With 135 different ethnic groups, many wearing distinctive clothing and practicing unique traditions, Myanmar is a mosaic of traditional cultures. Last February I traveled around Myanmar, visiting many of the famous sites, but I found my attention being stolen from the temples and pagodas and directed toward the people. This collection of portraits show the faces of Myanmar’s rich and varied culture.

All photos by the author.

1

Spending his days outside the gates of a giant reclining Buddha at Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda in Yangon. I found him tossing a coin on the pavement while his parents make a living by checking in shoes for tourists before they enter the sacred site.

2

Mornings around the Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery involves lots of moving. Young monks cleaning, washing their robes, heading out for pindacara to collect alms. One youthful monk pauses from it all as he takes in the stillness from a window in the rear of the monastery.

3

Waking up early to make it to the Mingun Pagoda in time to sell today's flowers to the first worshipers of the morning. Since she could remember, this young lady and her mom have been selling flowers every weekend here outside of the enormous brick temple famously eye-catching due to large cracks splitting the building on all sides.

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4

In the famous town of Bagan most notably known for its temples, off the main roads, away from the famous sites and the hotels, there exists more intimate scenes. Many come here just for the temples but by venturing off the roads shown on your travel guide you may find a more personal connection to the country. Lily and her sisters haul bundles of wood back to their house every morning in order to fuel the stove for breakfast.

5

Two monks having their breakfast with some friends off the more secluded back steps of Mingun Pagoda very willingly volunteered for a photo shoot given the condition that they got to pick which photos to keep.

6

A fisherman off the Ngwe Saung coast casts his net hoping for a catch to sell at one of the many hotel restaurants that line this wide, white-sand stretch of beach.

7

A popular leisure activity for some in Myanmar is passing the time puffing on cheroot. Cheroot is mostly found in India and Myanmar and the actual name means "roll of tobacco."

8

Some members of the Kayan tribe have left their ancestral villages and can now be found working a loom weaving colorful scarves for souvenir shops in stilt villages around Lake Inle.

9

A quiet monk takes a rest from his morning duties of sweeping the dark teak floors of the temple. He had not been at the monastery for as long as many of the other boys, but he said he enjoyed the lifestyle for all the opportunities for quietness and peace.

10

It's hard to make a living in Bagan without being involved in the government or in tourism. Maya spends the hot afternoons at famous temples where she peddles her family's home made scarves and souvenirs to visitors.

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