12 day photography tour through Burma with Greg Elms

Greg Elms

For 20 years Greg Elms has travelled the world creating unique images for the likes of Lonely Planet, Gourmet Traveller, Travel+Leisure and Good Weekend. A member of Lonely Planet Images he has travelled to over 30 countries on numerous assignments. In particular Greg photographed the Lonely Planet World Food guides, sampling the gastronomic breadth of Mexico, France, Turkey, India and China. For the last five years he has also lectured in photography at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). Greg brings a unique passion to travel photography, combining the skill to create great images with an ability to explain photography in simple terms and inspire those around him.

Greg's Travel photography tips

Burma Photography Tour

Travel with Greg on this trip to Burma and gain a unique insight into an inspiring destination from a photographer’s perspective. A journey here is so full of surprises. Compelling, enchanting sights abound: the one-leg rowing and floating markets of the Intha people; Rangoon’s atmospheric colonial architecture; and Pagan’s extraordinary collection of thousands of Buddhist temples. But, for a country with such a troubling political situation, perhaps the biggest surprise is Burma’s people. The genuine welcome and gregarious warmth visitors receive is humbling. Come and discover the people and their land and take home some spectacular images as well as warm memories.

Departure Date: 17th November 2015 - AUD$4,795 per person twin share based on a minimum of ten passengers. A single supplement of $989 per person is also available.

Price includes return airfares from Melbourne to Yangon. 

For further information or to book call 1300 854 439 or email groups@intrepidtravel.com
 

What's included

• Tour personally escorted by Greg Elms with photography briefings and assistance
• Services of Intrepid’s expert English speaking local tour leader throughout the tour and local guides at some sites.
• Sightseeing including Shwedagon Pagoda, Amarapura, Maymyo, Kuthodaw Pagoda, Bagan, Mount Popa.
• Full day discovering Inle Lake, Indein ruins and a trek to ethnic minority villages on Shan Plateau.
• Free time in Mandalay, Bagan, Inle Lake and Yangon.
• Transport including private vehicle, river boat trip to Mingun and and ferryboat day trip on the Irrawaddy river.
• 11 nights’ accommodation in comfortable hotels.
• Local flights by private airline.
• Breakfast daily.
• Traditional Shan dinner at Inle Lake.
• Arrival and departure transfers
 

Itinerary:

Day 1: Rangoon (Yangon)

Accommodation: Summit Parkview Hotel or similar 
 
Upon arrival in Rangoon (Yangon), you will be met and transferred to a centrally located hotel. Here you will meet your tour leader, tour photographer, Greg Elms, and the rest of the group. After a pre-trip briefing, you will adjourn for a group dinner in a restaurant nearby (cost not included).  At dinner Greg will give an informal discussion on travel photography and determine the skill level of each person in the group to tailor his advice accordingly – don’t worry if you’re a beginner, he’s happy start with the basics.  
 

Day 2: Rangoon (Yangon) - Mandalay

Meals included: 1 breakfast 
Accommodation: Oway Hotel or similar 
 
This morning you will rise early to see one of the great sites of Rangoon. The extraordinary Shwedagon Pagoda and surrounding temples and edifices attract an eclectic mix of monks, pilgrims, worshippers, and tourists.  At the Pagoda, Greg will briefly discuss how to shoot great images in this situation, and be available to assist with tips and feedback if needed.
 
You will spend some time walking around the complex, learning about the history and the spiritual devotion of the area, and experiencing the ambience of this special place.  
 
At 9am you will return to the hotel for a late breakfast.
 
You will leave for the airport (seeing a little more of Rangoon along the way), where your tour leader will coordinate the check-in for your flight to Mandalay on a private airline. 
 
Flight time is usually a little over an hour and after landing it is a 45-minute drive to the city, and your hotel for the next three nights. The rest of the afternoon is free – you could use this time to walk to one of the local markets, enjoy the hustle and bustle, take photos or bargain for local wares.  Or if you wish, you could join Greg on a walking tour to one of the local sites to capture some of the local ambience. 
 
Each evening throughout the tour, for those who wish to discuss the processing and finessing of their images, Greg be available to review and advise.  This is a great time to pick up tips on both the shooting and processing of your images.    
 

