Thursday, September 27, 2012
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Monday, September 17, 2012
Monday, September 10, 2012
This was a feature just published about the rare and elusive black orchid which is found outside of Putao, the Himalayan region of Myanmar. I've been wanting to travel to Putao for a while now and although I'm not a flower enthusiast by any stretch, this story was a great excuse to explore this remote area of a country I find fascinating. Of all the adventures of 2012, so far this was definitely the most interesting. Visiting Putao is hard work and costs a ton of money which was a major deterrent for a while. It's a travel restricted area for foreigners and getting there involves a special permit, travelling with an escort, and 3 domestic flights (which only operate once a week). Home to incredibly friendly and hospitable Kachin, Lisu and Rawang tribes, Putao is a peaceful and isolated one horse town stuck in a time warp. No electricity, no internet, no phones...no roads out
I was told before I went that I'd be in a guesthouse with electricity and a 4x4 vehicle at my disposal. However when I got there I was taken to a Burmese military base, to a room that I swear must've been used as a prison. With unstable electricity for a couple hours a day, this was my base for the next week and I had to ration my camera and laptop batteries very carefully which was a giant stress. My vehicle also didnt work out, so instead my guide drove me around on his 50cc scooter which normally would've been fine except that we were driving almost 4 hours outside of Putao everyday to reach villages and I was carrying all my lighting gear, battery pack, lightstand bag, plus my gigantic camera bag on my back. I can only imagine what a sight this must've been to the locals who rarely get to see a foreigner. Everyday was like an 8 hours pilates session on my leg muscles, butt and back. Ended up having to visit the hospital once I got back to Bangkok but I'll spare the details!
The main subject in the story, War Gyi Dee, had a pretty incredible story to tell. Originally from China his family fled religious persecution walking for weeks through mountains to eventually settle in Putao. He is a medicine man, and now in his 80's, still treks out into the mountains for weeks at a time, hunting his food and sleeping under a tarp, to search for plants, including orchids, to use in his medicine.
Some other pictures from Putao...