BURMA, ALSO KNOWN AS MYANMAR, has had a rough few decades. A military coup in 1962 was followed by years of oppression under a military junta, as well as some pretty awful ethnic conflict. Because of this, it hasn’t been particularly easy to travel to Burma until relatively recently, when the junta was nominally dissolved in 2011.

The country is a beautiful place, though, with ancient temples, kind and welcoming people, and amazing natural beauty. Photographer Felice Willat traveled through the country in 2009, before it truly started opening up, and captured some of these amazing photos of the land and its people.

All photos taken by the author except where otherwise noted.

This article was originally published on April 21, 2009.


Old woman in Pagan

An old woman smokes a cheroot cigar in Pagan. Photo by Jose Javier Martin Espartosa


Horse cart in Bagan, Myanmar

n the ancient city of Bagan, formerly known as Pagan, you will still see oxcarts and horse carts as ordinary transportation. A family pays their respects to the young novice in training as they pass by one of the many hundreds of grand temples and pagodas.


Golden cave in Pindaya, Myanmar

This golden cave near Pindaya, Burma, contains over 8,000 images of Buddha in all shapes and sizes. Some of the older statues and images in the cave have inscriptions dating to the late 1700s.


Inle Lake fishermen, Myanmar

Around Inle Lake, you will see the unique Intha Fishermen who balance one foot on the tip of their narrow boat and oar with the other ankle. The golden weir on the boat is the fishing net.


Burmese laborer carrying a sack

This man has most likely been forced out of his village to work as hard labor. The more bags of charcoal he can carry off the boat, the more he will earn.


Two sisters bathing in a lake near Pindaya, Myanmar

Two sisters bathe around 8 a.m. in the large lake near Pindaya across from golden temple spires. They are unashamed to perform their daily ritual as we observe nearby.


Children vendors in Myanmar

Our small group attracts many children who offer us fragrant flower necklaces and magic lava rocks. Most people in Burma use thanaka -- a paste made from tree bark -- to paint their faces and protect them from the sun.


Buddhist novices in red robes, Myanmar

Playful novices look forward to a few minutes away from their rigorous training in the monasteries. Their red robes stand out from the old white-washed temple.


Burmese Buddhist nun smoking a cheroot

An 84-year-old nun smokes a cheroot -- an herbal tobacco cigarette.


Intha Fishermen in the evening

Two Intha Fishermen head out from the wharf where we spent a few ends of days -- a good time to fish.


Monkeys in Mt. Popa, Myanmar

In Mt. Popa, Burma, capersome monkeys outnumber the population and live amongst the villagers. They love to perch on monuments and colorful facades for some good portraits!


The ruins of Bagan, Myanmar

The ruins of Bagan cover an area of 16 square miles. The majority of its buildings were built in the eleventh to thirteenth centuries when Bagan was the capital of the First Burmese Empire. Standing atop one of the thousand temples, a Bagan sunset is an awesomely beautiful and iconic landscape.


Novices in Mandalay

A group of young novice Buddhist monks at a monastery outside of Mandalay. Photo by Dietmar Temps


Burmese woman with basket on her head smoking a cheroot

Herdsmen, field workers, and families use baskets across their shoulders and on their heads to carry crops, kindling wood, and even their babies. Many smoke cheroot cigars to relax.


Young Burmese men laughing together

All young Buddhist boys live at least 6 weeks a year in the monastery during their childhood -- many will spend their entire lives. It appears these boys are sharing common stories.


Young girl in Bagan

A young girl plays at her school near Bagan. Photo by Dietmar Temps


Myanmar's U-Bein Bridge

Burma's U-Bein Bridge is the longest teak bridge in the world built from unwanted teak columns from the old palace during the move to Mandalay. Everyday at sunset, monks, cyclists, villagers, and oxen parade across like shadow puppet theatre.