Day 3: Mandalay

Meals included: 1 breakfast 
Accommodation: Oway Hotel or similar 
 
We rise early to catch the morning light, and make our way down to the city’s lively waterfront today; again, Greg will be on hand to help you get some great shots.  The waterfront is the perfect backdrop for your boat trip up-river to Mingun - the site of the world's largest pagoda (albeit unfinished), the world’s largest unbroken bell, and temples dating back hundreds, if not thousands of years. 
 
The river is effectively a major trading, communication and commuting highway, and a wide range of boats, barges and steamers can be viewed along the way. 
 
You will return to Mandalay late morning. This city was the former capital of Burma; though the surrounding countryside contains many towns that lay claim to the same title. 
 
Later in the afternoon you will embark on a tour visiting the remnants of one of these once-great cities, Amarapura. Weather permitting; you may also view a spectacular sunset over the 200-year-old, two-kilometre-long, U Bein wooden bridge, either from land or by boat.  Greg will discuss ways to maximise your sunset imagery.
 
This evening you may wish to dine at your hotel, or your tour leader can recommend any number of great local restaurants: the selection of excellent dining options throughout this trip are extensive.
 

Day 4: Mandalay

Meals included: 1 breakfast 
Accommodation: Oway Hotel or similar 
 
A drive to one of Burma's most famous hill stations, Maymyo (Pyin U Lwin), will provide a welcome escape from the heat of the plains. Established during the colonial era in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it is today a crossroad for traders coming over from China. This is reflected in the colourful local market.  En route, Greg will discuss ways to take great shots at the market, of both the produce and the people.
 
If time permits, you will have the opportunity to explore the surroundings in a horse-drawn carriage called a 'myin-lay'. 
 
English-style country mansions and Chinese temples dot the hillsides in a place accurately referred to as the 'vegetable garden' of Burma. 
 
Later, you will return to Mandalay where the rest of the day will be spent visiting various temples, including the Kuthodaw Pagoda that claims to house the world's largest 'book'. 
 
If there is time, you will then climb Mandalay Hill (236 metres). In times gone by this was an arduous walk, but these days, if in operation, a series of large escalators will do most of the work for you. 
 
If conditions oblige, the sunset views from the summit are impressive – be sure to pack your camera – and along the way there are many shrines of religious significance.  
 

Day 5: Pagan (Bagan)

Meals included: 1 breakfast 
Accommodation: Sky Palace Hotel or similar, Bagan 
 
You will depart early from the hotel today, and head for the waterfront to spend an entire day on a ferryboat as you cruise down the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River. 
 
Along the way, you will witness the idyllic way of life that epitomises these parts of rural Burma, this is especially apparent in the fishing villages that lie along the riverbanks.  This will be a great day for capturing images of local life.  Again, Greg will be on hand to give advice if needed.   You will pass dozens of boats of different size and utility, a testament to the role this mighty river plays in the life of so many. There is a restaurant on board the ferry, and meals and drinks are readily available for purchase during the day. In the evening you will arrive in Pagan (Bagan), one of the most impressive archaeological wonders of Asia, where you will be met and driven to the hotel. 
 
(Due to the unpredictable nature of water levels and ferry operations on the Irrawaddy River between February and May, it is possible that some services may be cancelled during that period. Some of these cancellations may take place at the last minute and often without warning. If this is the case it may be necessary to fly between Mandalay and Pagan. There will be no extra cost for this flight).
 

Day 6: Pagan (Bagan)

Meals included: 1 breakfast 
Accommodation: Sky Palace Hotel or similar, Bagan 
 
The sights of Pagan will be explored from dawn to dusk – a big day for photography. Nyaung U's lively market contrasts with the eerie silence of the plains beyond, which are littered with over 4000 structures, including Gawdawpalin, Thatbyinnyu, Ananda and Shwezigon. The names of the temples and pagodas here are a testament to the glorious past of the region. 
 
The area is also famous for producing lacquer-ware and sand paintings that are available in the stalls amidst the ruins.
 
You may be able to do some of today’s exploration by horse and cart, and weather permitting; you will also enjoy a breathtaking sunset view from one of the ruins – a photographic highlight of the tour. No doubt you’ll want to review your image collection from the day – Greg wil be on hand to look through them in the evening.
 

