Hanuman Films Production Coordinator Richard Currie was recently in Myanmar (Burma) to film the Ayravata Cruise (RV Paukkan) from Mandalay to Bagan. Here he shares some of the highlights of the filming trip.
The temples of Bagan at sunset
9 March 2013
Prepped all equipment at Hanuman HQ and was then taken to the airport at 5:30. Boarded plane at 7:00 and then the two hour journey to Yangon, it took about an hour to get my visa. I was greeted by my driver and then taken to my hotel. Had a small walk around and enjoyed a beer with some locals. Tried to buy some food but unfortunately my twenty dollar bill had a very small tear and the local shop refused to take it, had to go to sleep hungry.
10 March 2013
Woke up early and enjoyed a breakfast, toast and eggs with English tea. Prepared the Canon 5D for the shoot and meet my guide who spoke perfect English. We are driven into the city centre and then start to walk around on foot. Yangon is a very busy and vibrant city, but there are no tuk-tuk or moto drivers so there is no hassle for a ride which is a nice change. The people of Burma are still not used to media folk because the second I take out my camera people are staring at it like it’s an alien artefact. We explore Yangon filming the beautiful old buildings. We head to the top floor of a high rise building where I am able to get some amazing wide shots of Yangon. Next we head to Kandawgyi Lake which is very unusual because it is bright green from all the plant life beneath the surface. After lunch, we see the reclining Buddha and then a site where there are hundreds of beautiful pagodas. We head to a local market in Chinatown where I get too see some of the proper local life. I heard that Burmese people can be a bit reluctant to be filmed but I found it was the opposite, they were more than happy to be filmed and flattered that someone was paying attention to their everyday lives. We make it to the port just in time to see the sun setting and I get some amazing footage.
11 March 2013
Wake-up call at 5:45 and taken to the airport for my flight at 8:00. The airport is very undeveloped and there are no screens showing flight times. After arrival in Mandalay, we get on a small fishing boat and head over to a small village where we jump on a small horse cart and head for some of the local sights. We visit a wooden monastery which is spectacular, as they have these enormous wooden pillars which go from the ground right up to the ceiling and each one weighs about a ton or more.
In Burma all the locals chew on betel leaf which has bits of wood and berries in it. It’s like smoking with fewer health risks. The only drawback is it turns your teeth red after time. It also causes lots of spitting because you build up excessive saliva from the chewing so you have all the red stains on the pavement where people have spat. I meet some local men in a temple who are rolling some of these fresh leaves. They offer me one. Not wanting to be rude and out of curiosity I pop this small leaf into my mouth and start to chew. I’ve eaten some horrible things in my time but this was by far the worst. After five minutes of enduring this disgusting bundle in my mouth I have to spit the contents out, much to the amusement of the people watching. My guide and I head to the teak bridge at Amarapura. This is an amazing location and we start our journey across which takes about forty five minutes because I keep stopping to get footage. My guide is very knowledge and he has an excellent spot where we enjoy the sunset. It has been a very long day and I head to my hotel where I relax for the rest of the night.
12 March 2013
In the morning I film some footage in the main city and I’m then taken to the cruise ship where I am welcomed by the crew. The vessel is very beautiful and my room is extremely comfortable with a balcony view. We leave the port at 11:30 and I get some spectacular footage from the deck of the ship of the many pagodas which line the shores. We stop at a local village to pick up the cruise passengers who have been on a bus tour for the day. I take the opportunity to get some footage of the villagers before we leave. I enjoy dinner with my fellow passengers, the food is beautiful and the waiting staff are very friendly.
13 March 2013
I am woken at 6:30 with a cup of tea and some fruit. We head by bus to our first location of the day. The scenery is very beautiful and I kept wanting to stop and get footage but we are on a tight schedule. Fortunately one of the guides has a very weak bladder and we have to keep stopping so he can relieve himself so I take advantage of these breaks and film footage of the scenery. We arrive at Monywa where we visit Hpowindaung caves which are a collection of Buddha statues which have been carved into the mountains. This is a spectacular location and everywhere I point my camera gives me some incredible footage. Next we arrive at Sambuddai Kat Kyaw Pagoda which has 500,000 Buddha statues. We only have fifteen minutes at this location so I have to run around like a man possessed trying to film as much as possible Finally we go to the site of a standing and lying Buddha which are over 15 stories tall.
14 March 2013
We arrive at the Yandabo village where we stop and visit the villagers who specialize in pot making. I leave the group and decide to investigate the village myself, within two minutes I am lost and spend the next half an hour trying to find my way back to the ship. Once we re-group we make a short journey on the cruise ship to our next location which is Shwe Pyi Thar village. This is a small farming village with beautiful green countryside. I observe a group of young girls making multiple visits to the river where they collect water and carry it up the banks. We visit a local school where they treat us to some local songs and recite the alphabet perfectly. On the way back to the ship I am able to film a local man climbing thirty foot up a palm tree to collect palm juice. He doesn’t hesitate once and scales the ladder at an amazing speed.
15 March 2013
The cruise ship arrives in Bagan and my fellow passengers disembark and make the journey to the pagodas. I will be visiting the pagodas the following day so I take the opportunity to film the ship for the cruise video. When the passengers return, they tell me about the sites which they have seen and I’m very excited to explore the next day.
16 March 2013
I say goodbye to my fellow passengers and crew and meet with my guide who introduces me to the many temples and pagodas of Bagan. There are literally hundreds and I keep getting the driver to stop every five minutes so I can get footage. The heat started to really get to me and I went through many litres of water to keep myself hydrated. We arrive at a popular tourist spot for watching the sunset atop a very large pagoda. There were almost a hundred people and very little room for an extra camera so I opted to go one storey below which gave just as good a view and meant I didn’t have to fight for a picture.
17 March 2013
I get up early and my guide takes me to a temple to see the sunrise. We then go round the remaining temples which I hadn’t covered the day before. We head to a local village where we see the villagers ground down berries in a machine and then sift through it by hand. The pile of berries which the villagers have to go through are the size of a house and they do this every day. Then it was on to the airport and back to Cambodia to work on editing the huge amount of footage that I shot during my one-week trip.