Myanmar captured my imagination for years before I went. While being ruled by a military junta, and before Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was free from house arrest, it had an unusual political situation and was one of the countries in an over-touristed region that was difficult to get to. When I moved back to Asia from New York, I thought I should really travel and get to know my home region, Southeast Asia, first, before I ventured out to the other countries. So I traveled to all the ASEAN countries, except Myanmar and Brunei. I never went to Myanmar before Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was freed, mostly because of the long time I needed to get into and around the country.

When I finally did go, I made sure to visit not just Yangon, but also Bagan and Inle. All three cities were different and worth visiting in their own right. Yangon was interesting as it was  the epicenter of modernization and transformation of Myanmar. Huawei and Samsung ads were everywhere – the Chinese and Koreans had moved in fast to start to commoditize and lead the cellphone market. Myanmar is likely to become a mobile-first market, just like the rest of Southeast Asia. Bagan was rustic and ancient. My partner and I chose biking as our medium for exploring the massive archaeological site that was Bagan, and it was just lovely and awe-inspiring to experience. Inle was bustling, motor-powered, polluted and noisy – contrary to the popularized image of traditional fishermen quietly rowing boats on the lake with their legs. We spent new year’s eve amongst good cheer, drinks and music at Inle when our hotel staff went all out to organize a new year’s party for the guests, who had come from all over the world.

This is a photo journal of Myanmar in transition.

Follow me on Instagram @qiuyunsong13 to see more of my travel photography.

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