Day 7: Pagan (Bagan)

Meals included: 1 breakfast 
Accommodation: Sky Palace Hotel or similar, Bagan 
 
You will drive for an hour before arriving at Mount Popa today, an extinct volcano that is home to local spirits or deities known as 'nats'. 
For the energetic, you will have the chance to climb the 777 steps to the shrine at the top of the hill. 
 
Returning to Pagan, you will visit a local village to observe the lifestyle of the people, talk with some of the villagers, and capture some great images of village life. 
 
The afternoon is free for further exploration of this amazing area. You may like to hire a bicycle or take a horse and carriage and enjoy your own adventure around the archaeological sites.
 

Day 8: Inle Lake

Meals included: 1 breakfast 
Accommodation: Khuang Daing Resort or similar, Inle Lake 
 
You will board a plane and fly to Heho today, which is situated in the Shan Plateau. From here, you will drive through picturesque countryside and rolling hills to your final destination, Khaungdaing, situated on Inle Lake not far from the main township, Nyaungshwe. 
 
This afternoon you may like to rent a canoe (for about an hour) and row to Lin Kin village, famous for its floating garden in the lake. 
On your way back you could stop at some of the village houses to see the process of making traditional snacks (optional and at extra cost). 
 
You will notice that the weather is much cooler here due to the high altitude. At certain times of the year, some of our tours will stay in a different hotel, located up in the hills in Taunggyi.
 

Day 9: Inle Lake

Meals included: 1 breakfast 
Accommodation: Khuang Daing Resort or similar, Inle Lake 
 
Rising early, a full day will be spent on the lake exploring the floating gardens and catching a glimpse of the local Intha fishermen who are famous for their unique 'leg-rowing' technique. These people are different from the Shans; they originate from the south of the country. 
 
The lake is also home to a wide array of bird-life including egrets, cranes, ducks, storks and birds of prey. 
Visits may be made to some of the local villages and your stay may coincide with one of the market days: always exciting with much of the commuting being done by local people using the ubiquitous long-tail boats.  Again, there will be a plethora of great photo opportunities.
 

Day 10: Trekking - Inle Lake

Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 dinner 
Accommodation: Khuang Daing Resort or similar, Inle Lake 
 
After breakfast at your hotel, you will transfer to the Indein ruins complex (about 45 minutes by long-tail boat). 
On disembarking, you will discover a pagoda and stupas that were built in the 8th century. You can also browse through the rows of shops along the corridor uphill, or just marvel at the surroundings. 
 
After spending some time here, you will embark on a walk towards Yankin, Pa O, and the Taung Yoe tribe village (1.5 km, approx 45 minutes). Along the way you will explore the mystery of more than 300 ancient stupas around the village, and then continue towards a Buddhist monastery (1 km, approx 30 minutes).  
 
You will then head north through farmland and bamboo forest to Naydaw (1.5 km, approx 45 minutes) to visit the Taung Yoe ethnic tribe village. 
From here you will turn south-west (5 km, approx 3 hours) through the valley, to reach west Taung Mauk, Pa O village. 
 
Another 20 minutes will take you to east Taung Mauk village. Finally, you will turn east through the valley to Indein (3 km, approx 45 minutes) where you will meet a boat and return back to the hotel. 
 
This evening you will enjoy a traditional Shan dinner and get to sample some of the local style culinary specialties. 
 
Note: the amount of walking today will depend on individual and group fitness and wishes, and also the time of year. In the hotter months, from March to October, reduced distances are advisable, and arrangements can be discussed with your tour leader the day before.
 

Day 11: Rangoon (Yangon)

Meals included: 1 breakfast 
Accommodation: Summit Parkview Hotel or similar 
 
You will transfer to Heho Airport for the flight back to Rangoon in the morning. The afternoon will be free in Rangoon, you can visit Sule Pagoda, which marks the centre of town and the nearby Bogyoke (Scott) Market that sells a wide array of local goods and handicrafts. 
 
There will also be time to explore a fascinating city full of dilapidated colonial edifices, or perhaps take high tea at the historic colonial hotel, The Strand. You can also take a stroll through the vibrant Chinatown market area as the afternoon cools (these are optional excursions and at your own expense).
 

Day 12: Rangoon

Meals included: 1 breakfast 
 
The tour will end today after breakfast. A transfer to the airport is not included; however your tour leader will be on hand to advise you as to the options available.