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    Kayan Tribe in Myanmar

    During our visit to Inle Lake we visited a shop where a few members of a long neck Padaung Family from a Ywama Village do weaving that they sell in the local area. The Padaung Kayan people are a subgroup of the Red Karen (Karenni) people. The tribe is known to inhabit this area of Myanmar as well as Northern Myanmar and Thailand. We were able to photograph one of the older ladies of the tribe in the small group to capture this image.

    Women of the Kayan tribe are well known for wearing neck rings and brass coils that are placed around the neck, appearing to lengthen it. Girls first start to wear rings when they are around five years old. Over the years the coil is replaced by a longer one and more turns are added. The weight of the brass pushes the collarbone down and compresses the rib cage. The neck itself is not lengthened; the appearance of a stretched neck is created by the deformation of the clavicle. Once the rings are put in place they are very rarely removed because muscles become weak and cannot provide head support after many years.

    This group in Myanmar wore one continuous ring while others in Thailand wear individual rings that are stacked together. There are many theories on why the rings are worn. Some theories state that they are worn to look more attractive with a longer thinner neck. Other theories say the rings are worn for protection and give the illusion of a dragon. Many women today say it is more about cultural identity than beauty.

    I have wanted to visit the tribes in Thailand near the Chang Mai region for some time and this made me want to take the trip even more in the next few years.

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    Myanmar Sunrise

    Our second stop on our Myanmar trip was to the ancient city of Bagan. Bagan is a city of temples that were built between the 9th to 13th centuries. Over 10,000 temples were built with over 2200 remaining today that can be seen in every direction that you look.

    Because of injuries, there are now only a few temples that you can climb to photograph sunrise and sunset. On our last morning in Bagan we chose to climb one of the temples and shoot the sunrise. Many people who know me well know that I am not a morning person and as a photographer I prefer to catch a good sunset over sunrise most days, but Bagan was different. After our first sunrise shoot I was hooked and was even willing to make a steep climb up tall temple steps with cameras and tripod strapped to my back to get the shot.

    Almost every morning at sunrise balloons take off and allow tourists to see and photograph the sunrise while flying high over the temples. Some of the most famous photos of Myanmar landscapes are of these balloons floating over Bagan temples in the morning light. We were very lucky on our trip to have beautiful sunsets every day in Bagan and I found these sunrises to be some of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen. This is a case when the pictures simply don’t do it justice.

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    This week I will focus the blog posts on my recent trip from the fall to Myanmar. Myanmar is a truly magical place for photography with beautiful, friendly people and ancient Buddhist temples around every corner. Since the country’s military dictatorship ended in 2011, tourism has greatly picked up. There are still areas of the country that are off limits to tourism but the central region is wide open and inviting for those who make the long journey.

    After cutting it too close with my visa approval, we traveled over 30 hours from Cincinnati to Yangon. My visa arrived the day before departure after paying a large expedite fee. Make sure to plan ahead and apply for your visa at least one month before departure.

    One of my favorite experiences was photographing the tiny monks. Boys can be monks for any amount of time from one day to their whole life. Many children join while they are on school vacation. We visited Gukyaung monastery in Bagan and were able to photograph monks attending classes taught by student teacher volunteers from Sweden.

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    Prague Sunset

    As I head back to the Czech Republic this week I wanted to share a photo from my trip in September when the weather was perfect for walking around the city all day and shooting this amazing sunset. The perfect sunset view of the Vltava river and the iconic Charles bridge is in Letenske Sady (LETNA PARK).

    I took a friend to the sunset and forgot to mention that sunsets last three hours with photographers. You arrive early to search for a great spot and then stay for the magic hour light.

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    The Great Pyramids of Giza

    Before all the civil unrest that has taken over Egypt I was able to travel to the Pyramids of Giza in 2006. Cairo remains one of the most chaotic cities that I have experienced with traffic that is congested with donkey carts, bicycles, buses, cars and pedestrians all sharing the roadways. The pyramids are stunning to see in person. I even went into the center of one of the tombs, which requires crawling through very tight dark spaces. It is not an activity for the claustrophobic person.

    We were cautioned by our tour guide not to get on a camel near the pyramids for a photo because the owners had a habit of not letting you down without paying large sums of money. We stayed firmly on the ground and were met by locals who were happy to pose for photos and tell us all about the history of the great structures.

    As an engineer, it is amazing to see the structures up close and imagine all of the work and design that took place so many hundreds of year ago. It is really beyond comprehension how it could be built and all of the human sacrifice that had to take place.


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    Temples of Thailand

    Over the years that I have traveled and worked in Asia I have visited many Buddhist temples throughout many countries. The religion fascinates me and the beauty of the temples is breathtaking. Many of my favorite Buddhist temples are located in Thailand.  This photo was taken on a trip to Ayutthaya when we traveled along the river by boat for three days from Bangkok. The dark light and shadows bring a sense of mystery to these places while the smell of incense fills the air and creates sweeping calm that comes over you.

