I was entranced before the plane into Mandalay even landed. It was the sparkles of gold from every hilltop. The hundreds of gold pagodas and stupas shining through the dust haze beckoned me. I knew this was going to be special.
Myanmar feels like across between India, Bhutan and China - a cultural nirvana and a photographer's paradise.
Aside from some wonderful scenery, the people are making it memorable. Here's a few of my personal highlights so far.
- Random motorbike driver giving me a lift to my hotel (taxis are in short supply so lots of motorbikes carry an extra helmet - just in case they can make a few kyat (dollars).
- Spending whole of next day sightseeing with same random motorbike guy, starting at 5am for one of most beautiful sunrise settings I have ever seen. Trying to ignore the love songs he kept playing and singing after admitting he wanted a foreign wife. (I managed his expectations about my need for a Burmese husband!).
-Having disagreement and parting ways with same random motorbike guy. He did not take kindly to constructive feedback after we almost wiped out some people.
- Watching 1,200 monks eat a communal breakfast at 5.30am and being the only 'non-monk' there.
- Accepting kind invitation into the home of a young boy and his family (after they realised I was alone) and being treated to coffee and rice cakes.
- Sitting in the back of a collectivo (pick-up truck) for three hours and being adopted by a lady who took it upon herself to become my minder/toilet escort. Out of respect, I leaned forward every time she spat out her chewed betel-nut behind me. Thought it best for both of us.
-Posing for group photo with ten teenage boys who then each wanted an individual photo with me. I am very popular in Myanmar.
- Taking a horse and buggy around the bull-dust covered roads of the old royal capital.
It's only been four days but already so worthwhile.