Visiting Taung Kalat, Myanmar’s Mountaintop Monastery

For more photos from Mount Popa and Taung Kalat, explore the Mount Popa location page.

Perched on top of a volcanic plug in central Myanmar is Taung Kalat monastery, home to 37 နတ်‌—"nats", or spiritual demigods—and a dramatic panoramic view. Located 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Mount Popa, the extinct volcano that once formed this 737-meter (2,417-foot) thumb, Taung Kalat draws pilgrims and tourists who are willing to climb its 777 stairs to reach the gilded rooftops and Buddhas above.

The stairs—a sacred site in their own right—were once maintained by the famed Buddhist hermit U Khandi. The compound is also home to a horde of macaques, where they pose for tourists and snatch their unattended bags in the hope of finding a snack.

Yangon Calling is a punk rock documentary in every possible way. It follows a group of underground punks rallying against a brutal regime in the military-ruled Burma. Their look and sound may be familiar to us in the Western world, but it was borne out of cassettes of Brit bands smuggled into the country by sailors in the 90s. The method of filming was equally punk: hidden cameras helped the crew escape the constant secret police surveillance that could have cost the lives of everyone involved. You can read an interview with one of the directors here.

Meet the Burmese Punks Feeding Their Country's Homeless | VICE | United States
Every Monday night, a group of black-clad, silver-studded punks meet under an overpass in downtown Yangon to distribute food to people living on the streets.

Casually posts more about the power of punk in the non-West.

“According to Kyaw Kyaw, a sailor from Burma introduced punk music to the oppressed youth of Yangon in 1997. After traveling the world, this sailor returned to his home city with albums by 80s hardcore punk groups like Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys, and Crass. This was the impetus for the initial underground network of punks and bands that evolved.

But it wasn’t until the Saffron Revolution broke out in 2007 that a second wave of punk hit Yangon. The Saffron Revolution occurred when tens of thousands of people, led by Buddhist monks, protested in Yangon and cities around the country against the repressive military rule.”


Inside Myanmar: Opening Up to the World with @amcaptures

For more of Andre’s photographs from Myanmar and beyond, follow @amcaptures on Instagram.

“The country was just opening up, and it seemed like the right time to go,” says Andre Malerba (@amcaptures), an American photojournalist based in the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Two years earlier, after traveling to Nepal and Thailand, Andre had decided to immerse himself in a pivotal moment in Myanmar’s history, as a military government began to relax restrictions on political freedom and foreign visitors.

“I have a front row seat to a country opening up to the outside world, attempting to transition to democracy, and all the awful and great things that go along with it. Things are changing rapidly. A lot of people are now happy to have 3G service and tourism is creating a lot of jobs which many are happy about. But there is also a long way to go in terms of reaching a unified democracy. I’d be lying if I said the majority of people are better off now than they were. While politics, for example, are much safer to discuss openly, life is still pretty brutal in the conflict zones.”

Andre describes a universal, humanistic approach to his work, saying, “Part of being a good photographer is being open and honest with the people you photograph. People can tell when you’re not hiding parts of yourself from them, and I honestly believe it’s appreciated.”