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    Family Fun in Vegas

    The Travel Addict is collaborating today with Kendra Thornton for the first time to hear her recommendations for fun in the whole family in Vegas. Kendra appears as a travel expert on television stations across the country to offer travel tips to millions of people every year. She makes regular appearances on ABC, NBC and CW stations in major cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. She has also made special guest appearances on The Nate Show, Fine Living Network, and The Tyra Banks Show.

    Kendra’s Thoughts on Las Vegas Family Friendly Entertainment:

    Travel to new and familiar places is a hobby of mine that I have done since I was a little girl. It gives me great joy to visit various places around the United States. One of my favorite places that I love to visit with my family is Las Vegas. Here are some of my top places to see when I visit Las Vegas with my family.

    Rolling Roller Coasters

    Our children love to ride the rails of various roller coasters. Therefore, we visited the Adventuredome in Circus Circus. The Canyon Blaster is an awesome ride that features corkscrews, loops, twists and turns. The El Loco ride is thrilling to our children, but it was too adventurous for my husband and me. One of the benefits of this facility is that it is indoors.

    Golf for Everyone

    Although my husband loves to golf, we decided to do some golfing that everyone can enjoy. Therefore, we decided to go mini golfing. At Monster Mini Golf, people can play this fun sport while enjoying the theme featuring the American rock band KISS. It was great to see giant guitars and a huge head of Gene Simmons that golf balls go in. It was an experience all of us enjoyed.

    Fins and Swims

    Both of our children enjoy sea life, but like sharks most of all. When we heard that people could swim with these amazing creatures at Mandalay Bay, we jumped at the chance. This facility is known as “North America’s only predator-based aquarium.” I certainly agree with that statement. Words cannot begin to describe the feeling I felt as I entered the shark-infested tank with my family. Our experience lasted for 45 minutes, and it seemed like we were in the tank for about 5 minutes. I was not very concerned about our safety, since everyone had to wear chainmail. While we were waiting our turn to swim with the sharks, we visited various exhibits featuring animals like moray eels, piranhas, jellyfish and golden crocodiles.

    Las Vegas provides families with many experiences that are unforgettable. The key is to be adventurous in trying something new. With so many places to stay and things to do, each experience is different than the last and sites like Gogobot make it easy to plan your trip. All of us love to visit this great area, and my children keep asking when we will be going back. I hope we will be going back quite soon.

    Photo by: Amy Harris- The Travel Addict

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    Venice Carnivale

    Next week the celebration of Carnivale begins all over the world. One of the most thrilling places to celebrate is Venice, Italy as hundreds of thousands of people descend upon St. Mark’s Square.  People come from all over Europe year after year and dress up in traditional ornate carnival costumes. It is a photographer’s dream because they all love to have their picture taken expect absolutely nothing in return. (They do love when you send them photos!)

    The crowded square does provide some obstacles to shooting but if you are patient and wait for your opportunity you can get great photo opportunities. One travel tip is to stay on the actual island of Venice so that you can avoid commuting by boat daily. Everything is within walking distance so you are free to explore and can find amazing photo ops on the side streets away from the crowds.

    There are many Carnival celebrations that I hope to cover in photographs but Venice will always hold a special place in my heart.

    Photo Tip:

    You should avoid bringing bags into the crowd. Crowds are very dense and bags make it awkward and almost impossible to be flexible while shooting. We carried cameras, flash and money in pockets only during the shoots.


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    Durango Kids

    Several years ago we took a trip out west to Durango, Colorado. During that trip we were able to photograph a local rodeo. It was definitely a challenge to photograph the many cowboys and cowgirls that ride the unpredictable animals through the arena in the early evening light.

    One of the most intriguing parts of the rodeo for me was seeing the kids who participated in the events. It became apparent how deep the roots of this American sub-culture run in the community. It made me cringe a little to see the children ride the animals but all you could see was pure joy on their faces.

    I look forward to traveling back out west to continue to capture more rodeo moments and cowboy western culture in future years.

    Scroll through the images to see the Durango Tiny Cowboys.

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    The Great Wall

    People always ask me – “What has been your favorite travel destination?” This is always a hard question and almost impossible to answer because you can usually find something unique in any location. After reflection I usually give the same answer. One of my favorite spots in the world is standing on the Great Wall of China. I don’t go back to places often when traveling because there are so many unique places to visit but I have visited the Great Wall almost a dozen times.

    Started around 200 B.C. during the Qin Dynasty and stretching over 5500 miles long; the Great Wall is truly an engineering marvel. During this time there were no modern tools available and construction cost hundreds of thousands of lives in the process of manual labor carrying heavy stones up cliffs that are hard to scale carrying only a camera. Millions of Chinese built the wall utilizing natural resources to create a defense barrier for China. Every time I stand on the wall I cannot imagine how it was constructed and think about the cost that so many paid.

    I have seen the wall in all four seasons but my first visit to the wall was always special to my favorite pass called Mutianyu in the middle of January. The Great Wall is about an hour drive outside of Beijing but because the elevation is higher, it is always much colder on the wall in winter than in the city. I remember the surreal feeling of being the only person standing on the wall and wondering in a country so populous how this is possible on any day of the year. The photo above captures that moment on the cold winter day when I was the only one standing on the Great Wall.