, the photographic highlight of Mandalay. The trick is to get there early to find our own perspective. We’ll take a boat out onto the lake, walk on the bridge, and photograph the locals returning home from work in the city. We’ll remain out to shoot the changing light of “blue hour” after the sun has set and the tourists have gone. In darkness, we may even get lucky and see a fortune teller on the bridge after dark, revealing the future to local customers.

Tour Highlights

  • Sunrise at a vibrant local market on the railway tracks
  • Relax the Burmese way in a local teashop for breakfast. Meet and photograph locals as they meet, chat, and discuss events of the day. Try the many varieties of Myanmar tea, together with unique dishes influenced by our Indian and Chinese neighbors that have become part of local culinary culture.
  • Visit artisanal workshops. Master craftspeople carve Buddha statues from marble, make monks’ slippers and alms bowls by hand, and create colorful Burmese umbrellas from paper and bamboo the traditional way.
  • Sunset at U Bein Bridge. Join locals as they complete their day of fishing, farming, and selling goods around the bridge and local villages.

Tour Photos

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